Sob of Despair: Contemporary Combat 3

CC3 is the most accurate warfare simulation video game yet!

Before playing the game, gamers are prompted to sign in with their twitter, facebook, myspace, yahoo accounts and more. Gamers are able to enter in more than one entry for each, allowing them to encapsulate all of their online identities.

CC3 has one additional twist – when you die in-game, instead of restarting at the beginning of the mission, the game self-destructs but not before it sends a “lock” message to all of your social networking accounts, preventing you from logging in ever again, effectively freezing them in time for ever more. This makes it the most accurate warfare simulation ever!

A badly-written note will also be sent to your mother.

Gaming Music Parenting

Too Busy To Blog

Hi, remember me? I’m the guy who hasn’t given you a non-stunt post since early May. It’s probably time I caught up.

Learning songs

I’ve got a couple of party gigs coming up in July, one for my regular band, and one wedding gig for an irregular, ad-hoc band formed expressly for the purpose. I’ve been learning a lot of new cover versions. *Brown-Eyed Girl* is in both sets.

Watching television

Since December, Karen and I have discovered How I Met Your Mother and Hustle, and also embarked on a project of watching Friends and The West Wing “cover to cover”. We’ve actually been watching less television than last year.


Towards the end of March, I started reading the books in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M Auel. I’ve been finding them interesting, hence getting through them at a rate of one book every 2 or 3 weeks. That’s quick, by my standards – I’m a fast reader, but I don’t tend to devote much time to reading. I’m now very close to finishing the fifth (currently the last published) book.


Not much of this actually. I haven’t had as much enthusiasm for it this year. There seems to have been quite a lot of rainfall in the last couple of months, which deters me somewhat. Last year I think that I cycled a lot because the regular exercise helped my mood, but this year my mood seems to be (mostly) just fine without it.

Playing Zelda III

One of the greatest games of all time, in my opinion, was *Zelda IV: Link’s Awakening* on the Game Boy. It’s been a source of sadness to me that there was never a sequel. I once bought a game called Quest For Camelot that looked like it might be similar, but it fell far short. In fact, one of the reasons why I disliked it was that the main character’s sword did, literally, fall far short. She had about half the reach of Link (the main character in *Zelda IV*) which led to much frustration.

Anyway, thanks to the wonder that is emulation, I’ve started playing through *Zelda III* which is the SNES predecessor to *Zelda IV*. Seems to be incredibly CPU-hungry on my computer, but we can live with that. UPDATE: I’ve fixed the CPU problem by experimenting with different display resolutions, and I’ve also improved the sound quality by using the sdl audio driver.

Chilling with the boy

Yesterday we went to Legoland for the afternoon. It was awesome. As you can imagine, not many people go to Legoland on a grey Thursday during term time. As a result, we managed to get on more rides in 3 hours than we usually do in an entire day. Also, packed lunch + annual pass = incredibly cheap day out. I quite wanted to take Bernard onto his first rollercoaster, but he preferred to just watch it go round. He doesn’t like fast rides yet, but he assures me that he will when he is older. Of course, when he’s older, we won’t be able to go to Legoland on grey Thursdays during term time, so we won’t be able to enjoy the benefit of being able to board the rollercoaster without queueing, but I didn’t want to pressure his decision by burdening him with this information.

DIY Gaming Gardening IAMOWIM Music Gear Parenting

What have I been up to lately?

Not blogging, that’s for sure.


I’ve got a couple of new toys, a Squier Vintage Modified fretless Jazz Bass, and a Zoom H2, which is a nifty little recording device that contains 4 internal microphones and records WAV and MP3 files to SD cards in startlingly good quality. It’s loaded with bells and whistles and is just what I’ve been looking for all these years. I’ve also restrung my acoustic guitar and have purchased a set of strings for my Epiphone SG. This happens quite infrequently. I’ve also got my guitars up on wall hangers these days, which means that I have to spend less time picking them up off of the floor and retuning them.


I have a new Krups coffee machine, the XP4020 ((the Krups website is antler-scratchingly bad, so I refuse to link to it)). I’m getting superb espresso out of it but it’s still taking some time to get used to. The grounds are very wet after use (which is supposedly due to the grounds not being tamped down hard enough, but I’ve tried a range of forces between featherly and elephantine and it’s making no difference) and I can’t get a decent foam on my milk. It will come in time, I’m sure. I’m really appreciating how much more quickly I can make a good cup of coffee these days. With the old machine I’d spend a fair amount of time waiting, but now I can do the whole process with no wasted time.


Haven’t been doing much of this, though on a couple of occasions lately the three of us have cycled round to some nearby brambles and gathered up kilos of blackberries. That’s damn good fun.

Playing Tomb Raider 2

As mentioned recently. Ah, they don’t make them like they used to. I’m playing in little bursts, half an hour or so every other day, and I’m currently a short way into the 40 Fathoms level.

