Tuesday, 31 January 2012

On profanity

The use of profanity is widespread nowadays: it is prevalent in music, television/movies, and everyday conversation (although it is often censored in the first two mediums). On average, I hear at least one instance of uncensored profanity per day, but if I include filtered uses (bleeps and "silenced out" segments of speech), it probably increases to four or five; it is higher still if I add minced oaths to the mix. However, for the purposes of this post, the definition of "profanity" will only include the word used to describe excrement, and any word considered more vulgar.

How does the use of profanity affect me? Not very much, as I do not get offended when someone does use "rude" words; it used to years ago, but not anymore. Without wanting to sound smug or superior, I rarely-to-never use these words in conversation myself (it is not a matter of wanting to be "better" than others...I simply have no need to swear), but it is not up to me to decide whether other people use them; and unless I am in a place where such language would be completely unacceptable and/or unnecessary, I would not scold anyone for their use of them either. As an example, if someone posted a comment to my blog that contained profanity, I would not reject it on that basis alone: it would be other factors that would decide whether I choose to accept it or not (such as if it was a comment intended purely to troll my readers and/or I, or just outright attacks another commenter).

This being said, I do consider it annoying when someone constantly swears every few words. I can understand the "frequently occasional" use of profanity as a description, an action, or a mark of frustration, but hearing it every few seconds does rapidly become boring: I am not offended, just bored from too much it. In all fairness, it does depend on the context and delivery of the language: there are a couple of comedians I can immediately think of who do use a lot of profanity in their routines, but their accurate delivery of the words combined with the fact that they are using them in comedy makes them funny rather than tedious. I should note, however, that comedy or "I was only joking" should not be used as a cover for blatantly insulting/attacking language.

I mentioned recently that Auto-Tune is something that should be used in moderation. I think that same principle can be applied to profanity, although I would also add that both context and "knowing your audience" are something else to keep in mind when using such language.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Better health

Nope, this is not another complaint about the cold I have had recently...it is a post to say that I am recovering well from it! My nose is no longer blocked, my throat is clearing, and I have had plenty of sleep since that night where I got hardly any rest at all. The only issue is that it still hurts to cough, but I fully expect that to clear in a day or too.

Hopefully no one will catch any more colds before the winter ends. My parents have had two colds in the last two months...I doubt they will want a third.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

"Crazy in the Deep"

I wrote before that I like mashups, and in particular the two I mentioned in that article. A more recent mashup that I have heard on the radio and come to appreciate is "Crazy in the Deep"...the merging of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy". The two songs fit almost perfectly when combined:


The interesting thing is, when I heard "Rolling in the Deep" originally, I was reminded of "Crazy". When I listened to the mashup for the first time, I was not surprised by how well they went together, but instead very pleased.

I would be delighted to hear if anyone can think of other songs that would fit as well together as these two do. None spring to mind for me at the moment.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

On Auto-Tune

Nearly every time I listen to the radio, a song containing Auto-Tune will be played. Sometimes the song has minor Auto-Tuning, other times I am left wondering how a band of robots has been able to achieve constant hits.

From what I know Auto-Tune was created by Andy Hildebrand, although its original use was for his work in seismic data exploration in the oil industry. The first major song to use the technology when it was applied to music was Cher's "Believe" in 1998. For the 1998-2005 period, I have only heard a handful of songs from then that contain Auto-Tune, but when T-Pain became popular in mid-to-late 2005 with his heavily Auto-Tuned tracks, he definitely brought it mainstream. I seem to remember it being used on more electronic and dance songs at first after T-Pain, but it soon crossed into all sorts of music. Auto-Tune is mainly used to correct off-key singing (and instead makes it sound unnatural), but all the other times it is used it is to give a song the heavily distorted voice sound, or rather the "Cher" and/or "T-Pain effect(s).

I am in two minds about Auto-Tune. On one hand, I think there are artists who do make good use of it: the aforementioned T-Pain is one such person, and I hold no ill-will towards him whatsoever for Auto-Tune becoming widespread; Adam Young's use of Auto-Tune for Owl City is creative; what I have heard from Kanye West's 808 & Heartbreak sounds fine; and I do like listening to Kesha and her Auto-Tuning. At the same time, I think it is overused in popular music today, and some songs themselves have so much Auto-Tune in them it ruins them (Jason Derulo's "Whatcha Say" is badly done, in my opinion). I would like to see fewer new musicians who use Auto-Tune right off the bat, and fewer established musicians who decide they want to start distorting their voices for no good reason. Worst of all, I have heard that some artists even use Auto-Tune at live concerts (and most often for songs that do not even use the technology to begin with): if I go to a live concert, I would prefer to hear an occasional off-key note or a flub in the lyrics than any sort of unnatural performance.

