Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Pissed Playlist

1. Triclops! - Out Of Africa
2. The Gaslight Anthem - Senor and the Queen
3. Mew - ..and the Glass Handed Kites


Good times. Long may they last.

EDIT: 10th March, finally got round to correcting the spelling here. Note to self, don't drink and certainly don't do this afterwards.

Friday, 25 December 2009

From Me

There is, I regret, no real point to this post. Maybe just to document and pay respect to the festival of Christmas. That out of the way, I think it's time for me to go to bed. The only quandary, will I make it up in time for the West Ham game?

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Plans

Right, right, right. So far today: Order a shirt pretty much needlessly, ordered a few books as presents, eaten some food and seen my mate Dave. A pretty poor run I'd say. The plans of working through this week are in what look like the remains of tatters.

To an extent this brings me to question what my plans are for the near future. Saying I graduate at the end of the year, I'll be 20 with a couple of months 'til 21. Currently my student debt sits at £13,386.46 plus the rest for second half of this year plus my bank overdraft which is likely to be sitting at £1,500. Going together to give a net debt of £20,000. Bloody hell that's a lot of cash. From then on I guess I'll be looking to get a quick full time minimum wage job to cover that overdraft first and foremost. Bringing in what I used to, around £150 a week that brings me to a bank balance of £0 within about three months. From there I'm on a fairly level footing, being around about October, I'm going to have to be looking at a job or career. From there I'm thinking, what next, do I look for some kind of post-graduate opportunity, internship etc.

Quick snap back to reality, what I'm doing now is hardly constructive towards any of these goals. So with a week 'til Christmas I've got to get down and do some work. If the weather's up to it I might head off for a quick spin on the bike but likely I'll end up in bed until the early afternoon. Crucially, I've got to get the fuck on.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Cold dark England

So after swapping Wales for England the turn around in weather is the first thing to hit. Snow and cold in pretty equal amounts. Still, the bonuses of home, sleeping in, free food and heating are pretty handy.

Today has been a non-starter in terms of work. I've been crunching through the fabled land of the internet and picked up a load of new music, mostly of the math-rock variety, notably from Bozart and Breadwinner who both roll out some super tough riffs. Hopefully I've got my music fix for the next week so I can get some concentration together and look over the delights of quantum mechanics or maybe even bloody solid state. It's strange how moving from uni to home I've still got the same malaise related to it all. But still there is plenty of time.

Monday, 14 December 2009

One hell of a while

It has been such a long time since I've had the time, energy or inclination to get on and write something here. First off, the time, it's been a whole monster pile of homework and report writing to get done. Going right up to the last minute is how I usually do things but this time it was cutting it maybe that little too fine. And then on to energy, recently I've been feeling half as though I've lost motivation for what I'm doing. It feels like forever since I've had a weekend off or a couple nights where I don't have to think about doing work. I know it's what I signed up for and at the time I imagined there'd be slightly more work, but three years straight through is exhausting. Not taking a gap year between college and here might have something to do with it. Also being a pretty whiney son of a bitch comes into it too. This finally ties in with inclination, inclination to really do anything that I know I should be doing. It's odd thinking about the amount of time I've spent and the amount misspent, the number of mornings where I should have been up before 11. Should have got something done the evening before. All the things I should be doing I haven't, or the things I have done I should have done better. I'm usually a bare minimum kind of guy with respect to work and similar and really that's got change if I'm looking to get a 2.1 rather than a Desmond.

I'm heading back tomorrow via my grandmother's and I'm hoping just to calm everything down, read a book, watch some tv, just normal things. After that in the week before Christmas I've got a whole bundle of work to do but I know if I start too soon I'm going to lose the will to get any done even quicker than usual. These are a big bunch of exams, there's no way around that and I've got to pull my bloody finger out and make sure I set myself up for some decent scores.

It's been a classic few weeks of sport, with Henry making headlines by upsetting the Irish. Tiger Woods struggling to keep up his former squeaky clean exterior and the X-factor finishing (I think). Under new management Portsmouth have managed to secure 4 points from 3 games. Interestingly enough the formerly goal shy team have scored in each game that new boss Grant has been in charge of. It should also be pointed out we really haven't played well in any of them, Grant seemingly bringing with him the missing ingredient lacked by the Tony Adams/Paul Hart era.

So I've got a lot planned up until the 4th of January and I hope to use this as a way to keep me on track. If I can get something down every day, maybe as tangible evidence to myself that I in fact can make good use of my time, that should spur me on. As it is I've got a train to catch in a little over 11 hours.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Staying

It's been a fairly eventful week in football, what with the Irish failing to qualify for the world cup and England enjoying a harrowing experience against the fairly decent Brazilian outfit who look likely to contest the final of the world cup. To hit the Irish situation first, it's simple, if they were serious about qualifying they should have won their group. Going into the play-off is a lottery, at best a 50-50 chance of going through, as shown by Russia. Ireland's horribly inept finishing cost them in the end, it would have only taken another goal to shut the game down. Only being a goal ahead after a handful of missed chances and the script is pretty much written. Things like handballs and dodgy decisions happen every week for every team and Ireland are no different. France themselves would have a massive case to feel (rightly) aggrieved if the result had gone the other way, a clear trip by Given on Anelka would surely have led to a penalty and potentially a red card for the Irish keeper. Either way in their present states I don't believe Ireland or France would be troubling the later stages of the tournament and honestly Bosnia look to be a far superior outfit to Ireland who still look to play in the hoof-ball style that time forgot.

After seeing the story this morning that Ben Foster, England goalkeeper and occasional Manchester United bench warmer, will not be leaving his club. Now this seems a fairly normal statement but after a quick look at Wikipedia it seems like madness for the player. Paul Robinson, currently on the England scrapheap has played 180 league games for his clubs since 2004. Foster 138 since 2000. Based on that there is little wonder that he has hardly developed and is continually called out for his poor decision making, he has next to no experience of high pressure games, only 11 league games for United, whereas Robinson who is a regarded as a lesser keeper by some has the experience of relegation battles with Leeds and Blackburn. Robinson would be my England keeper for the world cup but of course he has hardly featured for his country since his catastrophic mistake against Croatia and since can't really be expected to feature. Foster on the other hand is likely to be one of three keepers taken and looks the favourite to start between the sticks in spite of his lack of games for United, unless Van Der Sar is injured (again) during the season. Strangely 'keepers and only Foster (see David James situation) seem the exception to the England manager's golden rule that players must be playing every week for their clubs. Either way, should it matter? England are near enough guaranteed a slot and defeat in the semi-finals, of course Portugal are involved again so another shoot out could be in the offing.