Watching CSI, 3rd Rock From The Sun and Sapphire and Steel

Thanks to Mr Hg for the latter. We’re currently half way through season 5 of CSI, and we’re working our way through them at a rate of approximately one season every month. I think that we’ve seen most of seasons 6 and 7 already but we’ll enjoy re-watching them, and we’re definitely looking forward to season 8 which we haven’t yet seen. And I’m watching 3rd Rock in order too – I’ve just started season 4 and I think that for the most part I haven’t seen any episodes in seasons 4 to 6.


I’ve actually been reading more recently, getting through about a book per week. It’s not the most readious period of my life to date, but it’s definitely well above average.


Wandering around parks and playgrounds, taking photos of things and sharing mischievous smiles with Bernard. His language development is currently at a stage which I would describe as “explosive” with new words being added to his vocabulary daily. I’ve also organised all my photos from the last few weeks, so there will be a photo-based post on this site every evening for the next week.

Gardening and DIY

A little of this, but not too much. The occasional carefully-chosen task, selected for optimal benefit:time ratio. That said, the garden and allotment are both in reasonable condition. So it must be a case of working smarter, not harder.

Contemplating felines

We’re pretty much decided on this one, actually. We’re intending to go round to the rescue shelter tomorrow to see who is around. All three of us are cat lovers, so we’re unanimous on this one.

Complaining about my wrist

10 days ago I woke up with a very sore wrist. I wore a support bandage quite a lot over the next few days. People would put on concerned faces and ask me what happened, and I had to sheepishly respond that actually I just slept on it a bit funny. Karen thought that it was RSI from all the Tomb Raider I’ve been playing. After 5 days, it was not getting better. As an experiment, I took the bandage off, and kept it off. It’s been getting better ever since. I’ve decided to attribute the persistence of the discomfort to muscle atrophy, and what the injury needed was not rest, but exercise.


This tomb shall remain unraided

Today I had the urge to replay Tomb Raider 2. So this evening, after Karen had gone to bed, I dug it out and plugged it in.

It’s a PlayStation game, and I now have a PlayStation 2. This is relevant information.

I got to the main menu and got an error message saying “there’s no memory card in”. Fine, I murmured, you don’t like PS2 memory cards. I can cope with that.

So I dug out my old PlayStation memory cards and went through them (switch off, change memory card, switch on again, load up the browser) until I found one with a bit of space on it. Soon, we’re up and running. Memory card is recognised – it’s all good.

I got near to the rolling-ball sequence ((a few minutes into the first level)) and decided that now was probably a good time to save my game. I brought up the menu, selected the save option, and the game now told me “there’s no memory card in”.

I growled a bit. I played on for a few minutes, but when I was eventually crushed in the room with the spiked walls that close in on you, I turned the thing off in disgust. Too much like hard work.

And the controls were even worse than I remembered.

(UPDATE: the solution, on this occasion, is to get hold of a copy of Tomb Raider 2 for the PC, which even my computer, with its absence of 3D graphics card, can handle. Lara is slightly more enjoyable to control with the keyboard, and the graphics look a bit better).


Grand Theft Borrow Auto

This may sound hideously inappropriate, but Bernard loves to watch me play GTA:San Andreas. People who haven’t actually played the game will probably be considering calling social services on me right now, but anyone who has actually played it will appreciate that it’s possible to show your child the delights of the exquisitely-crafted San Andreas archipelago without exposing them to any malign influences. I’ve long since finished the storyline missions, so we just commandeer vehicles and drive them around the place.

Bernard’s favourite bit is the bridges. He likes it when I jump in a boat ((we usually pick up the Jetmax from just south of Rockshore West in Las Venturas, or west of City Hall in San Fierro)) and drive it under bridges. “More bridges! More bridges!” he cries. He also likes it when I get in a plane and fly it underneath bridges. “More bridges! More bridges!” I turn around and fly under them again.

It got me thinking – what would need to go into a GTA:San Andreas mod to turn it into an exploration-centric game, suitable for all ages?

1. Remove all weapons and combat from the game. Obviously. Gangs and police can stay, but they’d need to be much more amiable.
2. Make the strip clubs unenterable.
3. Don’t allow the player to steal an occupied car. They should only be able to enter a parked car. There would need to be a few more parked cars dotted around the map, to compensate. I’d also propose the standard blue arrow above any enterable vehicles, to distinguish them.
4. When you crash into someone else’s car, they should express their displeasure in a slightly more sophisticated fashion. All NPC dialogue would need to be checked.
5. Get rid of almost all of the storyline missions. Most of the side-missions can stay (notable exception being “Pimping”, of course). There should be a new storyline, containing missions that involve things like “get the cuddly rabbit to the little boy before his train departs”.
6. Prostitutes and drug dealers should no longer proposition you.
7. Pedestrians jump out of the way before you drive into them (a la *Driver*).

