Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Reading Festival - Epilogue

I could probably write up some sort of massive diary post about how each day was, and it'd take up several posts and be fucking long as hell. However, I imagine it'd be a bit boring and most people probably wouldn't enjoy reading it that much, so I wont. Instead I shall do this, something of a summary, because I feel I should at least write something. It'll still be long, but I'll try and keep it to reasonably interesting portions of the weekend. I'd punctuate this post with pictures, but we didn't really take any, so wall of text it is. (EDIT: Turns out Jenny Marshall went, so I've nicked a picture from a Facebook album :P)

Thursday was a bitch. It took me about an hour to walk from Will's place to the back of the queue for the festival, and then another hour and a half to get from the back of the queue to my wristband. The walk was fine, because it was fairly sunny, and I could wheel my bag behind me. The queuing however was not. It absolutely pissed it down once I'd gotten into the main site and into the wristband queue proper. I'd switched from my trainers to wellies just as I got inside and I was fucking glad I had, because it was muddy as fuck in the main queue. Deep, wet mud, and fucking huge puddles all over the place that went up well past ankle-depth.

Yellow campsite, courtesy of Jenny's friend:

With wellies it was mostly fine, the only downside is that I didn't want my bag to get muddy. Not for cosmetic reasons, more for the fact that it was going to have to go inside my tent, and I'd rather not get a shitload of mud inside my tent for the next four days, so I was having to carry it. It was heavy as fuck and not really designed to be carried comfortably, so the straps dug into my shoulder a fair bit and after an hour or so it was really painful. And the rain was absolutely epic. Epic to the sort of proportions where my eyebrows ceased to function and I was just getting water streaming into my eyes.

Eventually I got through, got my wristband, got to orange campsite, which was a fucking long walk, the rain stopped a bit, I found a spot and put my tent up, and then just waited for everyone else to arrive. I can't actually remember how long it was until Nick and Gerry arrived, but I don't remember it being that long after I'd gotten there, and frankly I was fine to just sit in my tent. I remember Chris took ages, but that's pretty much it. We got camp set up, went to Tesco to buy supplies and booze, came back, and then went back out to find a pub in Reading.

My impressions of Reading as a city aren't great. It was a fairly large walk to get near the city centre, which didn't help, but pubs seemed pretty fucking scarce. I actually don't think I really saw anything that much resembled a proper city centre in the city at all for the entire time I was there. It seems largely to be a bit of a shithole with housing estates and a few shopping outlet parks dotted around. 7

We had a few drinks at the pub, met Will, watched some football (or at least I did), got drunk, had fun, headed back. Sleeping was a bitch, because the rain while I was queueing meant that my sleeping back was damp near the top, and completely fucking soaked at the bottom, so I spent most of the night in something resembling the foetal position trying to keep my feet from getting wet and cold in the bottom of the sleeping bag. It also rained all night, and I'd not closed up my tent properly because I was drunk and couldn't be bothered, so the next morning I had a load of rain in my tent, as did Nick and Gerry.

The next day was Friday, so onto the music! Jamie arrived, we went to the arena, Nick, Gerry and Jamie stayed at the main stage for most of the afternoon and got right to the front. I went and saw Emo Phillips with Chris. Chris wasn't much impressed but I thought he was hilarious. Then we arrived back at the main stage for Billy Talent, who were fairly good. We knew that Nick and co were right at the front somewhere, and I went to find them while Chris disappeared to see someone else (and that was the last we saw of him for the rest of the day). Amazingly, I actually found the guys, and was with them for Gogol Bordello and NOFX, who were both pretty good, I think. It's actually fairly hard to remember because I spent most of the acts just trying to keep myself from getting crushed.

The thing with the main stage crowd is that it's so fucking big you just can't move at the front because you spend most of the time completely pressed against the person in front of you. Far worse than you get at normal gigs. What made it worse is that for the first day you get a load of fucking keen people who get to the front but really don't belong there. Mostly girls, and wimpy guys who can't cut it and spend the whole fucking time moaning about how squashed it is and are completely fucking useless at holding their ground when the crowd moves around.

We moved back during Lostprophets's set, during which the crowd was fucking brutal, which was especially surprising given how poor their set was. Biffy Clyro were good, as were Queens of the Stone Age. I waited with Nick for Guns 'n' Roses, because we were going to at least see a couple of songs before deciding if it'd be worth staying for. They were late, and we got bored, so we went to see Alkaline Trio instead. They weren't bad, but the sound was pretty poor and you couldn't really hear the vocals so we disappeared halfway through the set and went back to the tents.

By Saturday things were getting a little better mud-wise. We hung around on the main stage for a while, then went to the NME stage, saw Kids in Glass Houses and Frank Turner, then I went to the Lock-Up stage to see The Get Up Kids and also watched the NOFX secret set. There'd been speculation between us all week to who the secret slot on the Lock-Up stage would be, but in hindsight it was pretty obviously going to be NOFX, and they were pretty good.

I then had the clash between Bad Religion and Ash. As much as I wanted to see Bad Religion, I decided I'd go with Ash just because I know their songs far better and I figured I'd probably enjoy it more. I don't regret it either, because Ash were fucking awesome, and probably the best set I saw all day. No disrespect to Bad Religion, because I'm sure they were good, but I absolutely loved Ash. The extra guitarist they have for touring makes such a big difference, and they were so much better than when I last saw them. The lighting setup was fantastic as well. I enjoyed it so much I even bothered to hang around afterwards and scab a setlist:

I got back from Ash to find that my tent had been opened, and the same for Nick's, which was a bit shit, though it appeared that absolutely nothing had been stolen, so no real harm done and we didn't linger on it for that long. The others got back, we played some cards and drinking games, got fairly drunk (Nick got very drunk), and it was a pretty good laugh.

The next morning we were a little hungover, and my legs were pretty sore. Having spent the last six or seven weeks sitting in a chair for pretty much the entire day, aside from one or two bike rides, I wasn't really in much physical condition to spend four consecutive days walking around and standing all day. We were a bit late into the arena because we were all tired and a bit hungover, and I ended up on my own for pretty much the entire day, because I went to see some stuff in the comedy tent for the start of the afternoon. It was good, and I got to sit down for a while. Angelos Epithemiou was pretty funny, and after him I went and caught bits of Limp Bizkit, Cypress Hill and Kele, and got some stuff to eat.

For the headliners I would have gone into the packed bit of the crowd, but my legs were pretty fucked, so instead I went to the back of the front section (there's a barrier about 50m back that segregates the crowd) where there was space. Weezer were fucking awesome. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed their set, and it was fantastic. They were pretty funny, and got the crowd going really well. They did a brilliant cover of Teenage Dirtbag, and also an excellent cover of Kids by MGMT, which then merged into a cover of Poker Face. For a band that I wasn't really planning on seeing at the start of the weekend (I was going to go see Band of Horses instead) I really liked their set.

Paramore were a bit meh. Pretty much how I expected, and I guess I could say the same for Blink-182 as well. Maybe it's because I was fairly tired and not hugely up for it, and I'm hardly a massive fan of theirs anyway, but I thought their set was pretty standard. One of the better ones I'd seen over the weekend, but not mind-blowing.