On a lesser (but far more personal) note, my other problem with Auto-Tune is when I am complained to about it: there are a few people that I know who go on a rant about Auto-Tune to me whenever a song using the technology comes on...and it is as though they think I am responsible for Auto-Tune in music. Perhaps I should take it as a compliment.

Ultimately, I think that Auto-Tune should be used in moderation: if someone decides they want to use it on a song or an entire album, they should do so because they think the effect will add something to the music...not because of any bad singing or because "most other people use it, too". This being said, if someone, such as a new artist, sees an opportunity where Auto-Tune could be a huge help to them for whatever reason, I certainly would not discourage or fault them in any way, but I still stand by my desire to see less Auto-Tuning in music.

As I said before, I do not have any grudge against T-Pain for popularising the technology (somebody else probably would have done if it had not been him), nor do I blame Andy Hildebrand for developing Auto-Tune to begin with: he realised his invention could be used to detect, correct, and change the pitch in music, and I hope he has been able to profit significantly from his idea.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Abandoned rabbits

I read this article earlier about three rabbits that had been abandoned, with the most probable reason for their abandonment being their ears:


I have always hated it when people abandon, neglect, or outright abuse animals; if the reason for Benny, Bluebell, and Polo being abandoned was solely because they were "imperfect" from the state of their ears, then the previous owners are truly despicable. It is not as though the rabbits chose to have one ear (or in Polo's situation, none at all), and they deserve to be treated kindly and given a good home regardless of what they look like.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Nose, throat, and a lack of sleep

I spoke too soon in hoping yesterday would be the worst part of my cold: I have the same symptoms today as I did before, but "lack of sleep" can now be added to it. Despite going to bed early last night, I estimate that I go no more than an hour's sleep; it was strange because no matter what I did, I could just not fall asleep. It was one of my worst nights in several months, and it felt as though it was lasting longer than it really was: at one point I looked at the clock and saw that it was midnight, and when I checked it again at a time I assumed was then two or three hours later, it was only five minutes to 1:00am.

On the bright side, I am feeling better mentally today, and I was able to get some sleep this afternoon. The sun has also been out today...less dull skies as with the past few days! Dad's cold has been steadily fading, and he is a lot more cheerful than he was about a week ago.

Finally, I promise that I will post something different tomorrow: I would rather not complain too much here about how I am feeling from my cold!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Nose and throat

My computer had a virus the other day, and now it seems that I have one too. My parents picked up a cold from somewhere the other day, and now I appear to have caught the bug they have.

I have felt "down" all day, my throat has been sore; and without wanting to sound too gross here, I have had one nostril running while the other one has been blocked. It is hard to eat and drink with a hurting throat, yet I do want to eat...and I have had to spend an hour an a half sleeping this afternoon to ward off a headache (I really do not like sleeping in the daytime). I would have gone for a walk, but the weather has been dull along with the day itself.

Ah, and now I have written complaining for today's post. As long as today's part of the cold is the worst, I will endeavour to write something happier tomorrow. In all fairness, I should feel lucky because the last cold I had was in February 2008 (and that was more like flu than the common cold).

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Phones as key tools

I was again thinking how phones nowadays are able to perform tasks beyond "making a call", such as playing music, taking pictures, be miniature gaming systems, accessing the Internet, serving as devices to watch movies on, making video calls, etc. It made me think some more, "what if phones one day become real life key tools?".

What is a key tool? Well, key tools are fictional devices from the animated TV series ReBoot. The most prominent key tool of the show was one named "Glitch", and it belonged (actually, it was "joined with", but that only makes more sense if you have watched the show) to one of the main characters, Bob. Among Glitch's powers was the ability to perform scans (a wide range, from simple statistics to someone's health), turn itself into a particular tool (such as a screwdriver if one was needed), become a light, communicate with any other device, retrieve an object for Bob (as with his car), create an energy shield, and also to be summoned from afar. Glitch was activated by voice command, and later on by thought.

Evidently, nearly all of the abilities I have listed here (plus most of the others seen within ReBoot) are not possible with current technology: to my knowledge: I am not aware of anything that can shape-shift into something else, and while there are objects that can be activated by voice, nothing can yet by thought. My point here is that phones can now do so much, what will they be capable of next? Already they are able to perform most if not all of the simple functions that Glitch had.

I suspect what I am saying would make more sense to those who have watched ReBoot, and I suppose there are probably other fictional multitasking devices that phones now resemble, but key tools were the ones that came to mind first! We will see phones be capable of even more in the future, though I doubt we will see them turn into paragliders or create energy shields for a very long time.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Gabrielle Giffords (follow-up)

On the one year anniversary of the Tuscon shooting, I wrote a post about Gabrielle Giffords (Rep. D-AZ). Among what I wrote was the following:

"Now a year on, it still is not known what Giffords will decide on when it comes to her political career. I would love for her to remain in Congress, but I understand that it would probably put additional stress on her if she did."

