It’ll be a busy weekend for me, as of tonight.

Tonight, Penny and I travel to sunny Chelmsford in preparation for Kev & Lynsey’s wedding tomorrow where I will be assisting in the ushering. You can look forward to me not uploading pictures of me in a morning suit.

Saturday we’re going with the shifty ferret to Wembley to see the Foo Fighters, supported by the Futureheads and Supergrass. Very exciting!

Sunday, Penny and I go our separate ways. Penny will be walking the hills of Montenegro for eight days, while I will finally be taking advantage of my Christmas present from 2006(!) and going tall ships sailing.

So, I’m spending most of the day today in transit to or from Leeds. This is helped by the fact that National Express, who I was surprised to learn don’t just do coaches but trains too, actually provide free wifi access on their trains. Nice! It’s not fast enough for WoW, but it does just fine or general browsing. I wish they also provided power points in standard class like Virgin Trains do, but apparently I can’t have everything.

As for the rest of the day, it’ll be two meetings and a spot of lunch. Is that worth a £220 train fare and a day of not being billable? Who knows…

I always say I won’t do these anymore, then I get lax for one reason or another and do another catchup post. But, here we are again and once again my assurance that this will be the last of it’s kind unless something dramatic happens in the form of the destruction of the internet, abduction by fae who see in me their long-lost and recently reincarnated god-king or I happen to catch ebola.

And so, in roughly chronological order:

  • I am the happy owner of a Sony 3. I am very pleased with my investment and have been getting a lot of pleasure out of it. This warrants it’s own, in-depth, post which I hope won’t take another month to emerge.
  • Penny went to Iran, had a good time, was fascinated by the cultural differences, saw interesting sights and missed a by the morality police by 24 hours. She is slowly but surely uploading pictures to her and hopes to blog her experiences.
  • As , I spent a weekend up in Cheltenham, drinking beer, hiking, observing the local predators at play and taking a steam train around the villages. Most enjoyable.
  • Since I last blogged I saw two movies in the cinema, both of which I was disappointed by, namely 300 and Spiderman 3. The former was either too hammy or the hamminess was not done by actors who could actually pull it off. The central themes and black humour of the graphic novel were not sufficiently present and the whole thing came off as a very pretty hack fest. Pretty, good battles but soulless. Spiderman 3 was great on special effects but it rubbed me up the wrong way with it’s constant lame gags to distract the kiddies from the darkness and the massive emphasis on Forgiveness. Do all superhero films now have to have a moral? All in all, watchable and fun, but does not compare favourably with it’s superior predecessors. This makes this years personal cinema chart look as follows:
  1. Hot Fuzz
  2. In Pursuit of Happyness (sic)
  3. 300
  4. Spiderman 3
  • Next cinema films I intend to watch are Pirates 3, Harry Potter 5, Stardust, 28 weeks later, Bourne Ultimatum and Beowulf.
  • Music-wise I’ve been to the , and .
  • In books, I’ve been devouring Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series about a tough Chicago private eye… wizard. Excellent stuff, very good escapism.
  • Penny and I went camping last weekend down on the south coast. The little village of Rye is incredibly charming while the Camber Sands Leisure Park where we pitched up is dire beyond mention. here. It was a pleasant weekend and the new tent, a , held up spectacularly in adverse conditions. All the more impressive considering the minuscule weight of just over 1kg.

Right, I’ve probably missed bits out, but it’s a good start!

Well, it’s all over. I’m out of Eindhoven forever, having survived the project, the go-live and the go-live party. The go-live party consisted of masses of booze, Indonesian food, Karaoke (Loveshack baby!) and 70s/80s outfits (What? Punk was 80s!). And it was actually good fun, despite my whinging ahead of time. Then, after the hangover had cleared, a trip back to the UK office for my second leaving party. It feels like the end of an era.

So I’m sure my company are ready to embrace me back into their ample bussom? Well, not quite… They’re thinking of sending me to a central London banking project. Oh well, guess they’re not quite as pleased to see me again as I thought…

To recover, Penny and I spent last weekend in Oxford for a pleasant couple of days chilling out and sightseeing. And most importantly it was unplugged. No laptop, no mobile phone, nothing. Very pleasant indeed. Photos to come.

Oh, and I watched The Prestige recently, which I enjoyed very much, despite the sometimes bewildering timeline jumps in the first third of the movie.

It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday, go me, go me!

I’m up in Milton Keynes, with the Balls. Last night was enjoyable spent slaying a bottle of homemade sloe gin and today we go forth to snowboard and tonight we feast!

Presents so far include: Derren Brown’s ‘Tricks of the Mind’, ‘Blackadder’ DVD collection, ‘A Scanner Darkly’ and ‘The Black Dahlia’ DVDs, a bottle of sloe gin of my very own and the complete works of Mozart on CD. And in March I get to pick up my mum’s main present, a snowboard, including binding, bag and edge sharpening kit. So, phat lewt indeed!

And only four days until Conception!

But first, the weather…

Snow!
Then panic, chaos, delayed and canceled trains, people bundled up like Nanuk of the North (minus the yellow snow) and advice to “stay at home unless absolutely necessary”.
Closely followed by melting of said snow, and knock on effects on the transport connections caused by said few flakes.
Same as every year.

But anyway!

Last weekend was the birthday celebration of Ibis and there were gamers amundo! The festivities began, from my perspective, on Friday evening when Penny and I went to eat curry in Reading with those of Alison’s guests who had arrived a day early at the hotel. Oh, and Alison was there too, which was a relief. This did mean that Penny and Alison have finally managed to meet after all this time.
The curry was good, the company was good and it was nice to meet at least some of the people before actually engaging in freeform roleplay with them and their 25 or so friends.

What is freeform roleplay? Well, it’s like LARP but without the rubber swords. Hmm.. Not quite doing it justice. Tabletop roleplaying without the table. Or the dice. Or a great many rules. And with more GMs. And costumes. How about improvisational acting but with a prose character sheet and objectives? I think you get the idea.

The freeform in question was held at the excellently appropriate venue of and was excellently organised by . This being my very first freeform roleplay I was fairly nervous to begin with, especially as I didn’t know the vast majority of the guests. But all were friendly and I was eased in gently, playing the Lord Sandberg, a cunning manipulator of the political scene. Or at least he would have been if I hadn’t been about half a plotline behind everyone else. I’m afraid I didn’t do Lord Sandberg sufficient justice, but I certainly had fun trying to influence the leadership contest of the Conservative party. And thereby miss an entirely different plotline (or three) of occult goings on.

A lot of people had put a spectacular amount of effort into their costumes and really looked great. I wussed out and stuck with the tuxedo rather than hiring/buying a whole outfit.

The dinner and speeches after the gaming event were great, particularly Alison’s half hour speech in which she spoke about everyone present, which was a nice touch. And then some very nice people gave me a lift home at the end of the night.

Happy Birthday Ibis and thanks, I enjoyed celebrating with you and your friends.

Well it’s been forever since the last blog post since it’s been so busy over the Christmas period. But also means there are plenty of things to blog about.

The first major event after the last blog post was the acquisition of our very first . We meant to start small, maybe a little three footer. Maybe four. Five maximum. But we weren’t too disappointed when we ended up with a beautiful seven foot beast. A beast that helped us decorate.

The Thursday before Christmas itself, our Christmas food arrived in the Tesco order. Sadly they had not been able to source, nor substitute, my Christmas venison. Needless to say I was terribly disappointed. However, when we went through the shopping bags we found… A three kilo free range organic turkey! It wasn’t a substitution and we weren’t charged for it, so free turkey for me!

Around about this time, we got an early Christmas present from our landlord who has extended our lease for another year at the same rent. We continue to have a home in Woking for the foreseeable future!

Next up was Penny’s departmental with the emphasis on mental. It was themed ‘Gangsters, Molls, Pimps and Hos’ and Penny and I both went as rather than the more popular gangstas or pimps. There were plenty of hos on display though. All credit to Pimp o’ Claus who managed to bring the sexy back (to paraphrase Justin Timberlake) and secure himself a pay rise by thrusting his groin at his seated manager during a singing competition.

Christmas Eve saw us firstly in Canary Wharf on the ice rink for Penny’s first go at . And she did very well considering it was her first time. After that we were off to ‘s for the Christmas Eve bash, which was fun.

Christmas Day at last! And there were ! I got a trip to go and do in Milton Keynes and an open activity voucher which I intend to use to go on a tall ships day out of Portsmouth. Also four ultimate DVD Sean Connery Bond movies and the Casino Royale book. Secret Santa sent me a pirates treasure chest of nostalgia sweets. But fear not, no gobstopper has been able to shut me up yet!

On the 27th we took the to go and see my parents. Unfortunately the weather was lousy, but we did manage to do some sightseeing in . We also managed to see the excellent Casino Royale while we were there and I was glad to have read the book on the way over first.

was spent at Kev & Lynsey’s and we were also joined by Tim and Karen. A pleasant evening and excellent food cooked by Lynsey as ever.

So there you have it. All the news that’s fit to blog. Now I’m back at work and my fitness regime begins tonight. No more pies for me…

Well, I’m back. No, not just back on the blog after an extended absence, but back. Back in the country, back in the office, back at home and back in black.
For now the project is over for me, User Acceptance Testing is over and international travel is over. And I can honestly say I learnt something over the last two weeks. And that is that Jameson’s is bad. At least in quantity. On an empty stomach. On a school night. I shudder now to think of it.