We met up at the exit of the arena, bought some doughnuts and hot drinks, and headed back preparing to defend our tent for the night. The riots at Reading and Leeds on the last night are fairly notorious for being pretty bad, and we'd specifically chosen to camp in Orange to reduce the chances of our tents getting wrecked and/or set on fire. For example, a picture of Leeds I took after it had been trashed in 2008:

This year they'd stopped people bringing alcohol into the campsite after 6pm on Sunday, which I thought was a bit of a dumb idea, given that it's not hard to stock up (we had plenty left on the last night, and when we left, and that wasn't even intentional). However, what probably was a good idea was that they'd banned campfires on the last night. This basically meant that rather than putting campfires out after people were doing stupid shit like setting tents on fire, or throwing gas canisters on them, they were putting out the fires before anything like that happened, because they were just putting out all of them. They didn't have to try and figure out who was lighting a campfire to then cause trouble, and who was just innocently making a campfire, because they just put all of them out. They were pretty rapid about it too. We had some twattish 16 year olds behind us who kept starting one, and theirs got put out about three times before they were told they'd be kicked out if they did it again.

Things got a bit rowdy, but we never had any actual trouble come to us, and things died down fairly early and I at least had a pretty decent night's sleep. We got up the next morning around 9am and went home, and the campsites looked pretty much intact as we went through them. Certainly not the desolate post-apocalyptic scene that there was after Leeds in 2008. So kudos to the organisers, because they clearly did a pretty good job at keeping everything under control.

Between Reading and Leeds, I'm not really sure which I prefer. I would say Leeds is better in terms of the arena setup, and in terms of the people there, and it's less of a bitch for me to get to, but at the same time it's in the middle of fucking nowhere, and you can't just walk to a supermarket. Plus, even though it wasn't the case this year, the chances are the weather is going to be nicer in Reading, and that can make a fairly big difference. I'm not sure if I'll go again, but I'm fairly torn for which place I'd pick if I did.

Another final comment would be the food prices, because they were fucking ridiculous. A burger was £4 at the cheapest, and generally you were having to pay £7 or more for a not-so-substantial meal, which was just shit. It's not like festivals are cheap to go to in the first place, and the fact that it cost so fucking much just to eat in the arena was really a pain in the ass. Water taps were free, which is better than it is at some festivals where you only have bottled stuff you've got to pay for, but the food and drink in general was still a fucking rip-off, so I tried to mostly fill myself up in the morning on food I'd gotten from the supermarket before I went to the arena.

Either way, I enjoyed myself. The line-up wasn't fantastic, but I didn't really spend much time over the weekend not watching a band I at least partly enjoyed. Nick's friends, Gerry and Jamie, were pretty awesome guys, and as a whole I'd say the weekend was pretty good. I was tired as hell when I got back, and in desperate need of my first shower in five days, but that's just par for the course really. At the very least, I've got the next month to do fuck-all aside from Musashi typesetting and Frostii work, and I really plan to enjoy it. Plus I'm going to see Muse next weekend, which I'd mostly forgotten about just because my schedule was so dominated by the Reading festival. Then a new year at university, which I really can't wait for. So overall, in pretty awesome spirits right now.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Reading Festival - Prologue

Not a festival celebrating literature (as at least two people I know have thought it was when typed) but a music festival held in Reading.

My first comment really has to be a "fuck you" to SeeTickets or Festival Republic who whoever the fuck's idea it was to still be sending tickets out this late. The festival starts on Thursday, I was planning on getting the train down tomorrow (Wednesday), and yesterday (Monday) at 7am was when I got my email saying my tickets had been dispatched.

I paid for these tickets in September last year. I ordered them and gave them money over eleven months in advance of the festival, and I get my ticket literally less than 48 hours before the event. If I'd been planning to get leave any earlier than the day before I'd have been fucked.

What made it even more of a pain in the arse is that Seetickets dispatch it with Royal Mail Special Delivery, which is completely trackable, except they don't give you the tracking number for it. They give you their tracking number, but it's not the same, and all it actually tells you is whether it's been dispatched or not, so is almost entirely useless given they send you an email telling you when it's dispatched.

And out of those who didn't get theirs weeks ago, I'm one of the fairly lucky ones. Some aren't going to get theirs until "before 1pm Wednesday" according to the email they sent out this afternoon.

I understand how sending out the tickets late helps prevent touting, but there's definitely a limit as to how late you can acceptably send them out. It would only take Royal Mail to have a problem for a day or two and hundreds, possibly thousands of people wouldn't get their tickets in time for the event. Two weeks in advance (which is what it was for the Muse gig, also booked with SeeTickets) would have been perfectly fine. There's absolutely no fucking reason to leave it so late.

It just caused me stress for most of the day because I knew from my sister that they'd neither delivered it to my house, nor left a note saying they'd delivered it and I wasn't in to sign for it. So I went to the RM delivery office on my way home from work, but they can't give it to me from there unless I've got the note saying nobody was home when they delivered it. Which is fair enough, because it stops people fraudulently intercepting mail before it's even attempted to be delivered to the house. Except when I asked if they could check if it was there, the woman (who was very helpful) said she could, and then she did, and it wasn't there. Nor was there any record of saying it was delivered.

So I got home without my ticket, my ticket wasn't at home, I fume for 20 minutes or so and start making preparations for calling up SeeTickets and trying to find out what the fuck I should do and when I'm getting my damn ticket. Then the doorbell rings and it's our next door neighbour saying that he's got a letter for us that he had to sign for, and it's my tickets, and suddenly there's a fuckton of relief.

And also a fair bit of annoyance with Royal Mail, for taking something that's special delivery, and either delivering it to the wrong address by mistake, or establishing that nobody is home to sign at the correct address, and delivering it to the wrong address on purpose. On some levels it's reasonable to expect neighbours to sign for packages, but on another level it completely isn't. It's lucky that they handed it over to a neighbour who is a pretty nice old man, and who brought it round. It could easily have been the students a few doors away and they'd have forgotten to bring it round (because, as I know better than anyone, students are absent-minded and lazy). Or the woman who died last month but was our next-door neighbour on the other side to the one they picked, and who was so damn batshit crazy that she once went out shopping in the car with her kid, left the kid in the car while she went shopping, and then got a taxi home and completely forgot she'd left the kid locked in the car in the car park until her husband got home in the evening and asked where the fuck their child was. If I'd had potentially important post going to her, I'd have potentially never fucking seen it again.

But primary rant aside, I have my ticket now, I can go, I'm expecting it to be awesome. The line-up isn't as good as it could be, and I'd say that Arcade Fire aren't really a headline band, and Guns 'n' Roses would be if they were the true GNR, but now they're just Axl Rose and randomers, so they're not the best of headliners either. Blink-182 are decent though.

My main bitch about the line-up is actually that the bands I like are pretty much entirely on the Friday. I'd be pretty happy spending the entire Friday at the Main Stage or the Lock-Up stage, and there's about two day's worth of entertainment for me there, half of which I can't see. Then Saturday and Sunday are pretty barren, and I spent most of last weekend on Spotify just listening to all these bands that I don't really know and deciding which ones would at least be worth checking out.

So I now have this, which you'll have to click to enlarge to a size that's actually readable:

There are still a few clashes on there, but I think I'm just going to have to call it at the time. Bad Religion v Ash is probably the worse one, because I want to see both of them really badly and I have no idea which one I'll pick. It's actually a three-way clash with Pendulum as well, but I'm almost certainly going to see one of the other two so I've not bothered highlighting it on there. QotSA v Against Me! is probably going to go to QotSA just because it's them, and because it'll require less frantic stage hopping.

So yeah, possibly a post tomorrow night while I'm at Will's, but most likely nothing until Tuesday, because I'll be knackered when I get back on Monday.

Also, last half-day of work tomorrow. Which means I'm free all of September if people have ideas for doing stuff ;)

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Frostii Drop More Stuff... But Not All The Stuff!