Giffords announced yesterday that she would be resigning this week to concentrate on her recovery. As I said before, personally I thought it would be great for to remain as a representative, but I knew it would likely impede her health if she had to face the stress of another election so soon. However, despite her stating that she is going to step down, Giffords has also said that she does want to return to public service one day.

Here is her recent video:

After watching the video, I am still truly amazed at how well Giffords has improved...and I am again glad that she has not lost her brilliant smile. I hope she will return to Congress one day, but for now, it seems that the best course of action for her is to rest and recover.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Problem (second part)

Well, yesterday and today have sure been fun: I spent most of yesterday trying to fix the virus and today re-installing the software on my computer

A couple of days ago, I noticed that whenever I did a Google search and clicked on a result, I would get re-directed to some other site (normally spam sites, but occasionally legitimate sites too). I dismissed it as a bug at first (completely the wrong thing to do!), but when the problem persisted the next day, followed by all sorts of other errors, I became worried.

I asked Dad for help (he works in engineering, and to say he is "very good" with computers is an understatement), and we found out that my computer had been infected with something called the "Google Redirect Virus". Essentially, it is a piece of malware that gets onto the system, and as its name implies it hijacks parts of the system to redirect Google search results to random sites (although it does affect other search engines as well). It is mainly an annoyance, but over time it also causes the computer to slow down.

We downloaded several piece of software including tools specifically designed to combat this specific piece of malware; however, nothing we used worked to remove it. Despite reading comments from people who claimed that these programs did the trick, we found them all to be a waste of time. Ultimately, I decided to go with a plan that would remove the malware: wipe the C:\ drive and re-install the software. I ensured that all my important files were backed up.

Dad and I wiped the entire hard drive this morning, not just the C:\ partition. By lunchtime Windows 7 plus the anti-virus/anti-malware systems had all been re-installed and upgraded, and I spent the rest of the afternoon re-installing the software on my computer. Not everything is back on the computer yet, but everything important has been restored. As a consequence of wiping the hard drive and re-installing the operating system, the malware has been removed.

I can think of better ways to have spent the weekend, but it is my own fault: I had not updated my computer's anti-virus for quite some time. My brother had told me that the protections were out of date, but I did not do anything about it. Not to worry: I certainly will not be making that mistake again!

Saturday, 21 January 2012


Been dealing with/am still dealing with a computer virus. I will post about it tomorrow if it has been sorted out by then: if it has not been, then I will either post about something else...or even nothing at all! (Although I hope it does not come to the second option!)

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Hits Radio

I blogged previously about listening to Heart Cambridge and then Heart Northamptonshire. While I still listen to Heart Northamptonshire, the station I listen to the most is The Hits Radio.

I came across it when looking for a hit/pop music radio station; I certainly appreciate the variety of music Heart plays, but at the same time I really do like a station that plays current music. When we moved to Northamptonshire, I was really lucky to come across The Hits Radio as it satisfied that "requirement" of mine: I did have a pop station to listen to in Littleport, and it was adequate, but it frustrated me because it did not always play everything popular at the time...The Hits Radio, on the other hand, does not have that problem.

The Hits Radio plays current pop music, and songs from the past few years: as an example, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Kelly Clarkson hit from several years ago played on The Hits Radio (yes, I have Breakaway, but it is still good to hear songs from the album on the radio). The artists themselves are often interviewed; and the station also plays plenty of remixes of songs and dance hits, which I very much appreciate. Even better, it has a high music-to-commercials ratio, which is brilliant because I hear far more songs than I do adverts.

My listening times are mainly between 4:00pm-7:00/7:30, mainly when Chris Younie and then In:Demand are on; and 10:00-12:00 (Matt Spokes). The presenters for when I am listening are all decent people: they accept requests, are good for saying a song's name or its artist, and appear to have great senses of humour (actually, they do not "appear to"...they just do!).

The Hits Radio was a perfect find for me: it is great to listen to and I am happy to do a piece on the station.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Upgrading Firefox

I finally upgraded from Firefox 3.6 (or 3.6.25) to Firefox 9 today. I held out on updating it until now for two reasons: 1. other people were reporting bugs with the succeeding Firefoxes to 3.6; and 2. the apparent loss of the "restore tabs" feature for when the browser is closed down and then opened next time. The tabs feature was the bigger issue for me, as bugs can be fixed.

For the past few weeks, Firefox 3.6 has been using up increasing amounts of memory, to the point where I had to close it down periodically and restart it. It also began to crash a few times a week...including crashing while I was writing one of my more recent, lengthy blog posts! (Fortunately I remember to save the content.) Now fed up, I decided to update.

