Monday, April 30, 2012

Manhattan In Reverse

I've been reading this on and off for a while. It's a collection of short stories which means you can do that without losing track. I'd read a story and then not start the next one for a couple of weeks or more. I don't really know why it just kinda happened that way. It was no fault of the book each story was great but it's been an odd first few months of the year. I enjoyed this book a lot but there is one thing I will say, this is not the place to start if you wanted to sample Hamilton's work. The majority of the stories take place in his existing universes and use many familiar characters. The stories are short but they are not self contained. So really this is a bonus for fans not for new readers. New readers should read The Reality Dysfunction or Judas Unchained to start with, or perhaps Misspent Youth if you want a shorter one. The first story "Watching Trees Grow" is set in an alternate universe where the Romans worked on life extension projects and the empire never fell. However that's just a setting for a multi-generational murder investigation, but it's a very interesting one. "If At First..." is probably my favourite, at least of the non-Commonwealth stories. Fancy time travel stories will likely always rate highly with me. Thinking back now I don't remember a lot of what "The Forever Kitten" was about. That's the problem with reviewing so long afterwards. I'm just going to say I think this one was the shortest. "Footvote" was a very good political discussion and probably comes in as my second favorite. The only issue is that the technology described makes it feel like it should be part of the Commonwealth universe but it doesn't fit in to that time line. "Blessed By An Angel" is probably the weakest story here. It explains some of the events and origins of one of the main characters from his other books but I'm not convinced it was something that actually needed explaining. Finally "The Demon Trap" and "Manhattan In Reverse" which both feature Detective Paula Myo. Basically they're two additional cases for her work on. "The Demon Trap" is tied for my favourite spot with "If At First..." thanks to its unexpected clever ending.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dominant Species

Spent this afternoon playing a new board game called Dominant Species. In the game you control a species and though various options and choices you have to grow and evolve that species to be the most dominant. We played twice, the first game was the first time I'd played but the others had so I didn't do very well. My arachnids started out quite well, but ended up being the least dominant. The second time I was playing mammals and this time I came in second place. Each turn there are a number of different actions you can choose from but you can't do them all and for some actions only one person can do it each turn. So your choices are very tactical and there is a lot to consider. Great game, I would play again.

Friday, April 27, 2012

For All Mankind

This film is part of the Master of Cinema collection and it's been waiting in my backlog pile for a while. It's a documentary about NASA's trips to the moon put together from all the footage filmed by the astronauts along with with interviews conducted later for the film. Some of the footage is simply amazing. When you think of the moon landings your mind goes to the fuzzy black and white TV transmissions of Neil Armstrong bouncing down a ladder. That's to be expected from a sixties TV signal from the moon. However the footage taken by the 16mm cameras each astronaut had with them is the same quality as anything recorded on the Earth. Now cleaned, restored and blown up to HD it's simply breathtaking and the achievements it represents are even more awesome. It makes me sad that the current plan for getting to Mars isn't expected to happen until the mid-2030s! Obviously they'd already been thinking about it but it only took 7 years to get to the moon after Kennedy's speech. Things seem to be moving far too slowly now. Although the new corporate plans for asteroid mining sound interesting. It's safe to say that the profit motive is going to be a bigger drive than simple exploration tangled in government bureaucracy. I can't believe I'd never seen this film before and that I'd never even heard of it before discovering Masters of Cinema, it's been around since 1989! Glad I have now though, fantastic.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Avengers Assemble

Two Joss Whedon projects within two weeks of each other and double Chris Hemsworth as well, it's nerd-vana. Marvel have been building towards The Avengers ever since the first Iron Man performed so well. The question is, has it been worth it? The answer is a resounding yes! It has pretty much everything you could want from a superhero film. There's action, humour, heroics and loss. All the characters get plenty of screen time and no-one feels left out. Even Hawkeye and Black Widow seemed to fit in well despite them being the least superpowered and not having had their own standalone films. I'm not going to spoil anything major (there was one big surprise) but I will say I didn't expect the Hulk to work so well, completely stealing the show more than once. It's a no brainer that if you've enjoyed any of the previous Marvel film that you should see this film. When you can that is, it's weird that the US still has to wait until May 4th. I wonder how that deal worked out. Still I'm now looking forward to see where they go next with Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 2 over the next couple of years presumably leading in to Avengers 2 after that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Paradise Lost Live

The gig last night was great. I've always been quite a fan of Paradise Lost but I've never seen them live before. Paradise Lost put on an excellent show as did the support act Insomnium a band I'd vaguely heard about before but plan to look in to more now. As usual I have a few blurry and colourful photos which you can see here: https://picasaweb.google.com/109346954490780957269/20120424

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Paradise Lost

Off out tonight to see Paradise Lost live in concert. So no time for a full post today, but I'll be back tomorrow with pictures and perhaps some video.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Backwards

I've said it before but I'll say it again, I really hate sleep. I've completely messed up my schedule again and it's a huge pain. Why does the process of going to sleep have to be so vague? If it really is necessary then a switch and a timer would be so much more useful.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Power Within

