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).


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’.”

About Me

Things that I did too much of, and too little of, at University

Too Little Radio

I got into Student Radio in the third year, and in retrospect I wish that I hadn’t left it so late. When I arrived at the University and was considering what societies to join, the radio station did cross my mind, but I decided against it for two reasons: firstly, I didn’t think I’d be any good at it (yeah, pathetic, I know) and secondly, my belief that playing the bass was all that I wanted to do. As a result, I only really got heavily involved in two societies: the one mentioned above, and the Band Society. Which I suppose should be:

Exactly The Right Amount Of Bass Playing

On a positive note, through the University’s Band Soc I joined a band called *Siamese*. Okay, we weren’t the greatest band on campus, but we weren’t bad at all. Over the course of our three years together we played 17 gigs and recorded a 3-song CD in a proper studio, and had a boatload of fun. My bandmates were thoroughly decent chaps, though our drummer Chris did get a bit violent when drunk. All in all, most satisfactory, and I wish that I’d immersed myself more deeply, rather than always pining for my band back home.

Maybe Too Much Time On The Computer

Though I had been on the Internet once or twice before, University was my first full-on exposure to it. I think I spent a lot more time on Usenet and IRC than I really had to, especially in the first year. At the time, it didn’t seem like a problem, but in retrospect it was basically time wasted. On the flipside, I do find myself wishing that I had started a blog back then.

Too Much Time Chasing The Wrong Girls

I’m not sure whether this is relevant here, because it’s actually been a curse of my teenage years, rather than specifically my time at University. Basically, I didn’t have a very good idea what I wanted from a relationship, so I wasted too much time pursuing leads that were doomed from the beginning. Had I known then what I know now, perhaps I wouldn’t have been as lonely.

Too Much Computer Games

In my second year, I used to come home at lunchtime to play *Tomb Raider*. Even if I had just two hours between lectures, I’d get on the bus, come home, spend an hour playing, and then get back on the bus into campus. Tragic. Fortunately, this problem was localised to the latter part of the 2nd year, and I had the whole thing under much better control in the third year.

Too Much Time Spent On That Dead-End Society

I’ve mentioned this before, and I see no need to repeat myself here. It’s obvious that the time that I spent as President of that society was entirely wasted.

Too Much Ranting About My Housemates

In my first year, I lived next to a guy called Matt. We got on really well, and became the best of friends. Halfway through the first year, there is a frenzy when everyone makes their plans for accommodation for the next year. Matt and I decided that we’d get a place together, and we didn’t care if we ended up paying a little more than if we’d shared with more people, ‘cos it would be the most kick-ass bachelor pad ever.

However, there was one other chap on our corridor, called Henry, who was clearly struggling to find someone to live with. Foolishly, we took pity on him and invited him to live with us. However, this plan spiralled out of control, as he, in turn, took pity on a girl on his course who was struggling to find someone to live with.

Matt and I spent most of the second year complaining at eachother about Henry and Jenny. How his poor personal hygiene, coupled with the fact that he never opened his window, meant that a stream of warm, putrid air seeped out of his bedroom whenever the door was even slightly ajar. How when Matt walked through into the sitting room every morning, Jenny would be sat watching *The Big Breakfast*, and this doesn’t sound too bad but when it’s every single day and she’s always sat upright in the same chair and she’s silent and motionless, it starts to get creepy. How Henry had a tendency to make a lot of noise around the house late at night, banging doors and plugging things into wall sockets in a very loud and bangy way. Yeah, I know, it’s all really petty stuff, which is why I wish we’d spent a bit less time getting worked up by it.

Too Little Time In The Bath

In my third year, I discovered the joy of taking a pint of Guinness and a harmonica into the bath on Sunday afternoons. In retrospect, I wish that I’d discovered it sooner.


I think that I did a pretty good job of balancing time between work and play. However, I then pissed my play time up the wall. I came away with exactly the degree that I was looking for, though looking back on the relationships that I formed and the way that I developed as a person, I’m not sure that I achieved as much as I could have. Though, at the end of the day, I matured a lot as a person and I had a bloody good time (in years 1 and 3, at least), so maybe I got everything that I needed.


A Weekend Indoors

*Looking for a guide or walkthrough for Tomb Raider Legend? Try [here][walkthrough] for text-based or here for video-based*


This weekend, I have been playing [Tomb Raider Legend][]. It all began on Saturday morning, on the way to the pub for a hearty traditional English breakfast in a pub. I was weighing up the options, trying to decide whether I wanted to spend £30 of my hard-earned cash on this game, when Karen came up with the frankly rather splendid idea of seeing if Blockbuster had it available for rental.

[tomb raider legend]: