Sunday, 22 February 2009

Bolt 3D

We celebrated Sarah's birthday on Saturday, and with her feet still recovering from the operation, we could only walk as far as Wagamama (how unfortunate for us!) for another tasty katsu curry (described by James as addictive as curried KFC). We returned to Paul and Sarah's swapping gross-out slang meanings and checking out some urban legends and other slang meanings on the Urban Dictionary. The verbs, 'seagull' and to 'donkey punch' were explained. I've since remembered a couple more - 'Bakerloo' and 'stroke the dog through the letterbox'.

On Sunday, I managed to persuade Kerry into some training for Peru with 6 mile round walk to the cinema. Okay, so the journey didn't test us for steepness and altitude sickness but there's some long hills near where we live.

Bolt 3D, the latest Pixar animation was preceded by an interesting trailer for Coraline (YouTube link), a stop-motion 3D film. It had a similar look to Nightmare before Christmas with a lot sewing needles and 3D tunnels to look down. Tokyo Mater followed which was a short animation with same characters from Disney Cars. With the added 3D effects, this was an explosion of colours and cute Japanese cars based on Tokyo drifting and modification. No doubt it will be an extra on the DVD.

The main feature was just as impressive visually starting off with an amazing set piece concluding that the dog had to believe he had superpowers for a TV show. A couple of cats wind him up and he breaks loose and somehow gets posted to New York. The story goes through the soppy, meaningful theme of love and friendship, blah, blah with a road journey back to L.A. to his teenage owner. He picks up a cat and a hamster for mates along the way. The 3D effects were worth the extra ticket price though there were only a couple of stand-out moments where you thought your eyes could be poked out.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

HD heaven & SL hell

HD heaven
Last week was a shock to the bank balance. I took the plunge to buy our new HD television, getting the Sony Bavia 40" KDL-40Z4500 from the Electro-Centre. I realised that prices at some places were going up after the January promotions, other places were running out of stock, plus I figured prices would only go down in the summer when they're about to replace the model. Having ordered it Tuesday night we received it Friday afternoon.

Friday evening was setting up the 40" monster connecting the Sky box, PS3, Wii and DVD/HD recorder. Watching Blade Runner Blu-Ray was amazing picking up details I'd never seen before and colours so rich, it was like a different film. The demo of Resident Evil 5 looked amazing as well with a deeper level of detail. I tried a normal DVD connecting via the HDMI lead and the picture quality again impressed.

A couple of disappointments though with one of them almost rectified. The Wii image was a little blocky but this was through the Scart lead and Wii's don't do HD really. Although you can buy an HD component lead, reviews say it doesn't make that much difference. The picture quality of Sky was really poor though compared to our old Philips. The colours and detail were way off and was left thinking whether Sky HD had to be bought to compensate. We must have tried every picture setting to improve it but after some web search did I find out that we should have set up the Sky for RGB output instead of PAL. I wouldn't say it matches the Philips but its a vast improvement.

The Picture-and-Picture (PAP) feature is well cool so you can see two sources in two screens with the ability to switch between for sound. So whilst I could be playing a game, Kerry could watch her Crime and Investigation channel!

The little details such as the glowing Sony badge on the telly and the remote are worth mentioning. In the dark you can light up the remote control in its mesmerizing blue colour.

I'm now trying to figure out how to use the DLNA function. Instead of buying the hardware of a media centre you can, in theory, connect the HD telly to your internet router then connect your laptop to view photos, films and hear music. I've downloaded a shareware of Mezzmo which can connect to PS3s as well.

SL Hell
To help pay for my degree education, I'd taken out 3 year's of student loans. Until last week I'd been deferring to pay off since 2000 and had almost got used to ignoring them for life. The shock of seeing the deferment limit was now under what I was earning put me in a bad mood for a couple of days. With the inheritance money, I paid it all of in one go, all £6250! The only benefit that I should be grateful is being debt-free (apart from the mortgage).

Monday, 16 February 2009

Son of a witch

The main reason for our Norfolk visit was my nan's funeral. We'd left plenty of time for our journey arriving in generous time. My cousin flew over from Ireland but had to drive the rest from Stansted and arrived literally two minutes into the 'we are gathered here today' speech. It was a traditional service with a nice auto-biographic written when my nan turned 90. Otherwise it was trying to sing the chosen hymns getting the up and down notes wrong with the lyrics.

At the wake, I was introduced to a new generation of family never seen before, including 14 year old twins are going to Shanghai for a school exchange and 17 year old thinking about Brighton Uni. My uncle, always one for coming up with good conversation and a knack for genealogy, had traced the family back to 1620 with possible links to a famous local witch in Derbyshire.

