I ought to preface this entry by stating that this entry has nothing whatever to do with the del.icio.us social bookmarking system which I highly recommend, especially if you are a Firefox user as, when combined with the Foxylicious extension, it allows you to keep your bookmarks online and utilise them in the browser of whichever machine you are using at the time.
Our new PC arrived yesterday evening so I have been charged with its preparation for human operation, a process which largely involves uninstalling the bundled refuse with which any factory machine seems to be infused these days, followed by innoculating it against of the myriad of deadly threats that might slide down the modem cable at any moment. The case has a lovely visage when viewed from the front but, cunningly hidden in the website’s images, some idiot decided to slap these godawful white plates to each side of the case making the end result significantly less than the sum of its parts. On a superficial basis, that is. In fact the inner workings of the beast produce far more, performing nimbly and ably in almost every respect (my sister’s HP camera has been causing problems which I fear is not the computer’s fault).
As I was to spend several hours assembling, installing, configuring and tweaking, you will be unsurprised to hear that I figured I may as well make the thing pleasant to look at, resulting in a beautiful picture of Advent Children‘s Tifa adorning my desktop. Although I don’t buy into this whole “Media Centre” malarky, it thankfully comes with an alternative theme that offers a subtler take on the diabolical gaudiness of the traditional XP blues, greens and, for some absurd reason, oranges (it grates somewhat, as you may have gathered, against my stylistic preferences).
A new black-clad photo of Spiderman has appeared, this time unmasked, quelling rumours that the previously released image was a photoshopped fraud. There is some fear amongst fans that their beloved baddie Venom may be upstaged as a villain by Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman. You may know him as the guy from Sideways — Thomas, I mean, not Sandman.
Well the upgrades were a partial or at least a qualified success. The WordPress side went fine but there were some problems when upgrading Gallery. The new version has altered several of the core modules which, unfortunately, has ruined the meticulously designed code that made it fit perfectly into the Artist section layout. It now needs to be recoded from scratch, so for the moment I’ve set it up with an alternative theme that will allow you to still browse the photos which is, I suppose, what it’s really all about.
Kirsten decided to come down for a few days and has just headed back to Cambridge. She’s never really understood my fascination with videogames. For my part, I’ve never been quite so enthused as her with the combustion engine-propelled vehicular contraptions you may know better as cars. However, combining the notions in a melting pot so potent that its use may well be restricted by several UN Charters, I decided to sit her down in front of Project Gotham Racing 2 on the Xbox. The idea coalesced when I noticed her eyes glint while I watched a trailer for PGR3, one of my must-haves for the Xbox 360, perhaps more her ears pricked by the sumptuous growl of the engines (a sultry sound even I can appreciate). At any rate, although she will probably deny it all, after a couple of laps round the Kremlin in a Lotus Esprit she was hooked. Aided no doubt by the surround sound of the whining engine and ambient glow of the 32″ TV, I think she’s beginning to understand the allure of the 360 which I shall be purchasing this summer.
This short update is really more of a warning. When the Fragments section was upgraded a short while back, the others were left behind. With the release of WordPress 2.0.2 I’ll be bringing them all up-to-date over the next day or so. The result is that those sections may be inaccessible for a short while. Of course, since they haven’t had updates for a while I’m not entirely sure what you’d be doing in there anyway! It’s really behind-the-scenes work, so ideally you’ll barely see any difference at all. Once the upgrade is complete, updates will be easier so I’ll have no excuse which will hopefully mean more of the stuff you’ve been missing.
I’d also like to update the Questions FAQ. How major an update it is depends on you really. So if you have any new questions about the site, me or anything else that you’d like publicly answered, ask away!
The quiet spell continues. It’s becoming eerie actually. If it weren’t so cliché I’d be tempted to speak of impending dooms or perhaps calms before storms. But something tells me that so long as we remember to virus scan all email attachments we’ll be just fine.
I’ve been working on a website for my mother which will also be hosted here at meewella.com. It will not, however, be a part of P-2006 itself and will be self-contained within its own subdomain. The general idea is to set up and configure a customised WordPress installation which she can then use to write and upload as she desires without having to deal with the technical side more than necessary. We’ll be designing the visual appearance later in the holidays (probably after the arrival of the new desktop they have ordered). You’ll hear more when it’s ready.
The new Dell desktop is no top-of-the-line gaming rig, but it’s a solid machine with 2GB of RAM, a 3.2GHz processor and a 256MB ATI graphics card, so should run smoothly whatever they throw at it. I won’t be around much to use it, of course, but my laptop’s been holding out solidly so far. It was intended to last my full 3 years at uni and it looks as though it will do just that. It’s already starting to overheat when asked to run advanced games, though the architecture is good enough that the processor just cuts out well before there’s any danger of permanent damage. Assuming I find somewhere to settle down after uni, it’ll probably be replaced with a high-powered desktop for my gaming distractions in all that spare time I won’t have as a trainee lawyer.