While it has only been a few hours, Firefox 9 is working out: it is not hogging memory the longer it stays open, and it is more effective at loading pages than 3.6 was. 9 is different in its appearance to 3.6, but I can get used to a new look better than sluggishness and crashes! As for the issue of restoring tabs, the workaround for that is to load the previous session.

Firefox 3.6 was good for the length of time it lasted, but it really was time to move on. I do like Firefox overall, as it is an easy browser to use: I am happy to upgrade it.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A small blue flower

I felt like posting a picture today. Here is an image of a blue flower; I do not know what the species of plant it is, but it is pretty and helps brighten one's day a little. The picture was taken by my brother:

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

In the year...2112 (Part 2)

The second part to my opinions of this article about predictions people had submitted for potential advances by the year 2112. Again for attribution, note that the text highlighted in bold are the submissions themselves, which I have copied from the article. I went over ten of the predictions in my first post, and now I will be covering the remaining ten here:

11. Eighty per cent of the world will have gay marriage
I do not have any problems with this: however, some parts of the world are extremely hostile to gays and lesbians at the moment, and others are still wary of them, but that negative attitude is changing and I am sure the change will accelerate and spread.

12. California will lead the break-up of the US
I am opposed to these ideas of splitting up the United States, and think they are nothing more than jokes, or in some cases mere wishful thinking. By law, no state can declare its independence from the United States on its own accord (see the Supreme Court case Texas v. White), but even if that was not the case, I do not consider it to be in any state's interest to attempt to break up the Union. In the case of California, the only times I have seen its independence or its own splitting up be suggested are by people either with a grudge against the state or those who disagree with it politically (of which I think neither are good reasons for it to secede). I would also be very surprised if Congress ever approved a state's secession, now or in the future.

13. Space elevators will make space travel cheap and easy
I have always been unsure about space elevators: while I accept that technology does change and advance, I have wondered how such incredibly tall structures would even stand up, and get through the atmosphere...not to mention the danger of something hitting the elevator above the ground but below space, or of the elevator snapping outright from stress. I think I would prefer to travel to space on a ship.

14. Women will be routinely impregnated by artificial insemination rather than by a man
I respect and support that a woman should have control over her own reproductive rights, but I do not understand why pregnancy through artificial means would become commonplace just for the sake of itself. I can see why single women, older women, and women in relationships with other women would need to do this, but unless the world decides to enter an incredibly anti-sex period, I think most people will still choose to reproduce via sexual intercourse if they do not need any assistance with reproduction.

15. There will be museums for almost every aspect of nature, as so much of the world's natural habitat will have been destroyed
Actually, I hope that by then attitudes have changed so that everyone is doing their part to protect the environment...therefore ensuring that museums to honour the extinct wildlife and habitats do not come to be. Harming the environment does harm us in the long run, so it is in the best interests of all people to preserve nature.

16. Deserts will become tropical forests
I would support restoring forests that have been lost to expanding deserts, but I would oppose replacing the deserts altogether: places such as the Sahara, Mojave, and the Gobi all have their own ecosystems that should be preserved. By all means, recover places overrun by desertification, but still allow the deserts to remain.

17. Marriage will be replaced by an annual contract
I am a strong supporter of marriage: my parents are married, my father's parents are married, my mother's parents were married until one of them died, and I have friends whose parents are married; I have been fortunate to celebrate a couple's 50th wedding anniversary (twice!), and am looking forward to celebrating a couple's 50th anniversary this year. A couple here in the United Kingdom even recently celebrated their 86th wedding anniversary.

Marriage is about love and commitment, and I fear that replacing marriage with renewable contracts would turn it into a commodity and a convenience, rather than something genuinely treasured by both partners. I am aware that divorce can be painful, but changing marriage in this way would hurt people who do make their relationships work. While these are only predictions, this one does contradict 11. much further above: gays and lesbians want equal marriage rights, and I think that replacing/doing away with marriage would be a large step backwards for everyone.

18. Sovereign nation states will cease to exist and there will be one world government
I do not think this would be a bad thing as long as the said government is similar to the Federation government in the Star Trek universe rather than like the one in 1984. I think at the very least there will be much greater cooperation between governments in the future and much less prejudice among people overall.

19. War by the West will be fought totally by remote control
I think it would be infinitely more preferable if there were no wars fought at all, regardless of the means used to fights them. Again, I think there will be more cooperation in the world, and therefore no war.

20. Britain will have had a revolution
What can I really say about this one? Any nation could have a revolution between now at the year 2112, so I would not single any out.


To be honest, I do not think the future can really be predicted that accurately: forty years ago it was predicted that we would have eliminated poverty and crime, built colonies on the Moon and developed warp drive by now, but sadly, these have not yet come true. We can give rough estimates based on current and past technology and human behaviour, but nothing exact. As for me, I merely hope for a more positive future for humanity and a more peaceful world: the advanced technologies will come when they come.

