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Posts Tagged ‘oneaday

#oneaday 12 – My Local

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As I am freshly back from the pub, it seems only appropriate to do a post on that wondrous venue that is my former local: The Lord Nelson

This is a lovely friendly pub near the south end of the Isle of Dogs. As well as a pool table and choice of chairs and sofas, the pub boasts a large selection of tabletop games. Most notable of these – WH Stumble. It’s like Jenga only cheaper.

Star of television and iPlayer, The Lord Nelson is featured as the pub setting for bizarre BBC3 puppet comedy Mongrels

There’s a pub quiz every other Tuesday, £1 entry and maximum number of 6 people per team. There are 6 rounds of 10 questions, plus a table round on paper that you complete throughout the quiz. Winners get… y’know what? I have no idea what the winners get. The team that comes last wins a bottle of wine and has to do a speech. There’s also a last-person-standing True/False round that wins a bottle of wine, so plenty of opportunities for free booze. Presumably the winners get some share of the entry fee.

There’s a lending library. I say lending – I borrowed a copy of Robert Heinlein’s Friday about 2 years ago. Lucky they don’t charge fees. Yeah, the library has a hefty bias towards fantasy and sci-fi. I just picked up Oliver Bowden’s Assassin’s Creed Renaissance tonight. Must remember to bring it back

Isle of Dogs is nerdcore central.

Written by Weefz

9 February, 2011 at 12:44 am

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#oneaday 11 – Believing in Simplicity

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Hearing Roman Catholic monks doing an actual Gregorian chant in a stone hall before the evening meal was perhaps the most chillingly beautiful experience of my life.

The Franciscan monk we were visiting in Rome apologised for the simplicity of the meal. Only 3 types of egg, 5 types of cheese, 4 types of bread and 6 types of vegetable were on offer.

After the meal, we climbed to the monastary roof and looked over the Vatican City, gleaming in the setting December sun.

It seemed like a normal family Christmas holiday at the time. In hindsight…?

Written by Weefz

19 January, 2011 at 2:59 am

#OneADay10 – Disorganisation

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Taxes are a bitch when you’re no longer on the PAYE system. This is one of the things that I did not foresee when I resigned from the NHS.

I freelance. Lots of companies don’t want the hassle of dealing with an individual, so they prefer you to bill as a limited company. I set one up.

I own a bunch of websites, mostly monetised through Google Adsense but partially through affiliate schemes. This is in the vain hope that one day, someone will click on an affiliate link and proceed all the way to purchase with my tracking cookie still enabled, or within my allotted 30 minutes, or whatever the restriction happens to be for that particular program. Unfortunately for me, I only signed up with affiliate program aggregating company SkimLinks this year. What I actually have is 7 separate accounts with 7 separate affiliate schemes, all offering slightly different things in slightly different currencies. I also do the occasional sponsored post through ebuzzing and post sponsored videos from UnrulyMedia.

My websites are hosted with 5 different hosting companies. Some of them are UK based, some are US based – this means I get charged in US dollars. I pay most of my hosting costs monthly but one of them offered a significant discount if I paid 2 years up-front, so I did that.

One of my websites covers food and nutrition advice so I decided that the websites should fall under the umbrella of my limited company, just in case some fool reads something I wrote, gets fat or has an allergic reaction and decides to sue me. I’m still figuring out how to make that transition official given that all the websites pre-date the company.

The tax people tell me that I have to convert all the non-UK payments into their UK equivalents at the time of payment. The bank people tell me that I can’t view an entire years’ worth of statements online. My accountant tells me that there’s no “official” way to transfer ownership of a website from me to my company.

For an information manager, I have managed this shockingly badly. In my defense, this particular system has grown organically around 5 years of blogging and I never thought I’d be doing this full-time.

Morals of the story:

  • Don’t quit your day job in the middle of a tax year
  • If you really must do 1., earn enough money to hire a damn accountant

I may need to sell my websites to myself. Wonder if I can charge VAT on that…

Written by Weefz

18 January, 2011 at 12:47 am

#OneADay 9 – Tron Legacy WTF?