Gamespot gave the new Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion a whopping 9.6 in their delayed (read thorough) review. It was undoubtedly the Xbox 360 game I had been most anticipating, so I can’t wait to grab a console over the summer and sink my teeth in. The 360 drought should soon be over according to a Microsoft announcement that production is doubling or even tripling.
Since I’ve been dealing with a largely empty house, very little of note has been happening here. Concordantly, in lieu of actual news, I have decided you will have to make do with a photo of my sister Romina with her face painted like a tiger instead. Imagine, if you will, that it is suitably profound.
Luke has uploaded a large selection of photos from The Master of the Thing. 161 of them, to be precise, although he has taken many more. I was hesitant to provide the address since the day he uploaded them his domain providers “forgot what DNS is” in Luke’s words. Fortunately he has provided an alternative address so a plethora of visual delights are available on command as intended.
Jet Photographic have also (finally) got their photos from Downing Ball online. Peruse them at your leisure. There’s a particular good one of Kirsten amongst the informals, of which the photographer was very proud. Some of my own will be available in the Gallery shortly.
As of the beginning of March, Sparkie’s Junkyard has featured a regularly updated blog, and has recently been colourfully prettified from it’s earlier Soviet-inspired palette of greys*. So if you know Sparkie, make sure you’re not missing out.
* Many people do not realise that Russia, much like the 1920’s, only exists in black and white.
I have always said that telemarketers are one of the greatest free toys around if you can merely get beyond viewing them as an intrusive irritation. They’re paying for the call and yet they want to keep you on the line so you can say anything to them. Leading them on may be harsh, but there are many other ways to have fun with them. However the new breed of pre-recorded telemarketing messages are cheating, killing the game entirely. Gone is the human interaction, gone is battle of wits and determination (unless you’re my mother who talked to one for almost half a minute before realising it was a recording and she just had to hang up). How can we compete with a cold, heartless machine who is, more importantly, deaf. The countless telemarketers thrown out on the streets and forced to live off sewer rats as a result of this new technology does a little to warm my heart, but I fear it is not enough to outweigh the loss.
I am, unsurprisingly, very happy with my new Gamespot purchase. Mostly because it would be embarassing if I’d changed my mind in less than a day. In fact my raving about high definition video was apparently so superlative that diehard IGN supporter Toby is now also a registered Gamespot member. Talk of their 12-hour Oblivion preview marathon may well have tempted him. The community aspect is aided by the awarding of “emblems”, little badges stitched by your mother to the digital lapels of your user profile in boy scout fashion. The twist is that they are automatically awarded for a criteria that isn’t public knowledge. So the “PC Afficionado” emblem is awarded for having a particular number of PC Games listed in your collection, but to find out how many are required involves experimentation. For my part, in return for having a large collection of games which are, on average, highly rated by GS I am proud to have earned the “Good Taste” emblem, proclaiming to the community that I am a veritable connoisseur. I already knew that, of course, but it’s always nice to hear it from someone else.
If like me your patience is wearing thin with the infernal machines that have become the driving force of our lives and yet still feel compelled to crash regularly out of a proud yet misguided sense of tradition, you may require this antidote.
And finally, I came upon this horrifying revelation into Pixar’s dark secret. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Lots of gaming related stuff today, sorry if that doesn’t interest you. First up, I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a Gamespot Total Access subscription. I’d been toying with the idea for a while since it’s my preferred site for gaming news and I’ve been spending a lot of time there. In return for an annual $40 (£25 approx.) I get crisp hi-res video downloads (and you know how I love game trailers), unthrottled access to hi-speed subscriber servers and no unsightly advertising amongst a host of smaller privileges. It was a tough decision but eventually I decided that this made more sense than magazine subscription based on time restraints — I’m online a lot whereas I am restricted as to when and where I can read a magazine. Subscribing also means hi-res video reviews which is particularly cool. Video reviews have long been my preferred method for quickly skimming games as they give you a real feel for the gameplay as well as hearing the journalist’s views. “So why not IGN?” some of you may be thinking. Well this should make things clear.
Meanwhile for those interested in the ilovebees ARG, a new clone seems to have arrived. There is some debate amongst players as to whether ilovebees2 is another Microsoft/Bungie advertising campaign or whether this is a third-party creation, but either way it looks pretty polished. I haven’t had time to nose around properly (Land Law keeps getting in the way) but there’s plenty of source material in the forums already. Definitely worth a look if that’s your cup of tea, or you’re interested in Halo 3 as the first trickles of info may come through here.
Speaking of Halo 3, rumour has it that there is no Halo 3. Remember how Bungie stated unequivocally that their next project after completing Halo 2 was not going to be Halo 3. Well, no one believes a word Bungie says on principle these days, but it seems they may have been telling the truth after all. Allegedly the third installment of the saga is to be called Forerunner, after the ancient race responsible for building the original Halos. Personally I’ll believe it when I see it.