There'll be a proper post about this on the Frostii site in the next 8 hours or so, possibly sooner. Sylf has given these shows 24 hours as of about midnight BST last night for staff members to try and save them before they get dropped. However until that post gets made, I guess this will hold the exclusivity of "You heard it here first!". I'd wait to write this until later, but my sister's exam results came out today, and she did well, so we're going out to dinner to celebrate, plus there's Liverpool vs Trasbonspor, so I won't have time.

This post is basically to just go into a bit of detail that we're not going to bother cluttering up the main site with, but some people might like to know.

So firstly, an announcement of shows to be dropped:

  • Durarara!!
  • Eden of the East: King of Eden
  • Ookami Kakushi

I'd like to apologise to anyone who has specifically been waiting for our releases for these shows, because frankly you guys are the leechers that we probably actually give a shit about. It's the main reason I really hate shows being dropped this late on. Sure, most people don't care any more because they've switched to another group, but the people who do care have invested a fair bit of waiting into our releases, which is why it's worse that we've let these people down.
As I've said before, I think it's at least better that we announce shows as dropped rather than let people wait further for releases that are indefinitely postponed and might never happen, but still, sorry.

The first thing that has to be said is basically that this all stems from quite a few seasons ago, when we massively overstretched ourselves, and when we had people suggesting shows they just got teams dedicated for them, rather than someone pointing out that we were probably doing too many. Or people did point that out, and we were just like NAH WE CAN HANDLE IT, IT'LL BE FINE.

We probably did actually have the people to do the shows. The problem was they weren't all Frostii people. We drafted in translators and a few other people to do roles that we couldn't fill, which was probably the first massive mistake. If you can't fill roles within the group, then you're either understaffed or you're doing too many shows, which basically amount to the exact same thing anyway.

The problem with drafting in people from outside is that they're horribly unreliable. They're not proper members of the group, they're usually only know one or two people within the group, and as a result they're a fucking pain in the ass to try and contact if they disappear, because the majority of the staff have no fucking idea who they are. Plus they're not proper Frostii staff, so have far less commitment to the group and are far more likely to just disappear for whatever reason, or get bored and decide they don't want to do it any more. They're also quite usually working for other groups as well, which adds extra complication because half the time they're busy doing shit that isn't Frostii shit.

Which is basically what happened. We had the resources to start with by getting non-staff people, those non-staff people fucked off, and then we were massively stretching ourselves to try and keep everything under control with the remaining staff we had. Sylf ended up going from no shows to about four, just because we have no other translator to do them and he didn't want to drop them. Except Sylf is mostly trying to ease himself out of translating shows, so they've ended up getting dropped anyway because he doesn't have the time/motivation to do them any more.

I don't blame any of the guys we drafted in for the fact that things went tits-up, it was more the fault of the group as a whole for letting things get out of hand, the final result basically being a whole shitload of stalled released and ultimately a load of dropped series.

Durarara!! has gone because the team is busy with K-On, and have no motivation for it because it's so far behind. It's also being released by Enigma Collective. I've got no idea if they're any good personally, but I've read comments that their quality is Frostii-level for the show, and they seem the best alternative.

Eden of the East has dropped because it was hugely stalled, it's licensed by Funimation and then the final straw on the camel's back was a server failure a few weeks ago. We have most of the shows backed up by the people who are working on them, but this isn't the case for Eden, so we've lost pretty much everything we'd done so far and it's being axed. Even if we had the stuff it probably wasn't going to be released for another several months anyway.

Ookami Kakushi has been dropped because it's stalled hugely waiting for Sylf to be free to translate the remaining episodes, which isn't going to happen any time soon. Plus it's a pretty crap show anyway.

So enough doom and gloom. One upside is that we can fairly easily promise that no more stuff will be dropped. This is mostly because there's not much left to drop. The only exception is maybe Rainbow because our (drafted-in) translator hasn't done anything in ages. Probably because he's busy with gg and CoalGuys.


  • Winter Sonata -  I don't work on this project, but it got un-stalled last night because we replaced the editor that's been holding it up so far. It should get going again with releases fairly soon
  • K-On!! - We're barely even behind with it, never has a chance of getting dropped :P
  • Musashi movie - This should hopefully be released before the end of September. I'll see to it personally because I'm doing the typesetting and it's the only thing left to do. It's basically waiting for me to finish my work experience placement next week and then I'll have the free time to get cracking on it.
  • Rainbow - Isn't dropped, but is stalled. Might want a new translator if things don't pick up, and could still be dropped.
  • Daa! Daa! Daa! - It's going slow as hell but it'll get sorted once we get around to properly organising things, and getting staff on it who are actually going to work on it.
  • Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~ - So, so stalled, but it'll get done. Again, it probably just needs a staff reshuffle. If we were really going to drop it we'd have done it literally years ago.
  • Kimi ni Todoke - This has been on the brink of being dropped for about 8 months now, but I'm fairly sure the current staff are committed to finishing it, even if it's really slow. Another "If we were going to drop it, we'd probably have done it already" show. 

And I'm fairly sure that's it. So really, apologies to anyone who actually still gave a crap about the shows we've dropped. I'm fairly sure the group has at least learned the lessons from this whole fiasco, and it shouldn't happen again.

As another thing, Frostii are currently looking for a new translator. If anyone who reads this is interested, then either leave a comment, ask in the group channel or PM myself (Rosti) or probably Sylf on irc.Rizon.net. Again, there'll be a proper post about this on the main site feed, it's just being sorted out currently.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Work -> Money -> Bicycles + Netbook

So I spend 7.5 hours each day being fairly bored and performing reasonably unexciting tasks (when I could be at home, being fairly bored and not performing any tasks) because I need to or I can't graduate with honours. But I'm getting paid with it, so with all the gold I have acquired I splashed out a bit last week.

For the first year in Cambridge, I figured that I didn’t really need a bike, and I didn’t have one. For the second year though, I wanted one to get to the boathouse a bit more quickly. I didn’t really want to take my bike from home, because it was reasonably shiny, and I’d rather it didn’t get stolen. I also wasn’t too happy about just leaving it exposed to the elements outside either. So I figured I’d get a crappy one second-hand for not much money, and have that for university, and keep my nice bike at home. Which is what I did. In actual fact I ended up getting my granddad’s bike for free. He’s in his eighties, so unlikely to be using it that much, and it’s a functioning road bike. It is pretty old, which has the advantage of it looking like crap so nobody is likely to steal it, and it’s actually a pretty comfortable and quick bike to ride, but it does have a few flaws.

The first was that the tyres were pretty old and worn, so I got quite a few punctures in the first term, though I scabbed some newer (but still fairly old) tyres off Peter and they did the job fine. The other issue is that the rear brake doesn’t work. It’s not a huge problem when the front brake works fine, given that the front brake is actually the most effective at stopping you without skidding because of the weight distribution on the wheels. You just need a bit of care to avoid catapulting yourself over the handlebars.
However, the fact that the rear brake does have another side-effect, which is that I can only brake with my right hand. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that the gear levers are on the bike frame, above the front wheel, so I need to take a hand off the handlebars to brake, and to change through the rear-wheel gears, this hand is my right hand. Which means if I’m turning right on a main road, I need to have my right hand on the handlebar to brake, on the frame to change gears, and out to the side to indicate that I’m turning right. Which is pretty fucking difficult to coordinate simultaneously while in the middle of the road.

Switching to MET from Engineering next year means that I’ll be having my classes in West Cambridge, which is about 2.5 miles away and needs a good half-hour walk, if not more, rather than the three or four minutes it takes me to currently get to lectures. So I’ll be cycling to and from lectures each day, given that I don’t want to waste an hour of my life each weekday just commuting to classes. So, given that I’ll be using it a done, I’ve decided I’ll need a slightly more reliable and less questionable bike than the one I’ve currently been using., because I can’t really afford for things to break on it.