A final word on Brazil, the should be the excellent Brazil in fact. The excellent, wasteful, quick, skilful, imaginative and intrinsically watchable Brazil could well take home the trophy. They battered England, they controlled the game and England had no unmissable chances and no time on the ball, two things that England really struggle to contend with again good sides. Brazil look likely to miss a fair few chances in every game. For instance penalties but that can sorted out. Brazil have only a short way to go to be the best team in the world, while England have further to go, a long way further to go.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Distribution

Why am I music pirate? Why is anyone?

This is the obvious question I find myself trying to answer. You can look at it from a bundle of angles. It's easy, it's free and it's quick. The first one I think is the main cause for me, it's easy to steal something and throw in the last point and it's suddenly a pretty one sided fight. In the world of paying £10 or even above for a physical release of an album piracy will always have it's place.

Recently however I've found myself taking a tangent, mainly due to the wonders of independent distribution. Really it seems if a band want to get heard they need to get their product out there in the marketplace in as many forms as is possible but if they want to get paid it needs to be cheap enough to make tracking down an illegal source a less than worthwhile path to pursue. For indie bands I've found the best form of distribution is a stream it and buy it site. For instance Amie Street is a pretty solid site offering a decent array of non-mainstream music along with some better known artists. Considering you can pick up albums for a few dollars (with a fairly healthy exchange rate from the pound) this can be for a mere couple of pounds. Taking another line of distribution is Ten Tracks, where like the name, they offer ten tracks by various artists for a pound. This is a pretty tidy deal and I first became aware of the site when one of my favourite bands was featured on a compilation, since then I've regularly checked out what's on offer and really enjoyed some music I would never have otherwise have heard. At the end of the day piracy isn't going to stop and it seems as though slowing it down is a sledgehammer to a nut operation but the first step is price. Distribution at reasonable prices will attract more sales and more happy customers. And more happy customers means more sales. And maybe then in our utopian musical society we'll all be happy.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Replacement

After buggering my old mp3 playing device I think I spent close to a week bothering various review sites and pondering almost any available brand. For a brief while I was considering taking an Apple based iPod route, how-bloody-ever after reading countless reviews it seemed my potential target, an iPod nano, sounded a little like a toddler trapped in a dustbin. A fairly inaccurate simile I think you'll find but in short it's just not meant to sound that great. Coming from my faithful Zen and other Creative devices I've got used to a fair level of sound quality, okay it's only mp3 with their inherently limited sound quality but the Creative players have always sounded great. After a bit more of a snoop around and chiefly due to the excellent AnythingButIpod.com I looked at SanDisk's line of products and found the Sansa Clip to be highly regarded pretty much everywhere. The only stumbling block for this player comes from the limited memory capacity where 8gig is really not enough for me. I found there was also a Clip+ fresh on the block, the same size and shape with a few tweaks like a micro SD card slot. On it's own micro SD doesn't sound that big a deal but with a new micro SDHC format being produced with up to 32gig cards available it looked like the a great choice, with a player plus a 32gig card giving up to 40gig for closer to £100 than any other player. Roll on twenty minutes and I'd discovered another option, the Sansa Fuze, to cut a long story short, close to the same as the Clip+ but with a bigger battery and pick-up in-store price of £60 at PC World (not where I'd choose to buy anything but it was the cheapest price going) I was happy to put my faith in the glowing praise lumped upon it in many reviews.

Now would be a pretty good time to do a review of my now decommissioned player, the Zen. For £100 in September of 2008 the Zen was a true bargain with a generous 16gig of memory, decent battery life and a fairly resilient exterior. The sound quality is very pleasing and certainly a step above anything I'd had before, I'd say the sound is on par if not better than the Fuze but the difference is hardly noticeable. If I'm going to give it a score it hits a very safe eight of ten. This is in the main due to one feature which the player boasts but really doesn't work, this is the SD card slot. Yes it works and you can play files from the card but they do NOT integrate into the plays library, this is hugely frustrating as the incredibly low price of SDHC cards means that this could be turned into a bargain 16+32gig play which is pretty impressive, even by adding just an extra 8gig of storage (less than £10) gives a very respectably capacious music player. If this feature did work as it should this player would be getting as close to full marks as is possible. Durability is nothing to worry about as really whatever broke the screen on mine looks like a fairly substantial bit of contact.

The Fuze so far has lived up to expectations in all departments, it's a little smaller and the controls are good and work well alongside the interface which is very similar to that of the Zen, which is no bad thing. The light today is terrible and it doesn't look like it'll stop raining so the picture at the top is the current best available of Broke and Not So.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

D vs G

Going to drop this in quickly this morning. After watching the first heavyweight fight I've ever felt motivated to watch and after seeing David Haye take the whatever-it's-called belt I feel pretty sorry for the big lad he defeated. To be fair to Valuev he really doesn't look much like a boxer and more of a fridge-freezer and throughout he was made to look his age and his weight, a few flashes of his fairly brutal strength came through but a couple of openings went begging and Haye had more than enough in the tank to launch a few attacks in the last round. On the whole it was fairly disappointing really, two blokes who really can hurt each, other going at it but throughout over half an hour there were only a few really telling blows landed. There's likely to be a similar amount of blows landing in the United Chelsea showdown, where like last night the winner is more than likely to be from London, England.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Broke

Two things broke today, the screen on my mp3 player and Pompey's home form. One good, one bloody bad. After a quick search on google it doesn't look likely that a repair job is all that possible for the screen, this leaves me in the terrible position of potentially having to buy something I already own, albeit in working form or some kind of iPod based replacement. Pompey on the other hand; super and something to really build on, it's not very often the bottom club in the league tonks reasonable opponents to such a degree.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Decade