Kirsten finally met my family properly yesterday. It all went very smoothly as we chatted over a leisurely luncheon at The Varsity. It’s the ideal sort of place for students to “take” their parents. Great Greek food with a price tag just outside the student budget, but not so unrealistic as to make parents feel they’re being used. The lamb remains as delightful as ever (apparently I was “boring” by choosing the fantastic Bydakia for a second time, although I’d love to try their Kleftiko which is sadly only available in the evening). I also defied further accusations of a bland palette when opting for the rhubarb crumble tart for dessert. As it happens the scandalous imputation was withdrawn upon tasting the dish which, I am reliably informed by the owner, may undergo a transformation in the near future — serving slices of a larger tart, rather than small individual portions, which will allow much deeper filling at the expense of rigid shape, resulting in a more rustic (read: messy) appearance. You heard it here first — now who says I don’t bring you breaking news?
Good news, everyone! Forum rumours indicate that Futurama may be back on our screens before long. Although I found it inferior to (and less insightful than) the likes of its predecessor The Simpsons and contemporaries like Family Guy, others (like Tom G) disagree. It’s certainly fun and I’ll be happy to have a new dose available should I so choose. The contract is said to be for 26 new episodes to go into production, one imagines based on viewing figures of Cartoon Network reruns. It’s continuation depends, no doubt, upon its reception.
UPDATE: It now appears Billy West (the voice of Fry) got it wrong in the post he made. Futurama will be going the way of Firefly rather than experiencing a proper Family Guy-style resurrection, so there are a handful of movies being planned but no new series. Chances are these will be straight-to-DVD, I would imagine.
I had been hoping to see The Master of the Thing earlier so that I could recommend it’s conjectured brilliance. Unfortunately I have to place my faith in your foresight and good taste to have led you there regardless, as I was only able to see the final performance on Thursday. It was a fine performance indeed, and seeing it later in the cycle meant I was also able to see my son Anton in action, having recovered from his earlier illness. The photos decorating this entry are Luke’s, since the programme divulged his official role as taking “lots of pretty pictures” (considerably over 3 gigabytes, I am informed), so it seemed appropriate. The cast were impressive but the night was certainly Shamini’s — she wrote, composed, lyricised, acted and directed. Not bad for a NatSci!
The immediate feel was very similar to last year’s freshers panto which I co-wrote. Although set once more in Downing’s hallowed grounds and with humour and pop culture references in the same vein, this was a more tightly scripted story and, of course, a musical. Most people know I’m not overly fond of musicals per se, but I do feel they lend themselves well to comedies, such as last year’s Apocalypse: The Musical, by reinforcing the light-hearted, almost frivolous theme. The musical numbers were startlingly impressive (not that we expect anything less of Shamini naturally, merely that they were particularly accomplished for an in-college production), but their real forte lay in their lyrical wit. Perhaps moreso than the convoluted plot involving an alien Master, a vortex-swallowed P’lodge, and a rag-tag bag of minority subject students (yes, Kirsten, CompScis are a minority subject). A great show, and bodes well for DDS in future. Perhaps Ollie said it best when he explained, “this play is Shamini”.
Yesterday a bunch of us headed for one last Picturehouse outing before the holidays to see Syriana. Wow. Admittedly bleak and undoubtedly (unshamedly?) the most cynical world view you’ll see on cinema this year, it’s utterly compelling. I’ll avoid ruining the story since I expect you all to see this film, but suffice to say it focuses on American oil policy in the fictional Middle Eastern state of Syriana. My respect for Clooney rose after seeing Good Night, And Good Luck but skyrocketed at his ability simply to make this film happen. For such an overt attack to arrive with Hollywood stars and be distributed so widely is unprecedented in the current climate. The film makes Michael Moore’s theories seem like Disney song ‘n’ dance numbers and yet despite its fictional façade, there is an undeniably chilling feeling of truth lingering behind it all.
There was a rumour that the Downing Ball survivors’ photo had been infiltrated by a comedic genius dressed in a full Where’s Wally? outfit (I believe our American readers may know him better as “Waldo” and, were we to have any, our French readers would probably recognise him as “Charlie”). Although he does not appear in the official photograph, thanks to an alternate angle shot and the magic of the Magnicircle™, you should now be able to perceive him with the naked eye.
I finally got round to implementing the custom error 404* pages that were never included in the redesigned site. Some of the text will actually be familiar to those who scoured the Ball website. Customised error pages aren’t purely frivolous. In fact, ensuring that these pages conform with your site design is incredibly important as being faced wih a default error message is one of the surest guarantees that a visitor will leave and never return. Providing additional information and helpful links is generally considered good form rather than merely accusing them of mispelling the URL and sending them back from whence they came. This has now been done, courtesy of Marvin the paranoid android. Sure, he’s not the most friendly of characters but it’s not like he has anything better to do.
* I have focused solely on the error 404 page because due to the site’s structure most other errors are irrelevent.