I could have splashed out on a fancy road bike, but I do still have my mountain bike, which is what I’ll be using. It’s five or so years old now, but it’s in pretty much perfect condition, the only downside being that mountain bikes are pretty crap when you don’t need to go off-road. So, I spent the weekend pimping it up a bit, and it’s now got hybrid tyres and has been transformed into something which should be pretty good for cycling on roads. It’s got an aluminium frame and no rear suspension, so now I’ve replaced the chunky mountain bike tyres it’s actually pretty light, and should do a pretty nice job. Plus the gears and brakes are fully functional, which makes a change. I also got a new cycle computer for it given the old one wasn’t really working any more.

I took it out for a spin on Sunday before the match, cycling up to Lydiate, then along the canal looping round to Burscough, and then coming back in to Ormskirk, about 18 miles in total so not that much effort for a test run. Except that I neglected to factor in just how poor the track along the canal is to cycle down. The towpath along the Cam is an absolute luxury compared to the rocky, muddy track I was trying to navigate down, which was about a foot wide for most of the way and made going much faster than about 12mph pretty difficult. The hybrid tyres were definitely called for, because doing it with road tyres would have been questionable. Dodging all the dog-walkers, anglers and people biking the other way wasn’t too easy either, and it took a lot longer and a lot more effort than I was expecting it to, so I think I’ll stick to roads if I go out next weekend.

Another thing I’ve been wanting over the summer for the next year of classes is some sort of portable computer thing. I have my laptop, but it’s not really portable. If it wasn’t for the fact that there’s absolutely nowhere in my house to put a desktop, and that moving a desktop back and forth from university each term would be a massive pain in the ass, I’d have gotten a desktop. But I have both those issues, so I got a laptop which has specs which would be pretty good for a desktop, and it has a 17” screen. Which means that it’s more convenient than a desktop to move around, and that at a stretch I can take it somewhere with me without too much discomfort, but it is big and it weighs a fucking ton, so it’s not something I can feasibly have on me at all times.

But I am somewhat addicted to the internet, and it annoys me when I go away on holiday for a few days, or for some other reasons am away from home, and I can’t check emails and stuff, so I’ve been looking for some way to be a little bit more portably online without the totally rubbish scenario of carrying a huge laptop that weighs several kilograms around with me. At first I was looking at smartphones before realising that I’d probably want unlimited internet, and a pretty nice phone, and that it was going to cost me a fortune. My current phone crashes all the fucking time, but £30+ a month is a lot of money to pay for the luxury of having internet when I’m out and about, and phone that I’d be satisfied with (so basically Nokia N900 or equivalent).

So instead I’ve gone for a netbook. I’ll be taking my rucksack to classes anyway most likely, so it’s not really any extra inconvenience to shove a 10.1” netbook that weighs hardly anything inside of it. The main difficulty with choosing which one to buy was that I struggled to compromise between what I would ideally have and what I actually needed it for. Usually with a computer I’d have a look round and basically get what I thought offered the best specs for the cheapest relative price. Sort of like plotting specs against price and finding the point just before the gradient shoots up, only more through intuition than actually working stuff out. The thing is though, I don’t need my netbook to be a beast of a machine. I’ll be browsing the internet, using MS Office and at a stretch I might watch video on it. Which means that it’s totally stupid for me to be extravagant and get an awesome machine, because it’ll just be excessive. But it’s really hard to settle for a lower spec machine just because I know I won’t actually need the extra RAM or hard drive space.

In the end I settled for a Samsung N210. The N220 has come out fairly recently, which means the N210 has had a fairly reasonable price cut. It was cut from £320 to £270 on very.com, and because my Dad works for the Shopdirect group he gets a 15% discount, which means I only paid £230 in total for a pretty nice machine. It’s got Windows 7, Intel N450 processor, 1GB RAM and a 250GB HDD, plus a multi-touch touchpad (which can be very useful on a netbook) and the battery life is about 8 hours.

It’s a nice machine, but jesus christ it came with a shitton of bloatware on it. I hate using new machines anyway, just because I find I really tedious to install all the software I use everyday, but it was even more tedious when I had to spend a while uninstalling all the programs I won’t need and crappy free trials for stuff. I also stuck an Ubuntu Netbook dual-boot on it with Wubi, which is working nicely aside from the fact that the default wifi driver doesn’t work (which seems fairly common for netbooks with Linux). It’s an easy fix, but it’s also a bit awkward to download the driver when your main means of accessing the internet would be through the wifi were it not for the fact it doesn’t work. So far I’m fairly happy with the netbook, though I can’t see myself using it too much when I’m not at University, but we’ll see.

I’ve got one week left now on my work placement, and then it’ll be a month until I go back to Cambridge, which I’m pretty excited for already, because I’m really looking forward to MET (which is a future blog post to come), and also just generally being back in Cambridge with everyone.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Ground-Zero Mosque

This was something I actually saw ages ago on some Christian extremist propaganda video a few months ago, and didn't really think that much of it, because it didn't seem to be that big a news story at the time, at least over here.

Then, last weekend, Obama made some comments at a Ramadan dinner appearing to be in support for the mosque. Personally I thought he made some pretty good points, but apparently the Christian, Republican right didn't think so. Obama's comments sparked a fair bit of backlash and he's since retracted most of what he said, which annoyed me a little, because I don't think politicians should shy away from their beliefs just to please public opinion. Plus the backtracking hasn't helped much, except to disappoint the people who supported what he said in the first place, given that media outlets aren't going to give as much coverage to his clarification as they did for the original inflammatory speech.

The thing with this story is the ridiculous nature it's been blown out of proportion.

Sure, it is located within 200m of ground zero, but it's not like they're trying to get it built on the site itself. It's just in Lower Manhattan, and it's near a ton of stuff simply because it's in the middle of the New York CBD, which is where you'd probably want something like that.

Now I would say that sure, it was obviously going to attract some controversy and it probably isn't objectively the wisest place to put something like that, but I only say that from the point of view of "if you didn't want people to cause a fuss, you should have built it somewhere else", not "you should have built it somewhere else".

There are two main things which annoy me in this whole saga. The first is the continued bullshit approach of the Christian right and Republicans to claim themselves to be patriots, and to harp on about the constitution and civil rights and free speech, all that bullshit, but to then totally ignore it in a heartbeat if it could possibly work in a way that isn't their favour. When it comes to stuff like guns, the founding fathers wanted guns, America should have guns. When it comes to their free speech then it'd be a crime against America not to let them have it. Yet they apparently ignore the fact that the founding fathers aimed America to be a secular country. They completely walk all over the ideas of separation of church and state, and do their best to tie America into being a Christian nation.

They're quite happy for America to be the "land of the free" providing the people who are free are Christian, which is completely contradictory to the apparent principles of the founding fathers. If the roles were reversed they'd be crying out at the apparent injustice and destruction of freedom and liberty, just as the Muslim people behind this mosque are most likely doing right now.

If America is meant to be a secular nation, if American citizens are meant to have the freedom, the right to do anything which they want so long as it doesn't harm other people (which, really, this doesn't), then this mosque should be allowed to be built. If the principles of the founding fathers, which Republicans are so damn fucking quick to harp on about whenever it suits their own argument, if those principles are that important, then they permit the construction of the mosque.

The other thing that pisses me off is the way that the opponents of this mosque basically seem to make this fucking insane link that because the people behind 9/11 were Islamic extremists, then any remote link to Islam equates to a link to these terrorists. They seem to use the exact same ignorant Muslim = Terrorist equation as they do for Socialism = Communism (= evil), and it's completely incorrect.