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So, I enjoyed Tron for the most part. Shiny lights means SCIENCE and we certainly got plenty of lights. Also some fabulous costumes, amazing disc battles and very cool multi-dimensional light cycle battles.

Medium-sized spoilers follow. You have only yourself to blame.

On the other hand, the story of an epic struggle across a foreboding landscape was rather marred by a train which took our intrepid heroes straight to their destination. Also, the penultimate battle between the corrupted Tron and Sam Flynn was… well, as far as I was concerned, it was a complete what-the-fuck-just-happened? Tron is pulling off some incredible flying pursuit moves, is on the verge of blowing the crap out of these evil invaders and then suddenly… Oops! My bad. I’ll go kill this other guy instead.

As usual, I asked The Internet what had happened – maybe I blinked and missed something? Had forgotten that one of my old school friends (who has chosen to remain anonymous) spent a year working on the Tron game. Here’s her take on it.

What was unclear in the movie was that unlike Flynn, CLU can only alter existing code, not rewrite it. So, when it came to Tron, CLU couldn’t take full control of him. The idea was supposed to be that Tron was the most resilient and powerful Basic out there, so CLU could only hack a hotfix that was just barely containing him. Hotfixing works well when the Creator is hiding in the Outlands, but have the Creator barking your name at you and stuff starts to unwind. I don’t think that was clear enough in the movie, which is a shame, because it ties into that whole idea of Flynn reuniting with everyone important that was pushed away by his mistakes/ego.

Incidentally, the whole Tron-falling-into-the-sea-of-simulation thing at the end, which hints that it revives his energy, is a huge deal because the Sea of Simulation was supposed to be poisoned (presumably by CLU). If it’s working again, that could mean that more ISOs can be born, which changes everything. (Of course, the whole importance of the ISOs thing — and the horror of the purge — was skimmed over in the movie as well. Sigh.)

…There are a lot of subtleties in the timeline/history that the movie didn’t dive deeply enough into, in my opinion… I was shocked that people thought the movie storyline was thin until I realized that I was filling in a ton of gaps from my head. :P (The Zuse scene, in particular, is far more powerful after dealing with him in the game. Also, the two ISOs that are shown emerging from the Sea in the flashback are two very important characters in the game/comics.)

… the Sea of Simulation working again thing is just a theory…one that I hope is correct. ;)

Yeah, CLU barely containing him with a hotfix? Code being repaired just by shouting a name? Not communicated in the film so much.

Does this help shed some light on your understanding of the Tron universe?

Written by Weefz

17 January, 2011 at 8:39 pm

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#OneADay 8 – Trying New Things

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About twice a year, usually during one of my fool television DVD marathons, I get struck with yet another existential crisis. I start worrying about what I’m doing with my life, why I’m not more successful, what I should be doing instead of playing games, reading books and watching TV.

This happened to me again today. I’ve been tweeting about Babylon 5, games and alcohol a lot lately and had a sudden attack of “omg, I am turning into a complete one-dimensional nerd.” So, rather than thinking this out for myself I tweeted out a question.

I think I need a non-nerd interest. Any suggestions? Preferably something that requires neither skills nor talent.

Great responses came flying in:

Laser Quest – done it. Fun with a good crowd.
Whiskey connoisseur – good suggestion but I don’t like whiskey/whisky enough to want to learn
Origami – mastered the paper crane and the ball. Everything else requires too much precision and just pisses me off when I screw it up
Knitting – tried it. Knitted a beige scarf that was 3 inches wide and about 4 feet long. No use to man nor beast
Baking – I do bake. Victoria sponge, cupcakes and choc chip cookies are my favourites :)
Running – tried it. I hate running. Also, it aggravates my sciatica :P
Sneaking up behind small children and scaring them – Um… no thanks. Angry parents are scary.
Hill walking – done a bit around Bournemouth in the past. Boooring.
Just walking – That’s not even a hobby!
Crochet – Tried a bit with my mom. It’s okay, I guess. A possibility for the future.
Learn bass guitar – done it. I played bass guitar in a high school band for 3 years :) Mostly Metallica covers.
Train weevils to gurn – lolwhut?