There seems to be a lot of stuff flying around the interweb relating to albums of the decade and so on. Even though there happens to be two full months to roll it seems like a decent time to throw some lists together. He goes mine, in no kind of order:

  1. Hell Is For Heroes - Neon Handshake (2003)
  2. Rival Schools - United by Fate (2001)
  3. Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
  4. Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American (2001)
  5. Mogwai - Happy Songs For Happy People (2003)
  6. The British Expeditionary Force - Chapter One: A Long Way From Home (2007)
  7. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound (2008)
  8. The Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003)
  9. At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command (2000)
  10. Yourcodenameis:Milo - Ignoto (2005)
  11. Owls - Owls (2001)
  12. City and Colour - Sometimes (2005)
  13. Brand New - Deja Entendu (2003)
  14. Hot Club de Paris - Drop It 'Til It Pops (2006)

Along with these there are various support acts: Hundred Reasons, Hiding With Girls, Johnny Truant, Explosions In The Sky, Future of the Left and Joan Of Arc. Really what I've done is taken a look for the albums that I've played to death at various stages but would be happy to hear and indeed still do listen to. Special mention goes out to At the Drive-In and Rival Schools as they built a solid base for my music tastes to date. Newer albums that have stuck seem to be fewer in number, with the most recent being the excellent '59 Sound, candidates for the best of 2009 look like being Daisy by Brand New, Tanknology by That Fucking Tank and Beggars from Thrice, that said there's an awful lot of music that I've discovered this year. There are a whole load of bands that I really enjoy but can't quite nail a place in the list as they lack a killer album. Joan Of Arc for example have a great repertoire of catchy and haunting songs but in the context of an album I don't seem to get what they're doing as they seem to get lost in their quest for improvisation and discovery, bit maybe that is their charm. Others seem to have albums that sound and feel much greater than the (not insubstantial) sum of their parts: Mogwai, Hot Club de Paris and The Mars Volta do this superbly each using a totally different style of music but all equally at home playing the long game. There are no metal or hardcore albums in the list as again I don't think they can nail a place on the strength of an album but that goes with the territory and I'm sure they don't lose any sleep over it.

So that's the list sorted, now there's two months left to change my mind.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Terrible

As this month draws to a close there are a couple of points to bring to the table.

1. Frankly awful music.
2. Some frankly excellent music.
3. Not everything is significant.

1 is easily addressed by the exciting evening that has just taken place. I usually enjoy football socials as they are on the whole pretty fun. However this time a trip to the suitably named "The Lash" was only a pretty bloody short stay. With a terrible live act (Ndubz if that's how it's spelt) quickly stirring up some trouble, from where we were it seemed that a girl had been biffed right in the face by some bloke. Football or rugby, it doesn't really matter as it's pretty bloody foul behaviour either way. Maybe with the problem with the evening is it's super heavy drinking cock-fest style. Fairly quickly we left. Luckily really as I doubt the quality of entertainment could improve.

2 is covered by the discovery of some pretty good bands over the last few weeks. these are Mew, Part Chimp, The Forms and The Wicked Farleys. The later of which I received the album of today and it's a really enjoyable listen, packing in some excellent song writing and structuring. The Forms, I am currently listening to, do a similar thing but use their exceptionally smooth indie rock musicianship alongside an excellent vocal approach where the lead vocals simply blend in and become part of the music. It really is great stuff and is exactly the kind of music I really enjoy whatever my mood. It's a shame really but I need to collect a decent amount of sleep. I could really do without nine o'clock starts.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Four Down

Four weeks of lectures are now done, pretty much a third of a semester, the easy bit anyway. Not a lot is really worthy of a mention, it's all been fairly simple or entirely along the lines of stuff we've already done but that's never going to be a bad thing. In other matters, this weekend is, by my count, the third relegation six pointer we will have contested so far this season (a modest record of one won one lost is certainly better than league form in general). That's right, another team in orange to take on away from home and another chance to see a decent performance undermined by horrible luck and lack of ability in front of goal. Of course the terms six pointer and must win have been banded about for the last couple of weeks about this game, when really it's a good-if-we-win-it-but-on-it's-own-nothing-like-enough game. Six pointer is also a flattering term, used to describe the Wolves clash also, when between them the two teams had accrued seven points, an average of 3.5 with a range of 7. Really a battle between a dreadful team and the worst team. This weekend is likely to be similar, with the losing manager potentially getting the boot and the winning side potentially sticking with their useless managerial teams for a few weeks longer, really a no win situation for anyone. Least of all the fans who are likely to have to sit through a fairly tense, rigid and nervy performance to see their team ultimately struggle to do what football is supposed to be about, getting the ball between the white posts. Nail biting, gripping and potentially heart breaking, no Paul Hart pun intended.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Wanted

Wanted: New team to join established trio at top of the pile. Must have large, fickle and poorly football educated following. Must be able to make it out of the champions league group stage but will not be permitted to progress much further than quarter finals and certainly not knock out any other English sides along the way. Must attract controversy through managerial antics and player misconduct, you are expected to be bad boys of the gang of four and must make constant reference to this in both playing style and media relations. You are expected to have a small pool of useful English talent but not at the detriment of big foreign names.

If you think you've got what it takes to join us; fourth place is waiting.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Nu-metal

Nu-metal and it's horrible revenge. Tonight I've had the privilege to listen to the finest offerings from the least technically proficient derivative of metal that has ever been thrown out, of course these tracks are all dated from around 2000. Yes; y2k. That's a long old time and to be honest this material has not aged well, take Rollin' or whatever they fuck they called it. It's a horrible track, a minute or two longer than it ever should have been, poor lyrical content and poor musicianship. Still back in my naive days, when I was but a youth and music was a fresh horizon I could count this as one of my favourite tunes. But now I see it for what it is, a poor effort in a very poor genre. Why are these days looked upon as the glory days of our youth? Tonight's DJ I'm fairly sure could be usurped for musical taste by almost anyone attending, that is of course if he was playing music he genuinely enjoyed, which is fairly unlikely; but if that is the case then why play the garbage that gets churned out week after week? Why not mix things up a little, That Fucking Tank would go down a storm with kids who want to mosh to Rage. 65days could see a few improvised moves being thrown. But still, in this shit we trust.