That concludes Part 2 of my posts on the Twenty top predictions for life 100 years from now article. I would again like to thank the people who submitted their predictions to the magazine, and I would also like to say that I hope I did not come across as dismissive to any that I disagreed with: I appreciate that the submissions were likely all done in good-faith. 

If anyone has any comments on what I have had to say, I welcome the input. I am open to discussing my opinions, and to changing my mind.

Monday, 16 January 2012

In the year...2112 (Part 1)

I read this article about predictions people had submitted for potential advances by the year 2112. I did find it interesting, and had mixed emotions about the predictions themselves. I thought giving my opinions on them would make for a good blog post (for attribution, note that the text highlighted in bold are the submissions, which I have copied from the article); as there are twenty numbered predictions listed, I will post ten today and the remaining ten tomorrow:

1. Oceans will be extensively farmed and not just for fish
My feelings on this one are mixed: on one hand, harvesting more sea-based plants, harnessing tidal power, and the desalinisation of salt water would go a long way to solving food and energy problems. At the same time, I am concerned that if ocean-farming was poorly managed or too extensive, every piece of marine life would be consumed. The harvesting of the seas would have to be carefully planned, otherwise the resources they contain would end up being wasted and the ecosystem destroyed.

2. We will have the ability to communicate through thought transmission
Telepathy would only be a good thing if we could also block being able to send/receive thoughts. If anything, I would prefer to have more empathic abilities (as with Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation) than telepathic.

3. Thanks to DNA and robotic engineering, we will have created incredibly intelligent humans who are immortal
If "robotic engineering" here implied fitting people with a heavy amount of electronic implants (going back to STNG here, but think of the Borg), then I would be strongly opposed to this, but I would have less of a problem with genetic enhancements (Julian Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). To address immortality, I could only agree to allowing people to become immortal if: 1. we have colonies beyond the Earth to support the guaranteed increase in population; 2. the behaviour of humanity will have changed by then to use less resources and/or recycle as much as possible; 3. the technology would be available to everyone.

4. We will be able to control the weather
This would be a good idea, providing it would be managed sensibly. Maintaining the weather, such as ensuring a certain region gets its average historical rainfall, or preventing an area from flooding would be positive. I doubt there would be any "personal weather-control" devices, however; it would likely be a global system.

5. Antarctica will be "open for business"
I would oppose this completely: the Antarctic should be left alone. If anything, we should be trying to preserve the wonders of the continent.

6. One single worldwide currency
For the sake of convenience, this could be very useful (especially for people who often travel from country to country). At the same time, there would have to be mechanisms in place to prevent the currency from ever running into any problems. Perhaps a universal currency that could be used in addition existing currencies might be a better idea.

7. We will all be wired to computers to make our brains work faster
No thank you, this brings me back to the Borg, whom I mentioned back at number 3. To be honest, I suspect the vast majority of people, regardless of their background, who oppose being made into machines (for one thing, being plugged into some sort of worldwide supercomputer could end up robbing everyone of their individuality and independence).

8. Nanorobots will flow around our body fixing cells, and will be able to record our memories
Again, I think genetic enhancements would be better. That being said, nanotechnology within people to aid in healing would be preferable than having us plugged into machines or fitted with cybernetic implants (providing they are not used as a stepping stone towards either of them).

9. We will have sussed nuclear fusion
All I can say to this one is that I hope it will be around long before 2112: then we will be able to get rid of fossil fuel and nuclear fission power plants.

10. There will only be three languages in the world - English, Spanish and Mandarin
This will probably be the case, or something similar; but I do believe it will be a huge cultural loss for smaller languages to die out.

That is the first part of my thoughts on the Twenty top predictions for life 100 years from now article now complete; remember that these were only my thoughts on the predictions, not necessarily a comment on their plausibility. I would also like to thank the people who gave their submissions to the magazine. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


While I have not yet used it outside the house, I do like my new phone. It has been fun to explore its features, change its sound effects, or even just mess about with the touchscreen by moving from panel to panel within the phone itself. Not surprisingly, the first feature I was quick to master was texting.

I have been typing for most of my life, and my phone's keypad is easy to use: I can quickly type something out on my phone without having to resort to "how r u"-type speech and send it. The only "drawback" with being able to text so well is that Dad now often texts me, despite him being downstairs. I now get texts saying "s'up pup?", or informing me that dinner will be ready in ten minutes; I normally respond with "yo dawg" or "mu" and await the next response.

This is not a complaint; in reality, the texting is funny, as was texting each other with silly messages over Skype. The only trouble with phone texting is that you have to worry about running up texting costs, but we do not need to worry about that at the moment. Besides, my brother's phone is now online, and Dad can bug him with texts; in fact, I think I will too.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

My daily decoration

I promise that this will be my last Christmas decoration-related post for a while! Anyway, soon after I wrote this post and this one, it occurred to me that I do have a Christmas decoration out all year: a snow globe.