The last two weekends that I’ve been in the country I did some site seeing in London with Penny. First to the and the and then last weekend to . We wanted to do again to choose our Christmas wines, but it was full. This mystery was swiftly explained by the army of hen night attendees rushing past us clutching pre-booked tickets.

Bryce has the bulk of my weekend out west fairly well, but let me fill in the gaps.

Getting to Cheltenham from, well… anywhere, can be a bit time consuming and First Great Rippoff don’t seem to allow any discounts of any kind. I never thought I’d find my opinion of South West Trains improving! But eventually, after a three and a half hour journey from work to Cheltenham involving three changes, I made it to ‘Nam just after haf past four. This left just enough time to dump bag and head off on a trek in search of beer; a local pub crawl if you like. The main destination was the , up on the hill. Naturally, as it was a decent trek, we needed refreshment on the way. The last leg of the journey was through a field of (unworried) sheep but at the end the wedding party filled Hotel was worth it, particularly for the view from the beer garden at sunset. Annoyingly I once again didn’t have my camera with me, but this is the closest picture I can find of the . On the way back, past more sheep, we of course just had time for two more pubs on the way home, before witnessing the return of the .

was nice on the Sunday, the meeting point of the Avon and the Severn and home to the Abbey. A very pleasant little town, though I did think the Olde Worlde pennants on all the shops were a bit pointless.

In the afternoon, it was into Cheltenham proper for a mooch around (pub crawl) which was much enjoyed. As opposed to my journey home. A bus driver with all the time in the world made me miss my train. I still made it home in good time, but I had to take a lot more connections and cruise a wave of later trains and dodgy connections to make it home. Quite stressful.

Penny’s computer, Albert, is coming together nicely. There’s still a lot of music to copy between computers and strip out the duplicates and there’s another couple of hardware and software tweaks to go, but he’s up and running. Soon I’ll be able to upgrade my computer, as soon as I decide whether to go the AGP or PCI Express route.

Anyway, although I started this post almost immediately after returning from Bryce’s, it’s now over a week and a half afterwards so I’m going to leave it there.

Well, what originally looked like it was to be a quiet weekend turned out out to be more eventful than expected.
On Saturday Penny was working and I was tasked with tinkering with her computer to make it better and…well.. to make it work. I had a go at it but decided in the end to hand it over to a shop to finish off for me. Hopefully I’ll hear today as to what state it’s in.

So, with my copious spare time I decided to use it fruitfully by playing , the expansion to .
DS2:BW Is pretty much more of the same as DS2, a perfectly adequate Diablo 2 clone. The new expansion adds a new character race (the dwarf), two new character classes (the Fist of Stone and the Blood Assassin) and an extra chapter of story. The race is pointless apart from if you liked the visuals of a hairy midget to represent you in the world of Arranna. The two new classes though add a certain amount of depth to characters that make it quite fun, particularly at higher levels. This actually succeeds in adding some more replayability to the game. The story is a little weak but perfectly adequate as you only really pay attention through the first time through. It’s a lot more depressing than the storyline of the main game which fits quite nicely. In the main game you ventured out all hero-like and caused a cataclysm and the deaths of thousands. In the expansion you must deal with the consequences of your short-sighted heroics.
Overall rating: Four cups of coffee out of seven

Saturday night, Penny’s friend Rhea came around for an evening of conversation, vodka and very alcoholic hot chocolate which was very much enjoyed.

On Sunday morning we decided to have a day out in London, principally to see A Scanner Darkly which isn’t showing at any of our local cinemas.

But before we got to the cinema we had a wander down Regent Street, which was all blocked off and rammed with people for the . Basically it was a huge advertising party for the Spanish tourist industry, but it was well done with festive clothing, regional music, food and dance etc. Virgin Radio also had a live music stage where we saw , currently in the charts with Last Request. Not really my bag, but it was there so we watched.

From there, it was off to the Odeon Covent Garden, via a brief sojourn to Forbidden Planet.
, the adaptation of ‘s novel of drugs, identity, reality and paranoia was an excellent film. The rotoscoping worked excellently for the thematics and even managed to help Keanu ‘Wooden’ Reeves emote. It’s not a mass market film really; It doesn’t have a ‘neat’ ending as such, though the ending works well, and some people will not be happy about the reality warping. But I think it’s a very good film indeed and worth watching.

Oh and it looks like the news of the morning is that the crocodile hunter . Never one to come high in the ‘Likely to die peacefully in his bed at a ripe old age’ charts, it seems like the crazy croc baiter, snake wrestler and spider fondler has succumbed to the dangers of a remarkably placid sea creature. It just goes to show that if you expect there to be danger you can plan against it, as Steve himself did professionally, but sometimes shit just happens.