So, yeah. Got me thinking and you know what? I have done a LOT of stuff. In addition to the above, I’ve tried…

Playing keyboards, playing the recorder, violin lessons, choir singing, cross-stitching, basketball, netball, ball juggling, diablo (not the game), devil stick, unicycle, jewellery-making, fishing, swinging through trees, motorcycling, tarot-card reading, amateur dramatics, mountain climbing, Pilates, power-lifting, rock climbing, canopy walking (not my pics), sailing, kayaking, pool, snooker, table-tennis, faith healing (receiving, not performing), smallbore target rifle, fullbore target rifle, live stage photography (burlesque show, NSFW), clay pigeon shooting, paintballing, first-aid, snorkelling, jet-skiing, water skiing, bodyboarding, snowboarding, mountain biking (and the scars to prove why I shouldn’t do it), studio photography, Irish soft-shoe dancing, locking (dance), ceroc (dance), watercolour painting, pottery, video presenting, and podcasting.

And that’s not even covering work-related qualifications (too boring to list here) or sexual experimentation (none of your damn business).

I don’t need to try new things. I need to focus on what I’m already doing. Expect a whole bunch of posts over the next week while I catch up on One A Day.

Written by Weefz

17 January, 2011 at 3:02 am

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#OneADay 7 – On Shit-Stirring

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Here’s a series of tweets from earlier in the week that I’m sure you’ve all heard about.

http://bit.ly/dWRNdz “but only Game Informer has them. I’ve chopped off the logos from three of them and made them RPS size”
@deanbmmv, 5th Jan

@deanbmmv Please remove those images or we’ll seek legal action.
@Andrew_Reiner, 5th Jan

@Andrew_Reiner I just linked some great RPS humour
@deanbmmv, 5th Jan

@deanbmmv Oh sorry. I thought you posted that. :)
@Andrew_Reiner, 5th Jan

Lol. editor of game informer just threatened me with legal action for linking to Rockpapershotgun :P http://bit.ly/f3a3Bj
@deanbmmv, 5th Jan

@botherer GI figure out that I’m not you? Got a tweet off their EiC threatenong legal action. Humorous for me. I’d imagine not for you.
@deanbmmv, 5th Jan

.@Andrew_Reiner just threatened a random twitter user with “LEGAL ACTION” for linking to Rock Paper Shotgun. Classy move, man. Nice one.
@MikeWehner, 5th Jan

@MikeWehner Mistakes happen. We hugged it out. Class partially restored.
@Andrew_Reiner, 5th Jan

And how does it get reported?

The cropped Tomb Raider images illustrating this article – which was essentially a long-winded link to Game Informer’s site – have been removed. This is because Game Informer – after threatening our readers on Twitter – sent us a legal threat of our very own.
John Walker, Rock Paper Shotgun, 5th Jan

Very responsible there, Walker. Technically, yes, the facts are accurate. I guess the rapid apology and admission of mistake was too boring to mention. Cue rabid foaming at the mouth from journalists and gamers on both sides (see the comments section).

God, I hope I never make a mistake on the Internet.

Written by Weefz

9 January, 2011 at 5:07 pm

#OneADay 6 – In Which I Have Nothing Worthwhile to Say

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So, it’s day 6 of one a day and I’ve already run out of inspiration. Well, not exactly. But my previous few posts have been all SUPER SERIOUS STUFF and I want to do something frivolous.

Dark turquoise robot clockI shall describe the cute stuff on my desk, which – thanks to my ever-increasing Twitter obsession – is more and more resembling a collection of… well… shit. Hang on, I started this project to improve my writing skills so really that sentence calls for a metaphor of some kind, doesn’t it?

…on my desk, which is groaning under the detritus from an autumn’s worth of promotional tat.

It’s not a metaphor, but I guess it’s marginally better than saying a collection of shit. Both are true. However, interspersed among the conference-going tat, unfiled bank statements, redundant stationery (does anyone need 11 pens and 2 rolls of sticky tape on their PC desk? Really?) and things-I-should-be-dealing-with-but-am-not, are some lovely little gems.