P.S.
A pattern seems to be emerging, drinking, blogging and poor punctuation. Roll on, roll.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Dilema or life choice?

I'll be the first (maybe second) to admit that I do really lack any kind of cutting edge, by cutting edge I mean nerve. Authority, spur and gung-ho spirit, that kind of stuff. What confronts me is a trivial, fairly bleeding simple proposition, a girl who I know full well does a subject that means she frequents the uni library that I also inhabit. And who tonight I'd say I pretty much checked out to her face, breath drawn through teeth, all of that rubbish. She didn't really seem to mind. Who I know full well is as close to the girl of my dreams (jokes aside) as is possible. What's the plan then? Confront or hide. I've taken hide for a good length of time and of course right now I've been drinking, which is a terribly unromantic way of approaching the confront option. A beacon for pissed ships, maybe but nothing more.

Of course these are the emptiest of words and really I'll never follow through on anything more than a syllable of them but really I wonder who would. When I think of who would I think of the reasons I wouldn't, they account for almost nil. Why wouldn't I? Someone I have never talked to will never talk to me. Someone I don't know will judge me as a horrible crass individual. Most people manage to do that.

So from here I have decided:
  • Bloody well do it
  • Do it
  • Don't worry about what occurs from doing it
  • Bloody well do it
There. Down in ink (if not ink then binary). Let's get on with things shall we.

P.S.
As predicted a red for Browny in today's game against the arch rivals. Shame that KPB's absolute stunner wasn't a match winner, a strike like that really deserves to be. If Hart's time is up then it's again almost a case to Tony Adams, where a nice bloke just isn't lucky. In fact completely unlucky, I feel sorry for PH, he's done the best he can with what he's got and that certainly isn't very much. Play like we did in the last half hour, with wit, initiative and creativity and we will stay up. Sadly I feel Paul Hart is not a bloke capable of coaxing that out of the players each week until the end of the season.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The poison

It's been a few weeks, and what with whole media broo-ha-ha (if that's how it's spelt) about illegal file sharing I hadn't pirated anything, not a thing. Then today, I went and bloody did it. I would love to be able to defend myself and say that it's not my fault, blahblah and blah but really it's my choice, lack of morals and tight fisted-ness. I do feel the problem really lies with the pricing of music, when it's available free (both cost and consequence) who would really fork out their money to HMV with their fairly grotesque mark up of prices. I'd much rather throw my cash at a local independent store and I'm sure most others would, but even that stance is a more costly than heading for a torrent site. Clearly something should change.

Midweek England blew away the poor chaps sent from Belarus, which really should be a regulation job. In passing glimpses England looked fairly flat, with wingers seemingly incapable of doing anything aside from losing the ball and Peter Crouch letting the ball hit him in the face/chin as it's bashed up the pitch towards him. Good stuff all round really. Beckham managed to snatch the man of the match award for his contribution, not much more than half an hour was enough to show up the deficiencies in England's wide areas with only Milner coming close to emulating the Beckham role. The bloke is most likely too old to be anything more than a super-sub for England come South Africa but that is a role he seems more than capable of growing into.

Yet more round ball action, Harry Redknapp comes back to Pompey. Exciting, fairly likely, scrappy, certainly. So here's to three points, a likely red for Brown and a fairly busy day for Jamo. Consider that we can double our points haul for the season so far, nothing could be better than stuffing the old twitchy bagpuss on his first foray back on the south coast.

Friday, 9 October 2009

West-williams-that-jovi

Titled as "Big Albums Coming In 2009" it's surprising to see that the list numbers 145 such albums, with only a mere two whole months of the year remaining. This is on the fairly fine website play.com. On the first page of this BAC09 it's good to see some of the stalwarts of the noughties: Robbie Williams, Eminem, Westlife and even some from beyond the scope of this millennium: Bon Jovi, Courtney Love and Bob Dylan. Now quite who lets this load of shit get released? More the question should be, who buys it? If you were a Take That fan, currently you are pretty likely to be 20+ years of age. Maybe a little too old to buy an album made by some now impotent old blokes? Even Robbie P Williams has got a disc to peddle, of course that was fairly clear from the moment I caught a glance at yesterdays redtops, 24 hours from death, drugs, drink, blahblahblah. Surely that's how times have changed, when Robbie started out that would likely be deemed very bad publicity. Now it's possibly the best he's going to get.

In better news the weather has returned to it's normal, wonderful self. Wednesday was a prime slice of Britishness, football training in the rain. Today, fairly similar conditions are on show, possibly why I'm writing this. It's taken around about half an hour of painful hard drive grinding and it all pretty much looks the same but Vista in it's infinite wisdom has bestowed upon me, Service Pack 2. I haven't used my desktop much in the last few weeks since I've been back, contributed to by the purchase (at last) of a more modern netbook. The device in case is an Asus 1005HA, for £250 it's looking like a top choice. The main requirements of big battery and decent keyboard are met nicely and the standard size hard drive is huge. It also has two speakers, which now seems like an incredible luxury for some reason. I'm going to cram it with music shortly and maybe see if some elderly games will function, I'm thinking Fallout 2 but maybe that's a little ambitious. I'm going now to start a pop career, with one eye on a 2018 World Cup comeback song.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Daisy

So it's a week down, five days. In other terms, £400 spent. It's likely I get the gene for loose reigns on finances from my father but it seems fairly unlikely, after receiving a proper payment from the SLC, that it'll prove much of a problem for the moment anyway. Work so far is pretty much as expected and true to form of the last four semesters. Initially a mix of easy/hard and work/no work. It is becoming quite obvious though that working is probably required for most if not all of the modules I've been thrust into. The fairly promising premise for my report module makes Monday's look a pretty decent prospect for the time being anyway.