Returning back to my dad's house and the snow fell, and fell, and fell. It was starting to settle at a disturbing rate and worries starting linking in about cutting short our visit. It didn't stop us going out for a curry in Dereham but the country lanes made the drive interesting. One regret was arguing with my dad over a race issue saying 'paki' in the restaurant. Never again!

Another day and another family duty. We took a friend of my mum's to see her grave. The afternoon was just a visit to Norwich and the evening seeing Josh, Christie and their girls. Amazed to see Josh's (or Jonathan's) 3 year old self showing off for the cine-camera whilst his dad posed in his 70's clobber.

Our last day in Norfolk was a slightly tense meeting with my tenant as I checked the house over. After the stressful phone-calls we'd had she wasn't too bad in person and actually wants to buy the house. Her ornaments were unusual in theme - they were all wooden ducks. However the bathroom was duck-free. A quick catch up with Mark straight after and we were on our way home.

The rest of the weekend was visiting the toilet thanks to the Tesco sandwich I'd eaten which sort of ruined Valentine's evening. Sunday night, Kerry was keen to show me her childhood memory of a puppet rabbit used on TSW, her ITV channel down in Plymouth. The in-between programme slot was called Gus Honeybun's Magic Birthdays. This was so much better than the Anglia TV equivalent of B.C., a dodgy, bundle of fluff resembling a tiger operated by a TV exec hand.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Home distractions

Lumpy neckImage by Ginger DJ via Flickr
Working at home is not good for me as there are far too many distractions. Although this helped ensure the boiler got repaired, the same day we had our new wardrobe and drawers delivered (a half-priced, ex-display Habitat bargain bought the previous weekend). The problem was that the delivery men couldn't lift it anywhere near our front door as it was too heavy. Whilst one of them had to deliver something else, his mate and I dismantled the wardrobe on the street. This took nearly an hour though once in, I was constantly moving the parts upstairs and putting them together again. By 5pm I had completely put the mammoth wardrobe (big enough to house the whole of Narnia) together with very little progress made on a major project I'm doing.

Not strictly working from home, but that was the excuse, was a trip to the vet the next day. Sasha, our feline friend has developed a lump on the side of his neck. Its the equivalent to a human having a growth the size of a tennis ball. He's in no pain but its a little worrying. poor little dude didn't have the best of journey there. Usually he has predicable bowel movements during the night but I think he guessed something was going to happen the next day. So, to reduce the smell and stress, I laid some cat litter in his carry case for the vet journey. He pooped about 5 minutes later but as soon as pedestrian decided to use a zebra crossing without much warning, I put on the brakes a bit too hard and the carry case, cat, cat litter and poops rolled over into the passenger seat well.

The vet's advice was pretty inconclusive. He recommended a biopsy taking a sample of the lump and sending it away for analysis at £250! Why isn't there an NHS for pets?
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Friday, 6 February 2009

Snow heating until next week?!

It's not been the best of weeks. Admittedly, last Monday was quite fun with the snow madness though with today's technology I worked at home without any excuse and had my boss keeping me busy. Lunchtime was a strong dose of making snowmen and playing snowballs. We even tried towing each other with our tin drinks tray as a sledge but failed.

Brighton had been well and truly caught out with buses and trains canceled and the university campus completely shut. By Tuesday, most main route buses were working. This didn't stop some of my work colleagues having more excuses on not coming in - 'it's too icy' doesn't cut it for me. I was rewarded with a very quiet office.

Although the snow had gone, the icy winds and cold rain made the week without heating a living hell. It started with an electrical burning smell then a loud pop from the boiler on Tuesday night. Wednesday, the boiler repairman came but left saying three parts were needed. By the weekend they reported that parts wouldn't be available until next Tuesday (tomorrow). Without the electric fan heaters given we're dealing with temperatures down to 10 degrees C in the house.

My Stanton Da Scratch finally arrived and was promptly set up. It wasn't the simple plug 'n' play experience I was expecting after downloading the midi driver and Virtual DJ driver as I was still unable to use it. A search through Stanton's tech help web pages and I came across a similar scenario mentioning a usb web cam problem. It meant deleted part of a reg code but I went and deleting a couple of wrong files and codes resulting in the screen not working when Windows kicks in. Thanks to Paul I was able to reset back to the last settings and delete the right codes. The only problem now is that the sound card I have doesn't want to work properly which ruined the whole experience. I was hoping to use it on Saturday at Paul's impromptu party with Ibiza mate, Nick. But the Virtual Vinyl didn't even work so couldn't make any DJ contribution. Until I buy another sound card I can't really review it.

To escape the cold house we treated ourselves to a couple of decent Japanese meals out. Wagamama does the best chicken katsu curry and, with the rescheduled Norfolk trip, we brought forward our Valentine's meal to Saturday with a visit to Oki-nami, paid for by Kerry's work!