Anything that you think I might have missed?

Gaming Parenting


Bernard has now spent the past six nights in a bed. Well, with the exception of the time that he’s spent on the floor next to his bed, or on one occasion, underneath his bed.

He seems to be much happier without bars. When he wakes in the morning, he doesn’t have to wail at ever-increasing volume until someone comes to rescue him. Instead, he can just slide out of bed and waddle around upstairs to his heart’s content.

A consequence of this change is that the POÄNG has been returned to the sitting room, and a bean bag moved upstairs to replace it. The POÄNG is a most adequate gaming chair, and certainly beats sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the television. Ironically, on Sunday I completed Tomb Raider Anniversary ((which I’ve been playing since mid-January)) and so now I have a lovely gaming chair, but no games to play while sitting in it.

On an unrelated note, you see that “YOU ARE HERE” thing at the top-left of the page? What are your thoughts on the usefulness of that? Many thanks.


When did I stop enjoying computer games?

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic, but I feel like there’s been a shift of some sort.

I used to play games all the time. I liked racing games (eg Gran Turismo, Midnight Club), action games (eg GTA, Hitman, The Getaway), survival horrors (Silent Hill, Resident Evil), adventure games (Tomb Raider), FPSs (Half Life, Max Payne) and text-based online RPGs (Urban Dead, Nexus War). Quite a wide variety, really.

But these days I find playing games to be quite an unfulfilling experience. I’m playing a little Tomb Raider lately, it’s true, and I have picked up the controller to play Gran Turismo 3 (to unlock more of the arcade mode tracks) but for the most part, I find that the most enjoyable part of the gameplaying experience is the relief that I feel when I finally turn the bloody thing off.

The advantage of this is that I can make a single game last me for many, many months (I’ve had my PlayStation 2 for more than 5 years, and I still only own 9 games for it, 4 of which I have completed in their single player mode. I’ve also rented a few games over the years, but that still only bumps the total up to 12, and I’m not sure if that counts because each one only occupied one weekend. So gaming is not an expensive habit, for me.

I’m not really sad to find myself in this situation. Gaming was never exactly a passion of mine, just something that I enjoyed doing.

Y’know, maybe I’m just overthinking it. Maybe I enjoy gaming as much as I ever did, but excessive introspection is just highlighting the cracks. That aside, the facts don’t lie: whereas I could once play a game for six hours at a time, I now get bored after half an hour. No bad thing, you might say. I’d be inclined to agree.


Thoughts on computer games

On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself struggling to proceed past a certain point in a computer game. The situation arises where a particularly intricate puzzle or sequence of jumps exists, with no save point to break things up.

Take my present example: I’m playing Tomb Raider Anniversary at the moment, and I am currently at the Damocles room. From the save point, I have to drop off a ledge, run through a doorway, through a room (avoiding falling swords), jump onto a small broken pillar, across to a crevice in the wall, up to the next crevice, around a corner, up onto a ledge, then climb up and around a pole, jump off towards a tall pillar (where I hang by my fingertips briefly before climbing up), across to another pillar, then over to an alcove in the wall. I drop from this alcove, hanging from a ledge. I scooch to the end of this ledge, and jump across to a crevice in an adjacent wall. I jump up to a slightly higher crevice, scooch along to the end of this, and then jump towards a metal ring set in the wall. I fire off a grappling hook while in mid-air, which catches onto the ring. While hanging from the rope, I run along the face of the wall until I reach a particular spot where I can jump outwards from the wall, towards a pillar that is behind me. I catch onto this pillar, pull up, and then jump to the top of another pillar. And then another. And then another.

I don’t know what happens next, because that’s as far as I’ve got. Failing to position any of these jumps correctly means a long fall. If the fall kills me, then I have to reload from the save point. Even if it doesn’t, I’m all the way back to running through the room avoiding fallen swords.

Here’s another example – I bought GTA: Vice City Stories a while ago. I got as far as a rather long, multi-part mission. But at every attempt, I was getting killed at the third part of the mission. Having to reload and replay the first part of the mission was taking at least five minutes each time. But it’s not so much the time that is annoying, it’s the boredom factor – it’s having to repeatedly perform the same actions that you have already proven yourself capable of, to the point at which you start making mistakes because the game is pissing you off.

Some people play games for the challenge. Me, I play for entertainment. When starting a game, I want to be able to select a “plentiful checkpoints” mode. Or a “anti-boredom mode”, where the game senses when you’ve hit a metaphorical brick wall, and pops up a little message saying *Hey, would you like to just skip this bit? Would it help if I put a little bridge just here, so you don’t have to make all those dull jumps yet again? What about if I gave you the ability to fly for ten seconds?*

I know that different people expect different things from computer games, which is why these settings should be optional. But for me, they would greatly enhance my enjoyment, which is basically, as far as I’m concerned, the whole point.