In sporting terms today is something of a landmark, a victory away at Wolves is enough to banish the memories of a couple of bad performances at the start of the season. Certainly not the best performance of the last three, probably the worst actually, but this time things went our way. Yebda this time netting rather than hitting the woodwork. Importantly the team looks to be the best available, with the hard working but goal shy front two looking the weakest links. A mean defense which, in spite of age, could sit comfortably in the top ten come the end of the season if the rest of the team follows their example. A decent balance to the midfield, which for once has lost the "big boys" look of years gone by in favour of a more footballing output while still having one of the dirtiest bastards on the block in Brown. Certainly no Muntari, Mendes, Las and Diop but more than enough to hold the middle of the park. From the look of the next few fixtures there certainly are points to play for. Spuds at home is a big game and really the closest thing to local derby/grudge match that we're going to see for a few years. With the same support as was evident against Wolves going undefeated in three games could be the perfect comeback to such a wretched start to the season.

For a band who don't release too many albums Brand New seem to have come a long way without losing the knack of producing great music. I say great fairly seriously here as within the genre they sit with some very superficial peers and as many one hit wonders as you can shake anything at. To be able to churn out an album each year seems standard practise for some bands these days but maybe it's a credit to Brand New that they seem content to push for quality over a constant chart single presence. Of course I don't mean chart in the sense that they are pushing out tracks heading for the top ten but compared to their less talented peers they receive almost no UK radio play. Yet the huge frenzy around a new album erupts just in time for each release and their minimalistic approach to touring leaves them as something of an exclusive experience. This newest album is no different to any of their previous works in that it takes on a new sound. A band taking on pop punk, harder rock and some fairly alternative rock over the course of 4 albums is testament to creativity and imagination. How many bands produce the same albums over and over? How many bands are hailed as "pioneering" and the "next big thing" but offer no discernible difference between each song on an eleven track album? It's the cookie cutter band that they stand against, almost by accident.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Pile up like bones

Sunday, 20th September

I think it's fair to say that I hate cars, car travel and all related practises. I enjoy motor car racing but not really when people attempt it upon the highways of our fine country. Similarly I don't much enjoy car users when I'm cycling, maybe it's just my vigilante spirit that makes me feel fairly inclined to get hold of a helmet camera and just record the day to day poor and potentially dangerous road users of England.

Cruising past the fairly horrible settlement of Swindon (I assume the stationary caravans by the motorway make up Swindon town center) it seems a fairly odd place to stick a town/city. 60ish miles from Cardiff, around 80 miles from Portsmouth and Southampton and god knows how far from London.

Today

Isn't it funny, time, it becomes one of the greatest commodities. After a week and a few days the idea of becoming constantly involved with other people is slightly bewildering. Coming from wasting time to thinking of ways best to invest it is a massive surprise and change around. If only looking at the above, on a day largely expended sitting in a car on the route between home and here, while comparing it to today, time has become rarer, precious and now even important. Whether it is spent or misspent depends upon where the criteria lie.

Quantum? Well spent. Queuing in Sainsbury's for a til with the best looking girl serving? Hardly well spent. But what has been the more exciting part of the day? Maybe the sideways glance from the girl behind the til. Maybe spending the evening drinking someone else's beers in someone else's garden, twice. Maybe watching a team actually win a game of football. Respect it or it'll sell you out, badly.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Last day

So tomorrow will feature the final few hours at home until possibly Christmas. It isn't long but it seems that way during the fairly wintery autumn period. Only 12 weeks, 12 Mondays and a possible 77 hours of lab time. After brief breakfasting it is onwards to chariot for the 154 mile journey westward, across the toll bridge and into the capitol city of Wales. I should suggest that I'm looking forward to it, and I am, in spite of the SLC cock up. It was good to see the BBC carrying quotes in one of it's stories branding the SLC's work as "someone else's incompetence". For future reference:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8263088.stm

Hopefully after this farce moving will go smoothly, I'd say I'm around 80% packed. Computer, monitor and related peripheral are almost the last to go every time, folders and textbooks are pretty easy to get boxed early enough. On top of that I had the fairly simple task of swapping out my football boots from last year for some shiny new ones, after spending the last couple of months complaining about lack of funds I managed to spend close to £50 on some new Nike boots. They're pretty much top of the range and have got everything: event lining, laces and even several studs. They are rolling an orange and silver and black colour scheme which I've yet to see on Match Of The Day this evening but I don't think many of the trendy Arsenal or West Ham players are rockin' last year colours. I reckon they'll be on show in the Bolton game though so there's a chance of some air time. Word is they won't make me any better... I think Ben Haim is wearing them, he just got rolled for the second we conceded this afternoon. Doesn't bode too well.

Moving into a new house has an upside or two, a week or so without internet means that stuff/things get done. There is some odd buzz I get from shopping for kitchen utensils, probably the only things that do it. Technology and computers used to but now they are fairly free of mystery on the other hand a range of chopping boards to choose from is something of a bloody novelty murder mystery of an afternoon. I also want some kind of kitchen oil dispenser. I think I might be overestimating the amount of time I'll be spending in the kitchen considering I'm scheduled for nine to five Monday but maybe it's in my head trying to make up for the lousy kitchen facilities of last year. Hopefully the facilities are as (or close to) I remember.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Garage

So wikipedia tells me the humble CD has been filling up shops since 1982. The first album available in this format being Billy Joel's 52nd Street, I've never heard of this so chances are it could have been a generation defining classic. By the time I was seven or eight I had taken an interest in the Brit-Pop explosion, the usual candidates of Blur, Oasis and Cast. Obvious my first tentative steps into music were fairly mainstream but probably just about the right side of the tracks musically, I managed to miss out on the pre-S Club 7 pop mammoths of.. I'm not actually sure. Whoever those acts making their own equally tentative steps towards the pre-pubescent masses were, they certainly didn't pack much staying power and ultimately a short lived career in the spotlight and a slot on Top Of The Pops was the dream. I thank all available gods each day that I never fell for the charms of the UK-garage scene. Year 2000, Craig David and Dane Bowers, the year of temptation.

Fast forward to now, the naughties, with all the new advances in music and technology it seems that we're almost leaving the CD behind. I last bought a CD as a present, what good is it giving someone a downloaded album on a CD-R for a quid or two less? The one before that I bought as it was impossible to download (legitimately or illegally). That's almost the norm now, buy it physically if you can't find it anywhere else. Looking through my now dated rack of purchases over the last five or so years there are still some real gems in there. I've got a hurriedly signed Neon Handshake by Hell Is For Heroes, Interpol's wonderful Turn On The Bright Lights and Weezer's classic Blue and Green albums. It seems every time I log into Spotify or check out a band on Myspace that the age of the CD is ending faster still.

