Category Archives: Fluffrick

Me Made May 2013 – Local Man Wears Shirt, Looks Shifty…

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Oddly enough, I’ve never modelled…

Never underestimate the influence of your better half.

Mrs Rolling Eyeballs – for it is her work – has enlisted my help in spreading awareness of Me Made May (Yes, it’s the fifth month of the year already.  Let’s try not to think about what this means for the increasing flow of sand cascading remorselessly through our personal egg timers and beckoning ever closer the dread fingers of Death…).

Mrs RE has been taking part in this celebration of upcycling, clothes fabrication and fashion-based frugality for a few years now and has been decent enough to make me clothes and accessories of a hand-made and artisan nature, so it seems only fair that I do my bit to show that you don’t have to buy expensive brand names and stoke the fires of globalisation.

Henceforth, for one month only, please expect a smattering of pictures of your humble blogger looking awkward and wondering why the camera appears to add not only ten pounds but a whole mess of existential angst to boot…

The garment depicted above is a baseball-style jersey, which comes replete with bespoke tag at the collar and is superbly comfy.  There’s also lovely sewing details at the collar and cuffs which adds subtle visual interest.  I really do like it – and you’ll be seeing similar entries rendered into being by my wife’s DIY sewing talents in posts to be named later…

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Hagrid’s Holiday

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Hagrid, being the considerate Doggie lad that he is, has just taken us on holiday to the Isle of Arran – which has led to a disagreeable downturn in blog productivity of late.  Many apologies, but the perambulatory requirements of a splendid Saluki/Standard Poodle mix must be taken seriously, I’m sure you’ll agree.

As you can see from the image above, he was very taken with Scotland, this being his first visit since coming to live with us last Spring.   Lots of beaches, very few other dogs out for walks at the same time as him and weather which was mostly on our side – what canine could ask for more?

Hagrid and Mrs Rolling Eyeballs on Kildonan Beach, Isle of Arran, February 2013

Hagrid and Mrs Rolling Eyeballs on Kildonan Beach, Isle of Arran, February 2013

He was very taken with the scampering opportunities offered by the likes of Kildonan beach, Sannox and Blackwaterfoot Beach on Arran – as any doggie of distinction and taste would be.  If your dog likes to stretch their legs and go for a good old run, Arran is a fine place to consider for their next family break – if they are sufficiently generous, they might even allow you to tag along.

Word to the wise - if Hagrid is running like this at you, getting out of the way is a given...

Word to the wise – if Hagrid is running like this at you, getting out of the way is a given…

It was a particularly lovely holiday, especially as living in a city doesn’t allow you to let a big dog like Mr H. off his lead every day – particularly as some of his more challenging behaviour traits mean that he’s on a lead for the vast majority of his time.  It’s inspired us to be braver with him and find places local to us where he can have a run and stretch out his paws to the fullest of their capabilities, as well as investigating dog-appeasing pheramone collars to see if they can stop some of his overly reactive behaviour to every dog he sees.

Wish us luck, won’t you?

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Rogue Failure. Or ‘How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love the Paragon’

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I am not and never have been a rebel.  In life, as in gaming, I tend to follow a path of general decency and behaving unto others as I would wish for them to treat me – it isn’t cool, it rarely yields great rewards and marks you out to others in the world as being even more of a nerd than they expect you to be.  Thankless existence, unto eternity?  You said it.

I am, dear reader, a Paragon, a Paladin, a White Hat – and I’m ok with it.

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My current favourite gaming experience, the omnipresent “Kingdoms of Amalur”, gives me the chance to play as a rogue class ranged fighter and what I’ve discovered from my now 52 hours of game play is that I’m absolutely useless when given the choice to exercise bad behaviour in games.  ‘Amalur’, for example, gives your levelled-up Rogue class the chance to use your stealth ability to sneak up on adversary and ally alike and either shank them assassin style or simply pickpocket them for nifty loot.

Curiously, I find it more morally acceptable and preferable to sneak up on humanoid aggressors and slice them six ways to Sunday than to go creeping around the game world and cut purses or rifle through wallets – how’s that for a bizarre reaction to choices that a game designer provides you with?   I’d like to think that it doesn’t prove that I’m a sociopath-in-waiting but it does give you pause.

It’s this odd disconnect between real world personal conviction and the options inherent in a video game environment  which has kept me from playing sandbox gangster titles like “Saints Row”, “Mafia” and the grand-daddy of them all, “Grand Theft Auto”.  If I can’t envisage ever wanting to be the characters or inhabiting their world, there’s no way that I’m going to play the title – it’s probably a Boy Scout reaction to the criminal anti-hero archetype but there you go.

That’s not to say that I require characters in-game to be Peter Pureheart and impossibly, impractically noble as that option offers as much of a game-breaking flaw as glitch code or poor design decisions but I don’t want to play games where the protagonist’s raison etre is slaying innocent bystanders and arbitrarily causing car crashes.  It’s just not how I’m wired, folks.