About Me Gaming Gardening IAMOWIM Meander Music Parenting

Busy week

It’s been a busy week, which is why things have been quiet round here. Here’s what’s been going down.


Karen and I have spent a lot of time on the allotment. Whereas it did look like this, it now looks like this:


We’ve cleared a lot of brambles, dismantled the rotted cold frame, had a big bonfire, and put some carpet down to suppress weeds. We also found some rhubarb of the variety *Hey, Free Rhubarb!* and planted it in an appropriate location. It’s progress, definitely.

My first MP3 player

On Wednesday I got my first ever MP3 player. As you can see, I’m right on the cutting edge here.

It’s not even a state-of-the-art device. It’s a Creative Zen Stone, a little thing with 2 GB of storage and no LCD display. For £30, you can’t go far wrong. I also got a little FM transmitter so that I can play it through my car stereo, which is now over 5 years old.

Electrocuting myself

While investigating a faulty kitchen light, I think that I may have accidentally electrocuted myself. I have a small blister on my thumb, and one on my forefinger, where I pinched a screw. As far as I can see, it’s not radiating heat, so electrocution seems the likely candidate. In hindsight, it should have been obvious that said screw would be live.

Playing Tomb Raider

I rented Tomb Raider Anniversary for a week. I played the original, many years ago, and it’s interesting to see what has been added and what has been taken away. I’ve bought a second hand copy so that I can complete it at my leisure.

Teaching Bernard to spell his name

Not putting too much pressure on him at this early stage, obviously, but it does yield such gems as this one:

Bernard: “R”
Me: “No, that’s not an ‘r’, it’s an ‘n’.”
Bernard: “Buck, buck.”
Me: “Heh, not ‘hen’. ‘N’.”


Widow of Warcraft

Karen and I met Bob and Kathy at an ante-natal class. The four of us sat in the back row and sniggered like a bunch of skoolkids throughout the class. Bob was possibly the first person who I had met in the last 3 years (with the exception of people who I have met through the Internet) who laughed at my jokes.

The following week, we bumped (no pun intended) into them on a tour of a nearby hospital. After the tour, as they were walking back to their car and us to ours, Karen and I quickly agreed that we should invite them for a coffee. I changed direction and offered them our invitation, which they accepted. We met up at a pub an hour later, and coffee became a few pints, which then became a curry, and before you knew it the day was over.

This was just the start of our friendship. After the children were born, I’d go to the pub with Bob once a week, where we’d devour pints of beer and talk about blokeish things.

The last such outing was a couple of months ago. Bob was telling me about their new laptop, and how he was going to get broadband so that he could play World of Warcraft, because he’d played it at his brother’s house and it was ace.

“Right, the thing is, Bob, ” I started “I’m not going to tell you what to do, but please heed my warning. WoW is addictive. Seriously, seriously addictive. It dangles the carrot of fake accomplishment in front of you, making you believe that you are actually achieving something, when in fact you are chasing a moving target. It’s fine as entertainment, but don’t let XP rule your life.”

Bob nodded, and seemed to understand. Conversation moved onto other matters.

In subsequent weeks, Bob and I struggled to find a mutually agreeable date for our weekly pow-wow. Each week, one of us would suggest a day, but the other would be unavailable, and such negotiations ended up with stalemate. The following week, discussions would be opened by the other party, which seemed like a nice arrangement which meant that neither of us was doing all the running.

Until I found myself doing all the opening for a few weeks in succession. My text messages were increasingly going unanswered. When I phoned up, if the machine didn’t pick up, then Bob would say that he was a bit busy right now and would call me back later. Deep down in my heart of hearts I knew what was going on, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. A month ago I invited him for a beer in no uncertain terms, to which I got the rib-tickling response “sorry beenreallybusy”. The omission of spaces had a positively comical effect.

I replied “Okay, drop me a line when things quieten down, or if you need an evening to get away from it all.” or words to that effect. Since that message, there has been nothing.

Today, Karen and Bernard went round to visit Kathy and her baby Martin, who is exactly the same age as Bernard (±2 days). The truth was revealed, and it’s exactly what the eagle-eyed reader has, by now, deduced.

Bob has been playing WoW to a worrying degree. Every evening, after Martin has been put to bed at 8pm, he plays. He plays at the weekends, leaving Kathy to feel like a single mother. He would rather play this game than enjoy an evening of sparkling conversation and fruity ales at a local tavern with me. With me! HE IS CLEARLY STARK-RAVING INSANE!

So what to do now? Should I do something? Should I help? Does he even need help? Is it selfish of me to do nothing? Gah.