The difference between the early days, Oasis' fine performance in What's The Story.. is matched by a case and booklet that just as much time could have gone into. That's what made buying a CD special, it sounds like I should be saying this about buying vinyl but sadly that age definitely passed me by. It was more than just the obligatory physical release that it is now, it was the whole product. Maybe I'm ten or fifteen years too young, I think I belong in the generation of the CD. I remember with fairly little fondness the cassette tape, maybe recording awful songs from the radio is the one art to have been lost but it certainly seems a little too old school now. A little too VHS. The coveted purchase of high technology, new music on a disc, incredible. So as the mp3 becomes king, music that weighs next to nothing, the old days of the Walkman, AA batteries and 20 second anti-shock start to gather dust like my old discs.

In an age where the environment is one of the first considerations, it seems to add up, where is the sense is expending recourses to make discs and cases that sit on a shelf for years and are never used again. Then finally with a heavy heart they're thrown out in the garbage, whether it was a classic or not the case and disc are full of memories. When I look at some of the rubbish that sits alongside those albums I love, it really makes some sense. Hawthorne Heights? What a waste.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

MP

Now I've never written to my MP. For a start I don't know who he is, I guess it's a he anyway. The road to receiving a student loan is both long and arduous. Again another letter, with more orders from HQ in Scotland. Another call to, for the first time actually, a rude cretin in the SLC (I forget who they are and what I want to say by the time I get through) offered a fairly simple answer to a fairly simple question. Quite why it takes half an hour to get in touch with someone for a one word but important yes/no answer is very poor.

What I'm planning to say to my MP I currently don't know. I'll express my continued frustration at a company of whom I am a customer. Throughout the ordeal I am made to feel less and less like a customer and this, once more impenetrably complex turn of events, leaves me feeling pretty cold towards the SLC company as a whole. It's not that I expect £20 of M&S vouchers as a token apology, nice as it would be I don't find that kind of gesture particularly useful. Perhaps I would prefer a dialogue with the company where my complaints are taken on board. It's not as though my complaints are wholly unique but centre around a couple of points where the change in income assessment criteria other the years I have been at university mean that assumptions are wrongly made by the company. The real weakness of the SLC is its slow reaction to problems. When things go wrong, don't expect to hear what you need to do or what they did wrong for at least a couple of weeks.

So my MP will have to endure my roundabout rant. Even if it makes no difference to me I hope this awful polluted system is set crashing down and replaced with an equally faceless government body. SHITLC would be a fine name. Long may the good work continue.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Wintering blues

I can officially state once more my dismay at lack of student loan. I'm pretty sure that I'll do well to have received any information on the status of said loans before the end of the week when I move out for about the sixth time in three years. Most of this week is geared towards moving out, people are either going or gone. It more or less marks the end of summer. It ends up giving a fairly skewed picture of a city, to live there for only the autumn, winter and spring months. I can imagine living in Edinburgh and never seeing the beauty of the place in the sun, just because of university calenders. Cardiff is wonderful in the sun (limited time only) but most of the time the sky is draped in greys and blacks. It would feel pretty normal to arrive back and find it pouring with rain for days on end. It's not really the weather I enjoy but it is the weather most regularly served up in the south of Wales.

Packing is at more or less a halt but progress has been made in the resupply routine with tinfoil, cling film and peppercorns sourced for the new year/cupboard. That's less than half the job but it's progress. I've looked over the timetable for this semester and I've considered (briefly) reading up some of my old notes. Also considered researching my project (again, briefly). My project is "The Physics of a Cricket Bat". Exciting as it sounds it sits happily with my interest in the game.

Currently England sit at 69-1, good start once more but 4 nil down, it's hardly a crucial juncture. It has, however, become fairly tiresome. It seems that almost every spectator, journalist and pundit can see the (multitude of) problems and pose sensible solutions, however the same errors pop up and the games fall away in the same way, time after time. It's like any sport, the blend of attack and defence is what defines a team, it's about striking the correct balance and sacrificing one for the other at the right time. But even if it came down to instinct, mental arithmetic or general knowledge, England would still find a way to get it wrong in either 50 over passage.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

18 months

Technology moves fast, having spent a bit more than £200 just about a year and a half ago on an Asus Eee PC (left) I'm pretty surprised that I still use it. With it's tiny seven inch screen, cramped keyboard and weedy processor, it was hardly a revolutionary set of parts but what it became was a revolutionary product. Using a fairly lightweight linux build it can still pull its weight in most situations, the screen is still tiny and hard disk (4gb!) restrictive but connectability, small size and durability make up for a lot.

Roll on 18 months and just over £200 buys a multitude of new and much faster netbook in a massive range of styles and colours. Based on the same ideals of the originals, just on a few steroids, it's a whole different proposition. The hard disk for a start is 40 times bigger, the processor is die shrunk, faster and cooler. Even better news, the keyboard is almost a normal size, touchpad well proportioned and battery capacious (up to eight hours compared to Eee's 3 hour maximum). Oh, it'll run XP Home or Windows 7 happily as well.

The newer netbook on the right, a Samsung NC10, has got all the standard bits, Intel Atom, 1gb of ram, 160gb Hdd, blueteeth and wireless LAN (almost goes without saying but really it's the most important part). Sadly it's not for me, I'll have to pay for my own. It's a birthday present from the parents for my sister, I've spent a few hours installing all the useful programs and removing the load of junk (McAfee anti-virus of all things) pre-installed with the OS. I'm seriously considering replacing my Eee, most likely with a newer version as the build quality from Asus has been good to me. Whether it will be worth waiting for a Windows 7 version most likely comes down to cost. If the price is the same and with only a couple of months to wait for the new and supposedly superior OS it should be worth a look.