I suppose the point that I’m grasping towards is that I like being offered choice about what I do in games – perhaps I should make 2013 the year that I start to take advantage of those choices and see where they take me in games?

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Hagrid’s Feeling For Snow…

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We took Hagrid for a walk in the overnight snow which blanketed the UK on Monday morning – he wasn’t that keen, you’ll be surprised to learn.

Sure, he pads about in the curious white carpet which has unceremoniously deposed his normal pavements and parkland, and he has a sniff about, but he’s just not that into it.

Where are the smells?  And why do his paws not have as much traction as normal?  What’s this cold stuff on the end of his nose?  And why is it drastically reducing my daily walks from two to one longish one?  So many canine questions, so very few answers…

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Snowpocalypse? Nopocalypse.

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At the end of what is best described as a changeable week for plucky Brits, it’s good to know that some things are always the same.

The threat of a couple of inches of snowfall is sufficient to plunge the UK into a frenzy of addled speculation about the dire consequences of of a wholly predictable spate of wintry weather, with even the likes of your self-flagellating blogger having to confess to frequent F5’ing of his weather site of choice despite common sense indicating that nothing much is going to happen.

At present, Sheffield is witness to a couple of inches – tops – of snow, with more light flurries predicted during the weekend – not exactly the new ice age which most UK tabloids would have us believe is inbound with extreme frosty prejudice.  I imagine Canadian readers of this post must be chuckling into their Tim Hortons cup at the very idea of our January snow panic and wondering just how we would react to an actual outbreak of real weather.

As always, when it comes to scenarios like this, I have to think that Charlie Brooker said it best…

 

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The Mysterious Case of the Sickly Laptop

Well, sort of.

Posts have been slow (well, non-existent) on this blog since Thursday because our lovely laptop was not happy.  A rather unpleasant, grinding sound had begun to emit from my dependable internet conduit on Wednesday of this week, rendering extended usage an unpleasant prospect.

Starting up the machine was a trial, downloading my regular tranche of podcasts was an exercise in ignoring constant background noise and on top of that, my wife now works from home, so a dead or dying laptop was a total non-starter.  Action had to be taken, dag-blast-it!

Dusty, dying computer fan - Flickr image via user R. Berteig.

Dusty, dying computer fan – Flickr image via user R. Berteig.

My first fear was, perhaps naturally, that the hard drive was on the way out and that I was due for a serious wallet-depleting repair session with the attendant data recovery costs which that would imply.  Duly prepared for bad news, we packed up our laptop and took it with us to our nearest PC repair joint and steeled ourselves for bad news.

Bad news, believe it or not, which didn’t actually come.

Our problem was connected to the picture above – the laptop’s fan had died on us.  And why had it died?

You adorable, kooky, computer-killing goof, you!

You adorable, kooky, computer-killing goof, you!

Yep, the computer’s best friend, animal fur.  Our tame computer repair chap rang us before proceeding with the fixes to show us the state of our laptop and it was like a scene from grooming day at a dog styling salon – it really doesn’t help our favourite digital devices to live around two very furry dogs and to have to cope with the shedding and general doggy detritus which accompanies life with a fluffy pal.

Thank the Happy Computer Sentinels for their overwatch duties on our laptop, who’ll soon be back home with us.  This post, in fact, is being written on an old XP based desktop machine which has more than proved its mettle during this weekend and been a real help in a jam – a machine that, ironically, I cracked open to look at in the last year and did some remedial work on.  #

Including cleaning and sorting out its dusty old fan…

 

 

 

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Multi-player Madness?

Money spent on Xbox Live membership by Fluffrick in 2013? Zero pounds!

Microsoft have recently been keen to remind gamers that Xbox Live has been around for a decade – hence e-mails like the one above, which I received this morning.

I might rather have received one of these, but as I live in Europe (and we don’t matter to Microsoft), I’ll just be happy that they deigned to send me an e-mail which has reminded me of something crucial – my Xbox Live Gold membership is the nerd equivalent of the gym membership that I don’t use.

My taste in games has always skewed towards the solitary and offline – a good percentage of the Role Playing games that I spend my time with don’t really bother with online modes and competitive functionality – and so it really doesn’t make that much sense for me to spend the price of a new game on a service which I don’t actually use.  Sure, Mass Effect 3 has a suite of multiplayer options but it’s not really the kind of thing which appeals to me – plugging wave after wave of NPC’s in the company of some random dude who doesn’t speak/plays music down his headset or regale you with his unsolicited neo-Nazi views is not my idea of happy-happy fun times, truth be told.

I’ve tried “Gears of War” multi and “Call of Duty” online (see my previous neo-Nazi comment) and found the experience profoundly wanting – and it’s not just a problem with the 360 audience, as Uncharted 2 on the PS3 had more than a few highly vocal 12-year-old nitwits ready, willing and eager to demonstrate their bigotry and stupidity to all and sundry in matches and lobbies.  I find myself actively wanting to disassociate myself from many of the people who play online on consoles, as this gaming generation has exposed me to people so acutely unpleasant and unrepentantly objectionable that their stupidity can surely only be explained away by being a stunt or deliberate tactic of some kind – gamesmanship employed by people for whom winning is the only goal.