For some reason I had not realized that this had been released already. I came across it accidentally while browsing Amazon so I grabbed myself the MP3 download. I've got quite a lot of music in my library and it occurs to me that I've not actually listened to Ultra Beatdown very many times since it was released, and that was four years ago! That's quite a long time without an album release but Dragonforce have been touring a lot and then busy recruiting a new singer before finally putting together this album. After the first listen I have to say that I was quite impressed. My favourites so far include Fallen World, Cry Thunder and Wings of Liberty. The band are still playing as fast as ever and the new singer fits in well. It's about time I had some more Dragonforce in my life.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cabin in the Woods

Fans of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard like me have been waiting a long time to see this film. Originally filmed in 2009 but then held back due to the financial troubles at MGM it was finally released last week. I went to see it earlier this evening. All I really have to say at the moment is that it was awesome and one of the best films I have seen in a long time. I enjoyed every moment and had a great time. Due to the delayed release we get to see a Chris Hemsworth before he was famous and he was great. Fran Kranz was excellent as well, as was everyone else really. Horror/Comedy is of course not going to be to everyone's tastes but those who do like this sort of thing need to see this film as soon as possible. There's not a lot I can say about the story without spoiling things and this is definitely the kind of film which is best experienced without knowing much about it. But it takes what you think you know about horror films and does something different.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back to normal?

Things are getting more back to normal now. Almost caught up with work and almost caught up with the blog. With any luck I can get things back to a proper schedule again now. Just this short post today to assist with that but from tomorrow we should start having some proper and on time posts again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

One More Thing

One more thing about Pottermore that is. I understand that Harry Potter has become extremely popular but really it's not a unique situation. What I don't understand is why the ebook versions of the stories can only be bought via Pottermore. If you search for Harry Potter ebooks at Amazon for example, they are listed, but just with a link to the Pottermore site. Once on Pottermore you're forced to create an account before you can use the shop. What makes J.K. Rowling so special that she can demand her books only be sold on a single website? It's not very user friendly and I imagine it annoyed the programmers at Amazon having to build in an exception for those products. The printed versions are available everywhere books are available so why are the ebook versions not? It seems like Rowling has zero understanding of digital publishing, especially considering how long it's taken to even get this far. One of the most popular books of recent years and it's only become available on Kindle this year! I for one would probably have read them much earlier if they were available on Kindle via Amazon. It all makes no sense to me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Sorting Hat

Now of course probably one of the most important moments for a young wizard at Hogwarts is finding out which house you are going to be in. So as you'd expect that's also the major point of the Pottermore website as well. Once you're in a house there are various things you can do for house points like making potions and dueling other wizards. Since reading the books I've always had an idea about what house I would end up in as I'm sure the majority of people do. This week many people I follow on You Tube and around the Internet have been posting their sorting results. So which house do you think I ended up in? Click here to find out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pottermore

If you don't remember, Pottermore is an interactive Harry Potter website which was first trialled last year if I remember correctly. At that time sign ups were limited while they were still testing and there were big fights to get in. I hadn't read the books or seen the films then so I wasn't really all that bothered. Although I did register interest as it was going to be where the first ebook version were going to be available. I never got in and I never really gave it anymore thought. Also as you probably remember I finally bought and read the print versions of the books at the end of last year. It's still being called a beta version but the site has recently been relaunched and sign ups are now open to everyone, so I signed up. For the most part the site is fancy flash artwork depicting major moments from the stories with various interactive parts linking you to background information and notes from J.K. Rowling. So for the most part it follows Harry's story however when it comes to certain moments you can take a test and see the outcome for yourself. The first of which is at Olivander's where you answer a few questions and see what wand chooses you. I now have a 13" quite flexible pear wand with a dragon core.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

No Video

With all the busy-ness and disorganisation at the moment that can only mean the there is not going to be a video blog today. I've got nothing planned and no real motivation to film or edit anything today so even if I tried to fit something in it probably wouldn't be very good. I'll figure out the right schedule at some point. I can't believe that April is half over already!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Photos

I was thinking about posting some more photos from Resistanz while I catch up on the blog. However after looking through the albums there's really not anything else interesting left to post. It's the reason I've not bothered posting the entire album, most of the photos really aren't that great. They're mostly just blurry crowd shots and there's really not a lot to look at. I actually took a lot more video than I did photos but of course those will end up in the end of the month video blog.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oddness

It's been a bit of an odd week. I got behind with the blog over the Easter weekend and I've never really caught up since. I've been busy and stressed with work and have not really been in the mood to write things and catch up. When I have had some spare time I've generally just been playing some Minecraft. I keep saying that "it should be over next week" and then it goes over in to another week. I think though that next week might actually be the one. We shall see.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

And another

This time Kim gets all viking!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Catchup

Obviously I need some more time to catch up with things here so let me just take today and post another random photo from the weekend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Back to work

Back to work now and it's time to finally finish the big project I've been working on recently. There will probably not be a lot of spare time this week and I'm already behind on the blog. I must keep an eye on that.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Titans vs Titans