What these netbooks and wireless internet access have conspired to do is change almost every practise from a decade ago. Back then I used to use (the awful) Microsoft Encarta '95. On a slow desktop with 56k internet it was a bloody struggle. Now it's Wikipedia (other occasionally unreliable online encyclopaedias are available) on your lap. What could be better than that?

Friday, 11 September 2009

Magic. Not Magic.

One thing is for sure Derren Brown can really get some people's knickers in a twist. His elaborate stunt/trick/illusion the other day was originally billed along the lines of:

Man predicts lottery numbers.

What it became:

Man gets lottery numbers onto some ping pong balls within around 30 seconds of the actual draw.

Taking it for what it is, nothing too difficult, it could be done in a multitude of ways. Of course by putting on an hour of pretty dull TV, even by the standard of Dave day time repeats, without posing a solution is another shrewd move. Good for DB (not a fan of initials but I'm willing to try them out) really, even better for the people who didn't know about it or watch either show though. Of course this leaves room for a book "How I Dunnit" and he's set for life, these antics alone should be worth more than £2.5mil from winning the needless Wednesday night lottery draw (though winning it every week could net him slightly more).

After yesterdays exciting loan related events I was pleased to read on the BBC (getting to like initials) website that there is a widespread outbreak of anger towards the hapless lot in charge of student loans. Considering I'm a returning student so all the bits and pieces go through my LEA, they should have a fairly reduced workload but still manage to make a fair old hash of things. I feel inclined to use their complaints facility but that may be "unlikely" to receive a response. More likely lost in the depths of their inbox. Or worst still be given priority and stall my loan seeking.

My only plan, at this stage, is to wait 'til the Friday before I leave (next Friday!) and lay siege to their phone lines, potentially I'll have two land lines bombarding the castle. If by midday I have no mail and no happy little call centre chappie to talk to, I'll acquire a train to Winchester and lay physical siege to their castle. It actually is "The Castle" in their address so I'll pack accordingly. Clearly the second phase is unlikely to be implemented and may give proper grounds for complaint about my "attitude".

In the longterm, i.e. back in Wales, I have no real plan. I'll just show up, beg for money from the parents and uni, spend it in my usual guilt free fashion. I long for sausages wrapped in bacon, phallically shapen fruit and veg from the market, blue milk and chocolate based cereals. I'll possibly buy a useful book or two. Or most likely spend everything I haven't got on the same old shit and at the same old pubs.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Out

Today, being only ten days until I'm back to uni I've done the two (most exciting) things on my list:

1. Call Student Finance England or whatever they're called now.
2. Put some things in some boxes.


Complications all over the place. After 20 minutes of holding I finally enjoyed some human contact from a call centre worker, who surprisingly was fluent in English. After explaining my awkward situation, I expected to here him wading through the hundreds of forms that have been filled out (mostly by my mum). But no, I was passed on into the devilish grasp of an "assessor", these superhuman beings (only women in my limited experience so far) are highly trained in the art of confusion.

The word/acronym/secret codename "PFF2" came up a number of times. Similarly the slightly more well known "P60" was banded around, pretty much every sixth word. As I my way, surely the way of many others also, after a huge wait on hold I was fairly well irritated. What becomes more irritating still is people making reference to your irritation. YET more irritating still is having one's "attitude" called into question. Needless to say these people are paid for at my expense and are employed to do a service for me, so for me to become in any way frustrated with the quality of their service is very poor form. After 13 minutes of codename after codename and verbal battling it ended in a bit of a stalemate.

At that point having been informed I was "unlikely" to receive my student loan within the next couple of months I phoned the much friendlier Welsh types at university. I informed them after two years of loyal fee payment that I was pretty "unlikely" to pay them on time. She happily informed me that "it should be fine". Good customer service. Actually being treated like a customer, even better. A few hours later, situation, pretty much remedied. A swift call from my mother and the woman guilty of my horrific torture conceded that I was correct. What about? I'm not too sure.

Better news on the other front, task number 2 has yielded a box, with some stuff in. Along with a further box, with some stuff in. At this rate I'll be packed moments before the end of the year, so maybe stepping up my game a little in the next few days would be of some benefit.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

50%

So based on my prediction of a hat trick of sporting losses within the day I've come up fairly short. The defeat in the cricket was always on the cards from the moment Ravi Bopara (wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time, most of the time during his international career) skied a catch to an Australian fielder. Not only did the young batsman manage to hit the ball high enough to break the newly upgraded Hubble but he also took him a whole seventeen balls to put us out of our misery.

Now I understand the lad is under pressure and the slow pitches so far haven't helped him but surely he has the common sense to talk to the management and find a niche lower down the order? Granted, if soccer star Denly hadn't manage to break his fairly frail looking body the situation could be different. England can't keep sticking with a losing team and no matter how many bowlers they pack into the side the continued batting collapses and foolishly late power play overs will continue to cost them.

Moving onto the soccer end of things, 5-1 is a fairly powerful statement against the doubters (where are they now, eh?). Well I still doubt. For a start England enjoyed an easy group, played their best game away in Croatia and have since cruised to qualification. That word, qualification, is the key here. Against competition, and by competition I define any country that you can fairly accurately pick out on a globe, they have faltered. Spain and the Netherlands are tough opponents and suitably made good on England's lack of skill and composure and made the kick it long tactics employed on both nights look fairly foolish. And not just their kit, which, let us be honest, make even the legendary Cameroon one piece leotard look stylish.

So qualified they may be but there are still problems in the team, Barry lacks the mental aptitude to play the defensive position, Heskey can't score and Defoe can't pass the ball. Or head the ball. Really the team is still fairly far from the finished product. For now though, they enjoy a far more comfortable position than the team of '07.

The sky's revenge

Climate change is a burden we all share, the sins of today will (likely) reap their revenge on the generations of the future. Today the government's official climate advisers claim that greenhouse emissions will have to fall by 90% in both domestic and industrial fields to maintain air travel at the current levels throughout the UK.

Now I've never been on a plane and currently don't own, or am able to drive a car, my carbon footprint comes from the electricity I use, the food and goods that are shipped thousands upon thousands of miles to me (spring onions come from Mexico of all places) and the travel methods I use. So where is a 90% drop in greenhouse gases going to come from? And how will it be payed for? Well it'll simply be footed by me and my generation so planes can take off from Southampton and fly to Manchester for half the cost of a train and at twice the carbon emissions. Who will be left with a planet with dwindling natural recourses and an unsustainable boom in population?