My square-headed robot clock, pictured above. He was a leaving present from my last permanent position – the one I was at for two years. Proper solid metal with 5 points of articulation, no less. I love him to bits.

I also have a little pink bear, whom I have named Little Pink Bear. I have a string voodoo pirate with a drawing pin peg leg, whom I have named Pirate Dude* and then I have this.

Cyooooots on mah desk

What is he? My bf picked him up from MCM. Some kind of Japanese yeti, perhaps? Answers below, please. I can’t name him without knowing what he is.

—-
*I also have a polar bear named Frank.

Written by Weefz

7 January, 2011 at 12:22 am

#OneADay 4 – Moar Science Pl0x

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How bloody brilliant is this week’s Stargazing Live show on the BBC? When I first heard about it, I thought it would be one of those terribly dull documentaries with endless shots of constellations drawn on a night sky and some bollocks about the history of their names. It’s not that at all.

Presented by Prof Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain, it’s a lovely mix of piss-taking, real science, woo-debunking and pissing about with props. Yesterday we were warned about the dangers of being in hotels during 2012 (O’Briain says that the planets will align and all the hotels will collapse. Cox says he’s talking crap). Today we had a serious scientific question about the frequencies of stars. Of course, I have no idea what the question, nor the answer was because I was too busy giggling at O’Briain asking it through a helium squeak but I was entertained and it does make science much more appealing.

This the crux of it, really. When one of the UK’s leading entertainers has to ask how long it takes light to reach us from a galaxy 2.5 million light years away… clearly there’s a need for more emphasis on science in this country. Blending comedy with proper education on prime time television with a presenter who is clearly passionate about his subject (Cox) is a great help.

And finally, get yourself and all your friends a ticket to next May’s national science tour, Uncaged Monkeys around the UK. Featuring… Ben Goldacre, Prof Brian Cox, Simon Singh and Robin Ince. Should be a great show.

Written by Weefz

4 January, 2011 at 9:50 pm

#OneADay 3 – Selling Out?

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I sold out today. I guess. That’s how some would describe it.

I know more than a few people who refuse to accept advertising or payment for websites because it would dilute the integrity of their art, or some shit. I don’t know what they really believe but I honestly, truly and with all my heart simply CANNOT understand how taking money for doing something you were going to do anyway is selling out. Even better, taking money for something you love to do. Reviewers are paid for their opinions, are they not?

[Questioning aside: Is it possible to write a review without expressing your personal opinion? If all you do is describe features, well... that's not a review. It's marketing copy.]

Of course there are plenty of ways that you can sell out. In the NHS we have strict policies on this. Obviously you can’t have doctors in the pay of pharmaceutical companies. Big pharma… how we put this delicately? Doesn’t always have the best interests of patients in mind.

Doctors and other employees are perfectly entitled to invest in pharmaceutical and medical technology companies; they just need to declare those interests and are thereby excluded from purchasing decisions. They’re also perfectly free to evangelise about the latest, greatest Guidant pacemaker or extol the virtues of Medtronic new equine heart valve and how it could lead to the lowest comorbidity rates in the hospital’s history. They’re medical consultants after all – they know what’s best for our patients.

When it comes to gifts – well, any gift to an individual that’s worth over £25 must be declared to the Trust. Around Christmas time you’ll see a plethora of calendars, mugs, pens, letter organisers, all lovingly embossed with Spiriva, Crestor, Viagra, Procoralan. All perfectly reasonable, m’ludd. We’re just popping off to lunch now, would you like to come along? You don’t have a clinic scheduled this afternoon, do you?

But let’s face it – I’m running a games review site. One of my must-preserve-my-artistic-integrity friends was running a site that showed you live indie band gigs according to the nearest Tube station. We’re not exactly dealing with life-or-death here, nor spending millions of pounds of public money.