For as long as I have had this globe (going back years, although my family owned it back when we were living in California), it has never been put away (barring moves). I have always had it either on a shelf, a bookcase, or a window ledge. In fact, the only time it was put away for a significant amount of time was, not surprisingly, when it was packed for the move to the United Kingdom.

One could say that it is difficult to put a snow globe away because of their fragility, but with some practise, packing one can be easy and storage/moving damage to the globe can be avoided. This globe has been out for such a long period of time that it is no longer a Christmas decoration, but rather, an item that belongs in my room. I am fond of my snow globe, although it is battered in parts and I am worried about it breaking.

Friday, 13 January 2012


Back in either 1997 or 1998, Dad downloaded the demo of a computer game called Powerslide, a racing game by the now-defunct Australian company Ratbag Games. Normally, we were not into racing games, as we found almost all the ones we had played to be very dull and similar to each other (we already had Monster Truck Madness 2, and that game was good enough for us); however, Dad had read positive reviews about Powerslide and wanted to try it out.

Despite containing one track, we found the demo of Powerslide to be far more interesting and a bigger challenge than all the other racing games we had played. For example, in Powerslide, all of the vehicles the player could control had different strengths and weaknesses (such as one type being light with good traction but poor acceleration; and another having a bigger body and fast acceleration, but low stability), as opposed to all the car choices being different in appearance only. Another aspect of the game we found fascinating was the storyline behind the "powersliding", and the bizarre names and "bios" of each character. As well as having good gameplay, Powerslide's graphics were highly advanced for the time, with the various landscapes in the game being smooth rather than blocky.

We decided to buy the full version of Powerslide, and we were not disappointed. It was great to have the full allotment of tracks, vehicles, and characters (although all these, along with the higher difficulty levels, had to be earned by winning "championships"); plus the game turned out to be so much of a challenge that it was years before any of us "finished" it. Powerslide became further fun to play when Dad installed a network in the house and we were then able to play it against each other rather than just against the computer.

As for the Ratbag Games themselves, they were going to release a sequel titled Powerslide: Slipstream. However, they were unable to find a publisher for the game; and Ratbag itself was bought out by another company in August of 2005, then closed down by the new parent company at the end of the year.

Ratbag Games may be gone, but from what I understand, Powerslide is still being played...I even play it from time to time. It may be ancient by software standards, but it was groundbreaking for that era, and it still holds up pretty well. Powerslide also works on Windows 7, so I do not envision the game going away while operating systems can still run the program

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Dad Glad

Here is a rhyme I typed up long ago for my dad. While I am unsure of exactly when it was written, I know it was done about the same time as Smudge and the Fudge Grudge:

Our Dad
Is never sad.
Although he sometimes gets mad,
When we are bad.

"Calm down," we say. "Calm down."
"Or we will blow away to town.
To become a clown.
And wear a dressing gown.
Then people will frown."

"We will not be bad,
And you will be so glad.
That no one will be mad."

No, my dad is not mad, really...the words were merely meant to rhyme!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Another one of my jokes (9)

A joke I wrote for Christmas 2005:

"Who makes copies of Harry Potter’s work? The Half-Blood Prints."

The origins of this joke reside in the fact that the sixth Harry Potter book is called Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I was fond of the pun in the joke.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Bedroom tidying

For the first time in ages, I tidied my room. No, I do not keep my room a mess unless badgered constantly about it; rather, some boxes that have been in my room since we moved to Northamptonshire were finally emptied and placed in the garage. As I am the brother with a bigger room, I ended up with mine being partially used as storage; but with these boxes now out of my bedroom, I was given the space I needed to sort it out.

I was pleased about this, especially considering I needed places better than the floor to put my recent gifts from my birthday and Christmas. I did have clothing to put in my wardrobe, items on the boxes to find homes for, and (this is where I was lazy, I cannot blame boxes being stored in my room for this) empty chocolate boxes to throw away. With some help from my brother, it took us about an hour to get the task complete.

Now that I have tidied my room, I can finally appreciate a nice, clear floor...until it is messed up again! (Just kidding.)

Monday, 9 January 2012

Gabrielle Giffords

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the Tuscon shooting in Arizona, where an assassination attempt was made on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (Rep. D-AZ) at a public event while she met with her constituents. Six other people were killed in the shooting, and Giffords herself was seriously wounded when she suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Fortunately, the shooter was prevented by the crowd from killing or injuring any more people.

It was the morning of the 9th of January when I found out, and I clearly remember the moment when I first heard about what had happened. We had just spent a night in a new house, and I was tuning my radio: I caught some news on one of the stations to hear that Giffords had been shot in her head, and was not likely to survive her wounds. I was shocked, as Giffords was not someone whom I had expected to have such a tragedy happen to them. I originally learnt about her in 2009, and ultimately came to have respect for her; she was among the politicians I hoped would be re-elected in 2010, and I was delighted to hear that she had been.