Answers on a postcard.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Three a day

The dream is alive, are three sporting defeats in 24 hours (well more likely 25 and a half hours) possible?

Andy Murray's (adopted as "'inglish yeh") defeat, England cricketers continuing their hot form in the one day game and the grown men playing in junior school PE kits failing to overcome their demons against the Croats. We've got the first casualty so far, the huge media pressure (and a combative, powerful and instinctively more offensive opponent) scuppering Mr Murray's chances of claiming what could (but surely won't) turn out to be an illusive grand slam. If he can change his game from running after the ball for longer than his opponent can/is willing to before getting bored, then maybe he can become the success that he himself demands. The best players today are certainly nowhere near as passive. The more often you chance your arm, the better you get.

Of the three, the safest bet goes on the cricketers, while England's bowling has been impressive, the balance of their team has not. Picking a side which has six (and a half if Ravi Bopara is included) serviceable bowlers it is of very little surprise that the most brittle batting order in world cricket looks that little bit worse. A tail starting at six, a top order terrorized by the fresh and sparkling Brett Lee and a series which is two or four games too long has become the blueprint for white ball disaster. Real car crash tv.

The only real spanner in the works here is the round ball chaps, with a squad boasting such illustrious names as Lescott, Lennon and Barry. The combined talent of these three foul cretin alone surely leaves the Argentinians, Italians and even Brazilians quaking in their boots. England sit in a comfortable position in what is, on paper close to the weakest group for qualification. What this is brining though are some delusions of grandeur, dreams of world cup drumming and football coming home.

Take for instance Gareth Barry, a £12,000,000 signing. Does he look it? Of course, he's become England's sideways passing, clumsy tackling and brain-dead holding midfield supremo over the past year. Caught in possession time and again, lacking the pace of even the sluggish John Terry, our friend Barry has become the pin up boy for the new top tier standard of international football. Great in the Premier League where week after week he comes up against such greats as Sean Davis and Teemu Tainio, who really can't come close to providing the competition for space and time of the players of Spain, Holland and to a lesser extent Croatia. But thats fine.

This is what Capello and crew are stuck with, yes, they have some good players, maybe even world class players but they are slotted into a ragtag squad of the almost's and never will be's . There is little left for the likes of Lennon to prove, we've seen time again his pace causes havoc up against the likes of George McCartney and similar equine beasts of burden but the lack of end product is both demoralizing and is becoming truly symbolic of English football.

I Am Legend

After reading the Richard Matheson novel in the last few days, it has become one of my favorites of any genre. After seeing the film adaptation, I Am Legend, the book comparatively takes on a harder edge. The chapters describing the encounters with the dog are horribly moving and tense, it paints the bleakest and most extraordinary picture of the world within which only one man remains. The horrible desperation of routine becomes a greater pain that the destruction of the world and vile vampire plague.

Where the film falls down in comparison is possibly due to the quality of its opening hour. The wonderful camera work and excellent one man role, played by Will Smith, in the beautifully ruined future the film comes to life. From thereon the film struggles to reach the same heights and the climax that never really comes is surprising. The weak ending doesn't do real justice to the ceremonial reverence for which the last man alive is held by the new generation of vampires.

After checking Wikipedia, I found out about The Omega Man. Of course the name is near perfect and the lead man again is very strong, Charlton Heston takes up the roll (and name) of Robert Neville. Again an excellent opening hour with superb set and camera work paints a wonderful world, full of the horrors of post nuclear anti-civilization. Again the ending is weak. There is also another film adaptation of the novel by the name of The Last Man On Earth. Which may be worth a look but maybe again it will highlight the pitfalls of adapting such a strong novel to the screen.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Inbox

I have received 17 emails from Friday to Sunday. All but two being spam/advertising/spamvertising. Based on these statistics (the most reliable possible) that suggests that only 12% (11.76%) are actual useful correspondence.
That aside, I'm fairly pleased to announce, within a much longer time period, ten weeks, I've read eight complete books. Chances are that I have read more words of spam than print. To go back to the percentiles; I've had untapped internet access for 50% of my life. Several thousand emails (62,000ish actually), I'm still yet to consider a spam filter.

Today I'm looking forward to another display of sporting prowess from England's other sports team. After yesterdays poor showing, attributed mainly to a better than average defensive display from a less than gifted set of opponents. Considering the opening goal came from equal parts poor refereeing and fairly lowly cheating from the player who ever so foolishly (hindsight, of course, is still king) commented during the week of his overwhelming urge to never cheat and certainly not dive. Dive, maybe he didn't, but to accept the award of the penalty while all around him players from both sides displayed their dismay at the decision is as good as cheating. Deceit is deceit, however and whoever you are deceiving.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Maybe

Maybe I'm getting old (20) but it seems that the once promised land of drinking, loud music and interpretive dance have lost their sparkle. Of course clubs, clubbing and clubbers (a fairly wretched term) are big business now. Really I think my shift in opinion over two years comes down to music, where the average commercial playlist is flatteringly described with the statement "Blows my mind the shit music that brainless morons love..."
Of course the simple answer is vote with your feet. I don't need to hear this rubbish but maybe, secretly, I want to.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Team

As the transfer window shuts for the Premier League, the sad news is broken that the super transfer totaliser is down 10% on the same point last season. Still £450 million changing hands isn't that bad.
So hastily assembled squads with managers under the most enormous pressure prepare to do battle. But not for another 10 days. So congratulations to the powers that be producing an almighty anti-climax. In a country so steeped in football heritage, how has it come to this? For a game with fairly simple rules, played over 90 minutes between 22 players (plus subs) to become so outrageously hyped up is ridiculous.
The best and most exciting league in the world? Manchester United v Arsenal, perhaps. But Portsmouth v Bolton? Two teams on zero points after four games. Between them they have mustered just three goals (Pompey managed a disallowed goal against Manchester City, but they quite clearly don't count). Exciting? Not much chance.