This thing is an Islamic mosque. It is for the use of Muslim New Yorkers. It isn't the fucking Al-Qaeda headquarters. The 2001 September 11th attacks were not an attack from Islam. They were an attack from Al-Qaeda and from terrorists, who just happen to follow extremist Islamic beliefs.

The most fucking stupid comment so far has come from Newt Gingrich, a Republican congressman for New York, saying:

Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

Ignoring Godwin's law, that's just a ridiculous thing to say. The implication that all Muslims are equivalent to Nazis is just ridiculous, as is the comparison between 9/11 and the Holocaust. It might be odd to say that 9/11 isn't that big a deal, because it has changed the international politics of this century, but you really can't compare the three thousand innocent lives lost on 9/11 with the estimated six million Jews killed during the holocaust. Even the five and a half thousand American lives (and counting) lost in the resulting Iraq and Afghanistan wars start to pale the 9/11 attacks into insignificance (and that's not even counting over a hundred thousand civilian and allied Iraqi casualties).

And it's not even a good analogy, because Muslims aren't terrorists. It would actually be far more accurate for him to say that Germans don't have the right to put their embassy next to the holocaust museum. The perpetrators of the holocaust happened to be German, as the perpetrators of 9/11 happened to be Muslim, and it's just as ridiculous to imply that all Muslims are terrorists as it is to imply that all Germans hold and support Nazi beliefs.

Muslims are already massively prejudiced for a country that claims to be founded on secular principles, and is supposedly one of the most tolerant and democratic countries in the world. I understand that with the whole principle of free speech, American citizens will defend their right to voice concerns and anger over this sort of thing, but for just the same reasons of freedom and civil rights, the Muslims have the right to build a mosque there when they've gone through all the correct legal proceedings and have clearance to do so. It's just completely retarded for them to claim they have a right to certain aspects of society, and to then use those rights to try and prevent others from having them as well.

From the news articles I've read, most of this anger over the mosque and muslim social centre (which is called the Cordoba House, oddly enough, not "The Ground Zero Mosque" has come from people who have no direct attachment to 9/11 aside from being American. The vast majority of this outrage seems to be on behalf of 9/11 victims and their families, not from the families themselves. There's been no poll of the families, presumably for fairly obvious reasons, but I've seen reports that say some families support the mosque (or at least don't opposite it) so clearly the anger and offence isn't there for all of the people affected by 9/11.

Really, what the Republicans don't see is the irony of what they're doing, and the fact that rather than the mosque being a symbol of Muslim triumph and victory stood next to 9/11, it would be proof that while New York was scarred at the hands of Muslim extremists, the city is still accepting to the Muslim people. It would be a beautiful demonstration of the tolerance of the West, a brilliant message to the terrorists that the American people aren't the oppressive Christian assholes they claim them to be, and it would be a fantastic symbol that in the West Christians and Muslims can still live in harmony, despite what the terrorists have attempted to do, and despite how they would want things to otherwise be.

Except it won't, because apparently what Al-Qaeda says about America isn't completely untrue, and a good number of American people aren't tolerant, do hold prejudices against Muslims because of their beliefs, and that American Muslims don't have the freedoms that their Christian counterparts do. The terrorists have justifications for why they carried out the attacks on September 11th 2001, and all the people opposing the Cordoba House are doing are proving that those justifications could be correct. Which is, in my opinion, a far greater disrespect against the lives lost in the terrorist attack than the mosque could ever be.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Systematic Betting

So I was watching the European Athletics Championships last weekend, and then this week it weirdly got me onto the thought of horseracing. I realised that for people it's pretty fucking easy to see who is going to win. At the very least if you were wrong about the winner you'd be close enough to win an each-way bet. And this is just going on personal bests and seasons bests. I have no history of following athletics seriously, yet I could fairly accurately guess who was going to win just from the stats they showed on the screen before each event.

So my figuring is that if you are to look at that sort of thing for horses, properly collate the data and take a proper look at it, then maybe you could fairly accurately get race results. I understand that the times of horses finishing races are probably more variable than those of people, especially given that a horse is probably a bit less driven to give it's best for every race. Also shit is pretty complicated given horses run better with different conditions, different distances. But I'm confident that if someone can be bothered to wade through the data and find the winners then there's money to be made.

The thing is, I don't really like horseracing, and I can't be bothered collating any data because I don't care.

However, I do care about football. The main difference here is that football is far less easy to just apply some sort of scientific methodology to. Finishing times are one thing for racing, but how the fuck do you assess football games?

The real answer is that you probably can't. I believe that it's far easier to make money casually betting on football than it is casually betting on horses, but in terms of a system I doubt it's that easy. I doubt it's even possible at all. But that isn't going to stop me from trying.

I'm not going to put proper money into it though, or not for at least a season. Basically I'm going to set up stuff on Excel spreadsheets like crazy, amass data on pre-match odds (not sure if I'm going to bother finding the best odds each time or just go with a single bookies), and I'll try a few simple systems just to see how much money they'd have lost if I'd done it for real.

Because I am expecting them to lose money. Fact is that bookmakers make profit, and they wouldn't if simple systems resulted in a loss for them. I'm not doing this to try and find a get-rich scheme, because I'm fairly sure there isn't one. I'm doing this mostly as a curiosity. Plus Excel 2010 seems sexy and I need an excuse to use it a bit.

So I'm going to start out with a few default betting tactics, and I'll see how they do.

1) Bet £5 on Manchester United to win for each game
2) Bet £5 on Manchester United to win for each game not against another top-six team (Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Man City - I reckon Villa will be shit without O'Neill)
3,4) As above but for Chelsea
5,6) As above but for Arsenal
7,8) As above but for Liverpool
9,10) As above but for Tottenham Hotspur
11,12) As above but for Man City
13) Bet £5 for Blackpool to lose every game
14) As above but for Newcastle
15) As above but for West Bromwich Albion

So, that's fifteen fairly basic strategies that I won't expect to actually make a profit individually, let alone collectively, but I'm still curious to exactly how much (virtual) money will actually go to the bookmakers for each one.

I'll be keeping a fairly comprehensive set of stats for the entire set of fixtures, so will probably at least take a further look and analysis of the data at the end of the season, and probably at least upload the spreadsheet for people to look at. There's so much extra shit I could put in and won't, like odds one week before the fixture as well as just the day before, but frankly I can't be bothered with this sort of thing. I'm probably being lazy to the point of actually just ensuring I waste my time by not going into enough detail to make things properly exciting, but meh.

If anyone else has Excel 2010 and wants to help then I could probably work out shared spreadsheet access and might go for a bit more detail if I'm not doing all the work myself.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

WTF For The Week - 08/08/10

This got quite a good reception last time, and I've got the material, so I figure I might as well do another one.

Our Alliance - A Lasting Partnership

I originally saw this on Sankanku Complex, but I'm not going to link to that because it's got a lot of NSFW stuff, so here's the BBC Article instead. In short, the US Military has produced a chibi manga, presumably to try and win over the Japanese to seeing that the US Army bases stationed in Japan are a good thing. The manga is freely available online and there's a translated version on MangaFox.

This is something fairly noteworthy, because the issue of US Army bases has been a pretty huge issue lately in Japan, to the extent that the Japanese PM resigned recently for going back on his pre-election promise to remove the US Army base from Okinawa. But I don't really see how this will help much. If I was Japanese I'd find it patronising and demeaning more than anything else, as it seems to suggest that apparently Japanese people can't understand concepts unless they're presented to them by cute cartoon characters. I don't really know who this is aimed at, is it to try and win over the Japanese adults who feel strongly about the issue, or is it propaganda aimed at children, who I doubt care anyway?