She had overcome a difficult re-election...only to be shot in the head two months later. The prognosis was bleak at first: direct gunshots to the head are rarely survivable (from what I have read the chances of survival are about 5%), and less so when fired at point-blank range as what happened to Giffords. However, she was incredibly lucky with where the bullet hit her: from what I understand, if the bullet had been even just slightly away from its angle of entry into her head, she would have been paralyzed or killed.

Even though Giffords survived the shot and was treated for it in time, she did receive brain damage: her vision, speech, movement, and reading/writing abilities have all been seriously affected; still, her recovery has been astounding, and has exceeded expectations. Her comprehension is still intact, and she has not lost her personality nor the bright, unique smile that she is known for. In some videos I watched about her recovery during the time of her first interview since the shooting, it was said that she was aware of and could understand everything going on around her; she also knew what she wanted to say to people, but had trouble saying it. I did find it upsetting to see the juxtaposition of her giving speeches to crowds with her having trouble speaking, but at the same time it was encouraging to see her improving from her injury.

My respect for Giffords has increased since the shooting, and her strength and courage throughout the whole ordeal have both been extraordinary. However, I have also been impressed with her husband, Mark Kelly, for his support of her through it all and being by her side most of the time. I thought it was remarkable that he was willing to forgo commanding one of the final space shuttle missions to stay with her until she convinced him to complete the mission.

Now a year on, it still is not known what Giffords will decide on when it comes to her political career. I would love for her to remain in Congress, but I understand that it would probably put additional stress on her if she did. Regardless of what she ultimately chooses to do, I am glad that her recovery has been phenomenal and that she is still steadily improving: I wish her and her family the best.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The move to Cambridgeshire

It was exactly one year ago today that we fully moved into Littleport in Cambridgeshire. I remember feeling mixed emotions about the move: on one hand, we were leaving my grandparents' home and would be living independently again; but on the other, we would no longer be seeing family on a regular basis...which had been good considering we had not seen most of our relatives since leaving for the United States in 1996.

Moving all our belongings from the storage container to Littleport took two trips in a personal moving van to complete, plus help from my uncle and later my grandfather: the first journey had been done on the 7th, during which time the region in which the storage area was located as receiving a lot of snow: it did slow our work down, but we still got the job done in a timely manner. Fortunately, when we made the second trip the next day (when my grandfather accompanied us), the ground was wet but it was no longer snowing. It was sunny when we arrived in Littleport, but that day we learnt about the strong winds that occur in Cambridgeshire.

Shortly after unloading the van, Dad had to take it back to the local renting agency. I went with him while my uncle followed us in his car (he had to drive down in it to transport himself, my mother, and grandfather), and my grandfather in our car. I remember the moment when we said goodbye and parted ways at the agency, and another moment a little later when I watched my uncle's car travel back up the A1 road back to Nottingham until our own car turned a corner and they were out of sight. That was it...we were once again independent.

Six months later, we had then moved into our current location in Northamptonshire. While our stay was short, I am glad we had the change to experience Cambridgeshire, and can say that we once lived there, but I do admit that I prefer Northamptonshire and am happier here.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The snowman left over

Not long after I wrote yesterday's post about all the decorations being put away...I discovered that one had been left out! When putting my own decorations away I had accidentally left one on my bed rather than packing it in my bag of Christmas items: my ceramic snowman was the one remaining out.

The box with all the decorations in has been taped and put away, so it would be a waste to get it out again just for one snowman. Fortunately, I do have a safe place for my ceramic snowman for the year, and he will be reunited with his fellow Christmas decorations when Christmas 2012 comes around. In the meantime, here is a picture of him:

Friday, 6 January 2012

Downing the decorations

We removed and packed away all our decorations today, and it took us less than a hour and a half to do it. My brother removed the staircase baubles in less than half an hour, the two trees were stripped of their garments in only a couple of minutes, and even the lights were easy to put away. Normally it takes as long to put decorations away as it does to put them up, but this year I was surprised at just how fast we got the job done. Maybe we were better organised this year than we have been in the past, or perhaps because the house was easy to decorate it was equally easy to take said decorations back down.

It does feel different now that the decorations are away again for now, as it truly signifies the end of the Christmas season, but I will get over it very quickly. After all, as odd as it initially feels when decorations are packed, I would feel stranger if they were still up in the summer.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

New phone

As I mentioned in my post about going to Nottingham after Christmas, I received a phone from my grandfather. It was a phone he had owned for a couple of years, and now wanted to pass it on to me as he knew I did not have a phone.