Today it is time to wind down after a long weekend with some films. To start with this afternoon I watched the 2010 version of Clash of the Titans. I'd never got around to seeing this before. I know I've seen the original but I don't remember a lot of details about that one either. I remember people saying the 3D implementation was poor in the new one when it was first releases but today I was only watching the standard 2D version. It was pretty good overall, perfect bank holiday afternoon entertainment really. I figured I should watch that as this evening I went to see the new Wrath of the Titans, this time in full 3D. It was very enjoyable as well and with some decent 3D effects for a post-conversion. The story simplified is very similar to the first one just with different locations and monsters. Perseus unwillingly goes on a quest for information, fights monsters who turn out to be friendly, takes knowledge back, fights giant titan with it. Still fun though.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

More Music

Time for Resistanz day two. I have to admit I was a little worse for ware this morning. It's been a while since I've had a proper night out like that. I'm out of practice. I shall be slightly more sensible this evening otherwise I'm likely to have to skip Monday and it's this evening which has the most bands I'm interested in. Here is what last night looked like:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Resistanz

The second annual International Industrial Music Festival right here in Sheffield. Two days of live music, DJs and dancing at Corporation. Including bands such as Memmaker, Grendel, Ultraviolence and Icon of Coil. I didn't got to the first one last year but this time I'm looking forward to it. It's one of the benefits of being in a town with one of the few remaining alternative clubs. Some people are spending hundreds on travel and accommodation to visit from abroad. I only need a £2 bus fare to get there. Although the event ticket is still quite expensive. Should be an interesting weekend. http://www.corporation.org.uk/resistanzfestival/

Friday, April 6, 2012

Visitors

There's lots going on this Easter weekend. Although none of it actually relates to Easter itself, instead people are making special use of the long weekend. It starts this evening a visitors from out of town arrive which leaves me with little time for blogging. Tomorrow things begin for real but I'll talk about that then.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

BioWare Caves

I never expected that this would happen but it seems that BioWare have bowed to Internet pressure and have decided to release an update to the controversial Mass Effect 3 ending. They're not going so far as to change anything that is already in the game however it sounds like they're planing to expand and clarify a few things instead. This is due to be released at some point in the summer. Of course I've still not finished a playthrough of Mass Effect 3 myself yet but I can guess from what's happening in the story that I'm not far off. Hopefully I'll have some time soon to finish it off. What's interesting is that the reaction has been so bad that BioWare actually decided to act upon it. As far as I'm concerned they would have been within their rights to just say, no that's how we intended it. I shall probably post about this again soon one I have actually experienced the end for myself.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Google Glasses

I've always enjoyed the idea of augmented reality. Computer systems working within your vision with information and overlays on top of the real world. Miniature screens and projection are getting much closer these days but there's still the problem of control. Voice recognition is getting better but that's not always an option, particularly in a loud environment. Eye movement is possibly an option but there are only going to be a limited set of motions available with that. Ideally of course the control would be entirely mental but we're not even close to that. However this week Google have announced they are working on an augmented reality system they're calling Project Glass. Not much longer now until Google officially become our overlords. In the trailer of where they hope to get to it seems most of the control is either via context or voice. It will probably be sometime before the public gets to try it out but they apparently do have a prototype and there are pictures on the Internet of Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin wearing a pair of the glasses. I'm sure people older than me feel the same about computers and tablets and smart phones but this is the first time I've ever felt like I'm seeing science fiction become a reality. True there are other HUDs and experimental systems out there but I feel like Google has much more power to get an actual product out compared to a university lab. Unlike the new iPad, I would stand in line for these.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Getting Things Finished

It always the hardest part of a project to get it finally finished off. There are always more little final things that you still have to do as a deadline approaches. Always more than you realize. One day maybe I'll find another way to do things. However until then it's the usual rush to the end this week.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Total Recall

A trailer for the new Total Recall has arrived. There are some interesting moments but there seems to be some excessive slomo moments! So far I'm still not convinced this remake is needed. It's probably about time I read the book.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Game Saved

After GAME Group finally went in to administration last week the name has been shopped around and this weekend a buyer has emerged. Private investment firm OpCapita has bought the UK game retailer. Other businesses under their control include Comet so it's not too much of a stretch. However the big question is, was it worth it? Obviously something needs to change to cover the £5m wage bill and stop it happening again. If thanks to the transfer and the recent issues with EA they have lost their UK exclusive rights to collector's editions then I will have run out of reasons to shop there. My money is more likely to head to Amazon or Play as the relationship with GAME has been soured. With more and more publishers taking measures to reduce 2nd hand sales they're going to have to come up with come good ideas over the coming month otherwise it will just sink again. A revamp of their online systems is needed, the stores need larger PC sections, the reward scheme needs to be fully reinstated and the staff need to go back to being the experts not the salesmen. Events, LANs, prizes? Certainly more reason to physically go to the store would be needed in the increasingly digital market. I don't know what the answer is, I'd be richer if I did, but it's a situation I will be keeping an eye on.