I've read the English translation, and I still don't quite get the purpose of it. It seems aimed at kids, but then I don't see why the US would care so much to get the children of Japan on their side. It's fairly informative, but I doubt I'd appreciate it if I was an adult resident of Okinawa.

Finalists dies at World Sauna Championships

On the face of it, a tragic news story, in which both finalists of the World Sauna Championships in Finland collapsed, and one of them later died. Except hang on a minute. World Sauna Championships? What?

So, a little Googling leads me to the Wikipedia article for it, and this:

"The championships began with preliminary rounds and ended in the finals, where the best six men and women would see who could sit in the sauna the longest. The starting temperature in the men's competition was 110 ÂșC (230 °F). Half a litre of water was poured on the stove every 30 seconds. The winner was the last person to stay in the sauna and walk out without outside help."

Now, not that I'm against the concept of extreme sports, but who the fuck thought this was a good idea? Basically sit yourself in an oven, and last one to get out or pass out wins. Except it's not an oven, it's a sauna, which is probably worse than an oven. In an oven it'd at least be dry, and your sweat would be able to evaporate and do something to keep your body temperature below lethal levels. In a sauna you don't really get that, so your body temperature is free to get to stupidly high levels. This is genuinely as retarded as hosting a World Chicken Championships or something. Last one to die is the winrar.

Though if this man's death has meant anything, it is at least that the organisers have announced that there will be no more sauna competitions, so at least this isn't likely to happen again.

Boy Surgically Grows Leg By 31cm

This was something of a cool story, about a boy born with a horrible disability that has now been cured by the wonders of modern medical science. Which I thought was pretty cool. Hey, I'm a little bit on the short side, maybe I could go for some of that. I wonder how they did it?

A brace was fitted to his leg and the bones were broken and then "stretched" into gaining extra length by a screw which is turned to extend the limb.

Holy shit no thank you. He can now walk, and I'm sure this will massively improve his life in the long run, but jesus christ eeewwwww. The picture on the article doesn't help much either.

So something of a victory for medicine, and for doctors and surgeons to be able to fix something that was supposedly unfixible, but definitely not the most appealing ways of doing it.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Things That Piss Me The Fuck Off, Part 5

So, it's my 100th post, and I've not done one of these in a while, so what better way to mark the 100th post than with another edition of what would have been my first blog post, had it not originally been on Facebook.

41. Cramp

Pain is one of those things that's something of a necessary evil. We don't like it, but it's useful. It serves a purpose in our lives. When you stand on a plug, and it hurts like an absolute bitch, that pain is your body's way of telling you to stop being a retard and to take your foot off the plug before it does some proper damage.

Cramp, however, does not fall into this "useful pain" scheme. Cramp is complete bullshit in terms of actual use. It's your body hurting like a bastard for pretty much no fucking reason whatsoever. Not only is there no obvious reason for why a random part of your body is in a lot of pain, but there's fuck all you can do about it. It's the most useless form of pain because that's all it is. Pain. Stupid, useless, unnecessary pain.

What's really dumb is that most of the time when you get cramp, it's after excessive exercise. Which, in some ways, means that cramp could be perceived as your body's way of telling you that you probably shouldn't exercise as much. Which I'd be fine with, but this would apparently contradict the popular belief that exercise is good for you, and something you should do more of. And it's not like exercise doesn't tend to be painful at the time either. You go through something that ranges from uncomfortable to pretty painful, and then frequently your reward is a ton more pain later in the the form of cramp.

And to make it worse, you can feel it coming too. There's always that little warning twinge, those tiny uncomfortable feelings you get that are just to let you know that you're about to fucking hurt some in a minute or two. And that you'll be totally helpless to stop it.

42. Unnecessary Big Cars

SUVs and 4x4s, basically. Not all of the time; just when they're owned by someone who has absolutely no fucking use for a car that big. Which is pretty much all the time. I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure most of the people driving stupid fucking huge cars on the road are people who never drive over anything more taxing on a vehicle than the gravel drive to their front door.

They're stupidly big things to have on the road, they're massively inefficient and unfriendly to the environment, and most of all, they're fucking dangerous. Whenever I hear someone say they drive one because they "like to feel safe" I want to fucking slap them, because that statement is the most selfish and inconsiderate reason for owning something like that, ever. Because yeah, you are safer driving a fucking huge car. That's because, by default, you're making every single other person on the road less safe. You're ensuring that you come off slightly better in any crash by making the other party involved come off much, much worse.It's basically saying "I don't mind killing a few people if it means I come out of a nasty crash with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises instead of a broken limb".

Modern cars have plenty of crash zones, meant to help absorb forces in an impact, and ultimately keep the people inside the car safe. SUVs and 4x4 cars completely flout these safety devices, because they're so damn fucking big that they fly straight over the top of them. Because when an SUV/4x4 crashes into a normal car, you tend to get stuff like this:

See the... car? Or pile of wreckage that used to be a car? Crashes between normal-sized cars usually don't end up that badly unless they're at a really high speed, but when they're hit by an SUV all the crumple zones sort of go out the window when it flies over the top and rips through the passenger canopy. My bet is that the people inside the car are most likely dead/seriously injured when they would otherwise have been mildly injured/unscathed. All because some douchebag wanted to "feel safe" and bought an SUV.

The SUV in the picture is worth noting too, given it's upside down. Because yeah, they're pretty good at that. They actually showed on Fifth Gear (I'd link to a vid but I couldn't find one, either way they've got a few nice crash tests) a few years back that it's possible to flip them over just by swerving at 25mph. The idea that you're necessarily "safe" in a SUV or 4x4 is definitely not a forgone conclusion. You're also still pretty fucked if you crash into another vehicle of a similar size as well, as they tend to be built with pretty rigid frames that don't make crashes particularly pleasant unless whatever you hit is fairly easily crushed.

So they're not that safe for the occupants, and they're dangerous as hell to other road users. If people need to drive across fields on at least a semi-regular basis, then fair enough, but you mostly see them in suburbs driven by middle-aged women who clearly don't need a car anything fucking like that big,

43. Hot Weather

Not something that poses too much of an issue up in t'North, but I still absolutely despise it when things get properly hot. When it gets so hot that you can't not notice the fact that it's absolutely fucking boiling.

Because that's what I really hate. The fact that there's no escape from the heat. You sit around in the day panting because it's too fucking hot, and then at night it's exactly the same. It doesn't matter if you're sleeping naked with no covers on and all the windows open, it won't make a fucking bit of difference. Once it starts getting above 25°C, which is generally a pretty nice temperature, and into the uncomfortably hot range where you can't do anything productive because you basically feel like you're going to melt, that pisses me off.

It's not so bad abroad, where it tends to be quite a dry heat, but here it just gets humid and shit, and there's not a great deal that can be done about it. You're limited to basically sitting around inside or outside, trying to keep cool, and any attempts to do something better will just leave you sweaty and bothered. Especially in London. There are places that get hot, and then there's the muggy, sticky, intolerable heat you get in London. The sort of humid heat that pushes temperatures up towards 45°C or more on the tube, and that basically makes sleeping impossible. I had it last year for the TC meet (which is when it was the most fucking ridiculous heat wave ever), and I had it this year as well for the UK Mahjong Open. It was just stupidly hot, and I hate it.

44. People Who Misuse The Term "OCD"

I swear "OCD", which stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, has now basically just become something of a modern synonym for "slightly obsessive/compulsive". If people are actually telling the truth, then I'm fairly sure that pretty much every single person in the country actually has OCD. Except they don't, it's just used in a fairly ridiculous sense whenever anyone talks about something that they do that's vaguely unusual.