The model is a Samsung S5230, released in May of 2009, and it is the first phone I have ever owned. To go over the basics, it has a touchscreen pad, can receive/send texts and calls, a camera, can access the Internet, can play and store music, and is capable of Bluetooth/USB connectivity. I am unlikely to use the Internet or play music on my phone, however, as I have perfectly good devices to do both of these already, but another camera is useful and the call/texting ability is extremely important (obviously, as that is the primary purpose of a phone).

When I looked at reviews of the phone on the Internet, most of the complaints were to do with difficulty navigating with the touchscreen (it is tricky at first, but I quickly mastered it), problems accessing the Internet (not really an issue for me at the moment), or poor music quality (not a concern at all). Some people even suggested buying an iPhone over the S5230, but as others pointed out, an iPhone is expensive, and it is not really fair to compare the two models. On the flip side, people complimenting the model actually stated the opposite to all the aforementioned concerns; as well as praising the long battery life (which I can agree with, as I have not run mine out yet) and clear calls. As my phone is a gift, I do not think I have much reason to complain anyway (not that I am), and am happy with all of its accessories.

A few years ago, I would most probably have cringed at being given a phone, as we were out of cell/mobile phone reception range at our house in Oregon; but when I received one the other week I was both surprised and pleased. It will be a very important device for the future, and if my grandfather had not given a phone each to my brother and I, we would have bought our own anyway; I am grateful to him.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Another musical act that I miss hearing on the radio is DHT (also sometimes credited as "DHT featuring Edmée", as they have been on their album), the Belgian band consisting of Edmée Daenen and Flor Theeuwe, who covered "Listen to Your Heart" by Roxette. Back in 2005, their trance-style cover of "Listen to Your Heart" was a major hit (one of the few of its genre to chart high in the United States), and I recall when it was number one on the American Top 40. It was often played on the Open House Party as well, and I am sure we were hearing it on that show in early 2010, too (I know we did hear it on OHP in 2009). In addition, it was one of those songs that no matter how often it was played on the radio, it never became tedious.

They also have a non-dance, piano cover of "Listen to Your Heart" that was equally as good as the dance version. I remember this being played on Hollywood Hamilton's Weekend Top 30 and on the Open House Party (it played both). It is known as "Listen to Your Heart" (Edmée's Unplugged Vocal Edit). I remember hearing a few remixes of the dance version on OHP as well, most especially during the "Satellite Mega-mix" segment of the show.

While I miss DHT on the radio, I do have their album, also entitled Listen to Your Heart. When it comes to genre, its tracks are mixed: most are dance while the rest are piano/acoustic as Edmée's Unplugged Vocal Edit is. All of the songs on the album are great, and Daenen's lovely voice compliments every one of them; but I have to say that in addition to both versions of "Listen to Your Heart", the two tracks that stand out the most for me are "I Can't Be Your Friend" and "Depressed"...though perhaps "Depressed" more so: at that time (late 2005), the eerie sound of that song was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It is hard to believe I have owned a copy of the album for over six years!

It is unfortunate that I have heard little from DHT since their success in 2005. From what I last knew about them, Daenen and Theeuwe are still active musically, but have not had any major releases as DHT since Listen to Your Heart. I hope that they do release a follow-up album one day: I am sure it would sound as grand as their debut does.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Celebrity memorabilia

I read this article yesterday and thought its topic was bizarre, although it did not surprise me:


It reminded of something I heard on the radio years ago when someone apparently bought a bottle Kelly Clarkson had drunk out of, which still contained undrunk water within it. I was also reminded of a segment on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno called "Stuff We Found On E-Bay" where another person had bought a strange item: a Brussels sprout priced at $2,700 claimed to be from a Christmas meal in the United Kingdom (it might have also been supposedly from Queen Elizabeth II's dinner table, I am not sure).

I do find it odd that some people love (or maybe "obsessed with" is a better term) certain celebrities so much, they would be happy to have a piece of something their favourite star owned, no matter how disgusting it was. Personally, I do not fine the practice appealing, but if it did, I would rather have something useful...or at the very least, less gross. I see the appeal in getting someone's autograph (after all, my Dad, brother, and I all went to a book signing by Bruce Campbell), but anything beyond that does seem unnecessary to me (though I can certainly see value in a proper gift from a particular celebrity).

Speaking of autographs, I also remember interviews on the radio with musicians who spoke of having to sign strange items when there was not any paper available to write on (such as someone's hat, or worse, underwear).

In all fairness, the museum mentioned in the link above may still be an interesting place to visit to see what celebrity food items have been collected there. The place seems to be a success!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Another one of my jokes (8)

Okay, now this is a joke I wrote for Christmas 2009. It is silly, but it does make me laugh:

"Why did the road cross the road? It was an intersection."

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year 2012

Just a very short post for today, the first day of 2012, to wish everybody a Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!