[Fun taxpayers' aside - Did you know that an NHS coronary artery bypass graft (heart bypass) costs between to £8,000 and 12,000 per patient? God I loved it when those patients came down in the lift after being discharged and went straight to the vending machine for a king-sized Mars bar >.< ]

This is the thing about games review sites. We all appear to be funded by games companies. I've seen some objections to free review copies of games but the reality is that if we had to buy games at retail prices, we'd all be bankrupt. Return on investment would mean that indie games don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting coverage and the games press would be even more biased towards those with a large marketing budget. How about accepting payment for impressions? Sponsored posts – accepting money to write about a specific game? It's entirely my decision as to whether or not I give an unwarranted positive review – money changing hands does not equate to a loss of "artistic" integrity.

Rather more nebulous are things like the COD:BlOps helicopter holiday. I must admit, I find it strange that they praise Joystiq for choosing to pay for a smaller hotel room. How the heck is having your company pay for a small hotel room any different from having Activision pay for a large hotel room? A free holiday is a free holiday. At the end of it all, it still comes down to one person playing part of a game and making a choice as to whether or not it is worth £40, does it not? Isn’t that why we read reviews?

What I really don’t understand is why the tech/family/ethnic minority marketers aren’t working in the independent games blogger space. This is where the damage is done, of course – games sites being pressured to pull negative articles under the threat of losing funding. Looking at Quantcast (and how they get their numbers is a mystery to me) the US segment of my games site has a clear market appeal towards parents, people who earn under US$30k, Asians and Hispanics and people who have no college education. Surely somewhere in those segments is an interest that goes beyond gaming? Are we all so conditioned by Google AdSense that we compartmentalise our browsing habits to the extent that there’s no value in running non-games ads on a games site?

[edit: Good lord, Rock Paper Shotgun has an Intel advertisement running. More of this, please]

However you feel about journalist ethics and advertising, I ran my first site takeover advertisements today. And BioWare fangirl that I am, I’m glad that I popped my cherry with Dragon Age 2.

Written by Weefz

3 January, 2011 at 11:57 pm

#OneADay 2 – Are We Normal Yet?

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Way back during the whole kerfuffle about Blizzard and RealID, I wrote this:

When a potential employer is googling names off a pile of hundreds of CVs, is he going to click through and read my proven successful point-by-point tactic for taking down that rare elite? Of course he’s fucking not. He’s going to see my name, see the phrase “World of Warcraft” and decide that I’m a fat spotty loser with no social skills who probably lives in my parents’ basement.
Me – When Journalism Meets Naivety: CrunchGear Edition (The Average Gamer)

I’ve been experimenting over the past couple of months and my hunch seems to be bearing true. As you know, I’ve been self-employed since July. I’m casually looking for full-time employment but mostly doing exciting games-related things so I do send out CVs now and then. Back when I had nothing but the NHS on my profile? Loads of interview requests. Now that my most recent employment includes “Reporter for the London Games Festival 2010″ and “Editor-in-Chief of The Average Gamer”, I get zero interest.

Just to put this into perspective, in my last NHS job – and please forgive me if this sounds like boasting; not my intention – I managed multiple simultaneous (sometimes even successful) projects worth 4 million pounds of public money. Shouldn’t that kind of experience warrant at least a telephone interview? It did, until I started including my games activity to fill the 6 month gap.

Now, I’m not saying this is definitely the cause, but its certainly a correlation. I’m gonna spend January applying to as many project manager jobs as I can and track which CV version gets a higher response rate.

I’ll leave you with another quote:

In this way, the process of becoming an effective World of Warcraft guild master amounts to a total-immersion course in leadership. A guild is a collection of players who come together to share knowledge, resources, and manpower. To run a large one, a guild master must be adept at many skills: attracting, evaluating, and recruiting new members; creating apprenticeship programs; orchestrating group strategy; and adjudicating disputes. Guilds routinely splinter over petty squabbles and other basic failures of management; the master must resolve them without losing valuable members, who can easily quit and join a rival guild. Never mind the virtual surroundings; these conditions provide real-world training a manager can apply directly in the workplace.
John Seely Brown – You Play World of Warcraft? You’re Hired! (Wired)

What’s been your experience of mixing games and workplace culture? Is playing video games accepted as normal yet?

Written by Weefz

2 January, 2011 at 10:35 pm

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