Except most of the time it's not even that fucking unusual. Most of the time they're really mundane and fairly typical things. Almost the same sort of thing as saying "I'm OCD about turning off the light before I leave a room empty" or "I'm OCD about brushing my teeth twice a day". Which all could be OCD, if said person would refuse to leave the room empty if they couldn't find the light-switch, or would refuse to go to bed having not brushed their teeth for a second time, but I'm fairly sure in most of these cases they actually mean "I pay special attention to".

I admit that I'm probably guilty of having said something like this myself, but it's still annoying. It's just blatant disregard for what OCD actually means, because you can't really have partial OCD. It's either obsessive or compulsive to the point of being a mental disorder, or it's not. Washing your hands after touching anything you didn't sanitise in the last 24 hours is OCD. Having to weigh out your cereal and milk separately to the nearest gram before you'll have breakfast is OCD. Having a tendency to archive shows that you download onto an external hard drive is not. And it's fucking retarded and somewhat insensitive to say it is.

45. Tourists On The Grass At Downing

There's a few people who will have already had this rant, but I know it pisses a lot of other people off too. I had a lovely view across the college from my room in M Staircase last year, and I also had a good view whenever some asshole tourists were just standing around or sitting on the grass. It always seemed like a bit too much effort to actually go outside and tell them to get the fuck off the lawn, so I'd just be able to see them out of the corner of my eye for the whole duration they were there, and it'd slowly burn away at my soul.

Part of it is jealousy. Part of it is the fact that I'm a fucking student at the college, and I'm still not allowed on the grass. And I know this, and (aside from after DCBC dinners) I respectfully keep myself off the grass. It's for fellows and porters to walk on, and their guests, and nobody else. Except apparently for fucking dumbass tourists. They don't know the rules, and as a result they walk on the grass willy-nilly, and the people who do know the rules don't get to, which is fucking irritating.

Another huge part of it is the fact that there are signs. Not massive signs, admittedly, but there are still signs. And it's fucking Cambridge. Pretty much every single college in the entire university has signs to say you're not allowed on the grass. It would be a sensible assumption, having been to most colleges, that you probably shouldn't be on the grass, especially given that there are plenty of people around and none of them are on the main lawns either. There were even some tourists who not only wandered over the grass, but went over to the flowers in front of the chapel and started walking through them and picking them.

This will seem like a silly thing to even mention for anyone who isn't at Cambridge, but I reckon most of the people who are will get where I'm coming from. Because the tourists in general are an absolute fucking pain in the ass in general, especially in exam term, and seeing a group of them out of my window spend fucking ages on the grass trying (and failing hard) to successfully get a photo of each other jumping into the air and actually being in mid-air when the photo is taken... it's just that extra bit irritating when they're not even allowed to be on the grass in the sodding first place.

46. Programs That Take Ages To Start

Until recently when I moved stuff around, I had something of a Murphy's Law of desktop shortcuts on my laptop. The Law would basically state that anything I click regularly must be surrounded by shortcuts for programs that take years to load. This would mean that if I was trying to open, say, my "To Watch" folder, or a text file, I would invariably click on Adobe After Effects or Counter-Strike (which has to load Steam as well before it can load), and I'd then have to sit around waiting for this program to start up just so I can fucking close it and get my CPU back.

This doesn't always apply to my desktop either. I've been meaning to change it and haven't, but Adobe Fireworks is my default program for opening .png files, and Photoshop is the default for .jpg and .bmp files. Which means that frequently all I actually want to do is view the picture in the MS Photo & Fax viewer, and instead I accidentally end up opening the picture in a program that takes a good fucking age to get itself going.

This used to apply to Word documents too, but MS Word 2010 actually has the function to close it while it's still loading itself with the splash image, so it's not so bad. It'd be nice if the Adobe CS4 stuff had the same deal, but it doesn't, so I'm forced to wait for the splash screen to appear, tell me it's loading shit, and then, to make things worse, when the main program appears it always makes itself on top. It doesn't matter if I've since gotten some other program to be my active window; Fireworks or whatever will make itself my active window once it's loaded, which is an absolute pain in the ass when I'm trying to play mahjong or something while doing whatever made me fuck up and click the wrong thing in the first place.

47. People Who Have The Wrong MSN Status

This one really pisses me off, and I know so many people who do it. On MSN, if you're online, fucking mark yourself to be online. And available too. Don't set yourself to be marked "Busy" or "Away" if you're perfectly free to talk, because that's also a fucking pain in the ass. The whole damn point of those statuses existing is to let me know whether you're free or not, and when people just have whatever status they fucking want it completely defeats the point of them.

If there's someone you're trying to avoid, just fucking block them. Why the fuck would you appear offline to everybody, when you could just block that one person, appear offline to them only, they won't know the fucking difference, and you're not going to inconvenience everybody else who might want to talk to you.

Because it's a pain in the ass talking to someone who has set themselves to appear offline. I have no fucking clue if they're actually still there or not, unless they've just said something. It could be that I'm not currently in a conversation with them, but want to talk to them and don't think they're online. To set yourself to appear offline when you're not is basically just having a "don't call me, I'll call you" philosophy for MSN, which is just an asshole thing to do.

Same for people marked "Busy" or "Away". My general tactic would be to not speak to someone marked "Busy" or "Away", because hey, they either don't want to be disturbed or they're not there. Why would I talk to them if it wasn't to just say something vaguely important and let them get back to me. Yet I've come to realise that quite a lot of people are just permanently marked "Away" despite the fact they're actually there. Which is a pain in the ass, because it basically means that to start a conversation I have to throw out a comment and then wait and hope that they're there.

I can accept people will forget to mark themselves back and stuff, because I do it occasionally, but it's different if your status is just permanently wrong. It doesn't make any sense. And it's not like Windows Live Messenger doesn't specifically have support built into it so that it'll mark you as "Busy" when you've got something running full-screen and "Away" when you've not done anything on your computer for so many minutes.

48. Pineapple On Pizza

There's only room for one fruit on a pizza, and that's tomato. It has an established place in the pizza recipe. Any extra fruits are just breaking the laws of decency when it comes to food. Pizza is a savoury meal, and fruit is usually sweet. You don't mix that shit. You don't put pineapple on a pizza, because it's flat-out wrong.

Same applies to mango, apple, banana... any other fruit. Stop it you crazy bastards. It's not right. You make a basic pizza, and to improve it you add sensible, manly shit. You add meat, you add cheese, you repeat until you've created something glorious. Maybe you put anchovies on. It makes you fucking weird, but it's at least an acceptable, savoury addition to compliment the taste (except not really because they're horrible). Man up, take the shitty pineapple off, stick some meat on there and have yourself a proper fucking pizza.

49. People Playing Music Through Phones

This one is twofold. The first aspect is that playing your music in public is always one of the most fucking irritating things you can do, especially when your tastes are absolutely shite. Because they almost always are. If you're going to show off your music tastes to the world, then pick a decent song or don't fucking bother. I don't ride a bus or a train to listen to your shitty fucking chav music, and I doubt anybody else does either.

The second is the quality. Even if they were playing a song I loved, I'd still hate it, because it would sound like absolute fucking shit anyway. You don't need to be some sort of audiophile to understand just how horrific the audio quality is out of the shitty, tinny little speakers that phones have. I mean, really, it's that bad I don't know why the fuck anyone even bothers, because it just sounds that terrible compared to headphones. I'd rather listen to complete silence than have my phone's external speaker completely butcher whatever music I want to listen to. The same applies to my laptop, which is why I have external speakers, because the built-in ones are complete garbage.

So couple them together and you've got shit music played through a speaker that would make even good music sound terrible, and then you have to put up with it until whatever stop they finally fucking get off at.

50. Insects

Not all insects, just specific ones that I'll lump vaguely into the same thing, with sub-categories.

50.1. Wasps
I fucking hate wasps. They're loud, buzzy assholes, and they can sting. And you can't enjoy yourself eating outside without one buzzing around your face. It's like they fucking sit around hiding just to rush out the moment you have food.

Bees I quite like. Bees are fluffy (sometimes), they make honey, they generally mind their own business. There's the rapport you have with a bee, knowing that it doesn't want to sting you, and it'll only do it if you push it into it. When one buzzes around when you've having a picnic, the impression is more that it's looking for flowers and is just a bit lost.

Wasps don't have this rapport. Wasps just in general seem to be pretty angry, and the feeling with a wasp is far more that if it wants to sting you, it will, because it can and it doesn't give a fuck. The only remote consolation with wasps is that they're fucking slow and stupid, and if you want to kill them then it's not particularly hard. And usually you don't have much choice, because they're annoying, persistent bastards, and there's always that fear it might sting you just for lulz unless you get it first.

50.2. Moths
Like wasps, moths are another insect that have a sibling insect that I don't really mind. Butterflies are cool, everyone likes butterflies. Moths are not. Moths are stupid, fly into pretty much anything and everything solid, and just generally piss me off. They're not that different to butterflies, and I'd argue that half the time people will call a butterfly a moth, and vice-versa, because people tend to go with butterflies are colourful and moths are not, which I know isn't always the case.

I have my own definition, which is to say if it's outside, it's a butterfly, I will appreciated it flutter past. If it's inside my house though, it's a moth, and it's a fucking pain in the ass because it'll repeatedly throw itself into my lamp, the walls of my bedroom and myself while I'm sitting in bed reading or on my laptop. It's annoying as hell, and the shadows they cast tend to distract me quite a bit. Plus I really hate the way they move. I'm not particularly enamoured by something which seemingly can't tell the difference between empty air and a fucking wall.

50.3. Crane Flies
Aka 'Daddy Long-Legs'. There's just something about them that I find unsettling, whether they're alive and bumbling about against the skirting boards, or scrunched up dead on the carpet. It's not so much a fear as something I just find really repulsive. They're horrible looking insects, and they seem to have the exact same issues that moths do with respect to solid objects and empty space. And there's so fucking many of them in the summer. It's not so bad now that my house doesn't back onto a field, but it's still fucking ridiculous how many can find their way inside the house. I hate leaving my window open at night if my light is on just because it brings so many of the bastards into my room.

50.4. Flies
In many ways, Eddie Izzard says it better than I could. Flies are another pain in the ass. They get inside, they buzz around for an absolute fucking eternity and seemingly defy all efforts to try and get them outside.

They're fucking quick bastards too. Wasps, Moths, Crane Flies, all slow insects which are pretty easy to kill if you want to. I tend not to, because I don't really go with the line of thinking that it's OK to kill stuff just because it irritates me (it could be a slippery slope), but even if you want to kill flies they won't go without a pretty big fight. We've even gone to the trouble of inventing fly-swatters and those zapping light things just to nail the buggers, because a rolled up newspaper or magazine just won't fucking cut it.

Above all these insects just seem to serve no fucking purpose in the world. Do they play that much of a part in pollination of flowers or in the food chain (I guess moths do)? If we were to obliterate them all from the world would anyone or anything actually miss them? Because if not, please, lets do it. I'd fucking love it if I never had to come across any of them ever again.

And so another Things That Piss Me The Fuck Off is finished. There'll possibly be another one before the new term starts, though I'm not that sure. Either way, this is my hundredth post for this blog, and I'd like to think there'll be many more hundreds to come.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Tomorrow's Just Another Day

I was getting slightly irritated this week just by how mundane all this having a job shit is. I get up, I eat breakfast, I drive to work, I do my job stuff, I drive home, I mess around for a few hours in the evening, I go to bed (as early as 11pm!), repeat. It's not quite hell, but it's really not the most exciting of existences, and the "this is the rest of your life" aspect really doesn't appeal to me. I'm really not looking forward to doing this sort of crap for forty years rather than just six weeks, because I could imagine it burning on my mind far more. Tada, when you finally get a job you are fucking screwed I swear, because if I can't tolerate it for six weeks, you don't stand a fucking chance.

It's just the weird pointless repetitiveness of it all. And this is just for five and a half weeks, and already I can't wait for it to stop. I'm not ready for all this being an adult and not having much time for fun shit. I guess it doesn't really help that I'm not doing the most exciting things at work, given I'm there on a temporary work placement, and I am at least getting paid for it, which should take the edge off quite a bit once the money comes through. There's also the fact that when I really think about it (spurred by something Nick said in a text today), I've only actually got 13 or 14 working days left, which is pretty much nothing when I think about it that way.

It's really not helped either just from my social situation right now. I've only known the guys I'm working with for two weeks, so things aren't that great during the day. The main topic of conversation is basically football, which is fine, except I'm surrounded by a bunch of fucking Mancs and a Chelsea fan (with whom I've got something of an alliance with, though he's not been in this week). Talking about football isn't really as fun when you've only got Scum to discuss it with.
And in terms of the evenings things aren't great either, because everyone is on fucking holiday, or otherwise not free. I don't have Nicola (get back from Japan plx) or Daz (stop working evening and night shifts you selfish bastard), and I could hang out with Emma and Ste, but that'd just feel a bit third-wheel-ish.

But hey, I've not got much longer, and it's the weekend soon anyway. My mood is also helped by the fact that things have just been going brilliantly the last few weeks for Liverpool. I wasn't the most optimistic chap at the start of the summer, and I still think things could easily have spiralled into the abyss, but to Hodgson's credit, he's done a fantastic job to not only keep things together, but to seemingly rejuvenate the squad, and things are looking pretty nice for at least getting back into the Champion's League.

Friendlies usually aren't much to go from, but the Europa League qualifier this evening was a really promising display. We only won 2-0, but given it's still pre-season, and the team was also missing the likes of Torres and Kuyt, the display was fantastic. Some of the youth could still improve a little, and I think Ngog could perhaps have done better with some of the opportunities he had (though I can't complain giving he scored and won a penalty), but really what pleased me most was just how well we played moving forward from the major players. The attacks were fluid, quick and clever. Cole is already hooking up fantastically with the likes of Johnson and Gerrard, and Jovanovic also looked really good. I don't expect Kelly to play much this season, but he was also fantastic, especially given he's a centre-half and was playing at left back.

It was a display that showed some real quality and ability from the whole team, not even at full strength, and I'm now really looking forward to the start of the season. It's going to be a tough start given we've got Arsenal, Man City and United in the first few games, but if we can at least get a decent points haul from those games then things will really be looking promising.

As two final things, I've been listening to the new Ash album (or singles compilation, whatever you want to call it), and it's actually brilliant. There are some really fantastic songs on it, and I wasn't expecting it to be quite so good. Plus it's 18 tracks long and came with a DVD, so for a tenner from Amazon (which I didn't even pay because I had a voucher) it was definitely a good buy in my opinion. I'll probably write a proper review post for it in a week or two when I've listened to it a bit more.
Also, this is my 99th blog post. Technically it's actually like my 102nd, but there's a few that aren't made public because I'm just using them as placeholders for a few things, so I don't count them. I'm also not counting LiveJournal crap. Expect something fairly good (and also pretty predictable) for the 100th post.