Testify, Wonka – testify!

Yes, we can mute and report people to the enforcement teams on the respective platforms but the point to me is that by the time that you’ve done that, the very last thing that you want to do is venture back online and play against people – I’m fairly soured on the whole notion of competitive play against people who I don’t know.

When my Gold membership expires in a month or two I am pretty certain that I won’t be renewing it. And, you know what?  I’m totally okay with that.

 

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Behold – Old Age!

Oh, Norwegian Black Metal – you make everything funnier…

Huzzah – it’s my 40th birthday!

And to celebrate this momentous transition from the joys of youth to the inexorable call of the grave, my teeth have elected to cause me nominal (but omnipresent) pain.  This, I rather suspect, is a herald of things to come – not that I’m being negative or having the first vestiges of a mid-life crisis or anything…

Mrs Rolling Eyeballs was kind enough to obtain the new Devin Townsend album, “Epicloud” for me as a birthday present and I’m going to be listening to that later on.  I also received “X-Men First Class” on Blu-Ray (I suspect that Rose Byrne‘s presence in the latter might help me forget my grumbling gums for an hour or two) and various vouchers from folk and nice cards, so it’s nice to know that people were bothered enough to celebrate with me (particularly as I didn’t do much shouting about the fact).

If it’s your birthday today too, have a great day and share it with people you love (it makes all the difference…)

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(Not) Lazy Sunday…

How to confuse and bewilder a simple mind with one easy device…

Every family has their resident, unpaid technology whisperers – the one, uniquely calming soul who speaks fluent gadget, effortlessly tweaks new mobile phone settings and performs that most essential of modern miracles, making the internet work.

In my family, I am that unfortunate soul.

The major problem with that, of course, is that I’m entirely self-taught and nowhere near being a network engineer, so the major stuff which goes wrong is absolutely beyond my ken.  Power-cycle a router? Can do.  Install software and do updates?  No problem.  Reinstating an internet connection which is shown as being connected but fervently resisting any attempt to allow any device in the house to connect to the internet?  Utterly bewildering.

After the best part of two hours on the phone with my ISP’s technical support team (and three hours of shutting down, starting up, plugging in ethernet cables and grimacing before that), we finally got the damn thing working again by jiggling a pin in a small, hidden port to reset the device entirely.   It feels insulting, somehow.

Yes, I have tried turning it off and on again…

I’ve had better Sunday afternoons, let me assure you.  But everything appears to be working now and Mrs Rolling Eyeballs has been able to blog again and work so I feel as though my wasted hours of first world problems, switching on and off again, obtaining ethernet cables and obsessive tea drinking were all worth the dubious pleasure of chatting with outsourced call centre staff who couldn’t understand my not especially difficult to understand Northern British accent, wouldn’t accept that my PC’s settings were not located where they expected them to be and the sudden, inexplicable collapse of my laptop battery.

It sounds like a horrendous cliché, but it’s true – you really don’t miss the things you take for granted until they’re snatched away by the dread faeries of soul-crushing tech fail…

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Paralympics for the win!

T54 5,000 metre Gold Medallist, David Weir, winning a thrilling race at the Olympic Stadium in London on Sunday September 2nd. Image via Guardian.co.uk/picture by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

If you’re anything like me – a bitter old cynic, possessed of a smoking husk where his heart once was – this summer has been the proverbial game changer.

I started the year not caring a jot about the Olympics and wishing that the hype would go away – I had no intent of watching the Games and intended to spend the event self-consciously shunning it in a pointless and self-aggrandizing one man protest.

Then the Olympics began.

Picture via Guardian.co.uk/ Image taken by Julian Stratenschulte/EPA

To say that the spectacle, competition and atmosphere won me over is something of an overstatement.   My wife, always a fan of athletics and pretty much any sport which isn’t football, played some part in that conversion by knowing what was going on and explaining the significance of individual races, events and seemed to have a running Team GB medal tally on her person at all times.

The Games ended and I found myself wondering whether the same countrywide fervour and open-minded embrace of all things sporting would extend to the following Paralympic Games – because history seems to indicate that people who’ve just enjoyed the quote-unquote ‘main event’ seem to find their attention wandering when Paralympians converge to compete on the world stage.

Rather brilliantly, and in a way which actually has me slightly tearing up as I type, it would appear that my worries about a mass exodus of interest have been comprehensively quashed as viewing figures in the UK for Channel Four‘s coverage are high and the various stadia for the individual events are attended by enthusiastic fans whose love of Team GB has extended to this utterly inspirational and fantastic display of athletic endeavour.

Without wishing to offend any American readers, I’ll take the exhilarating spectacle of wheelchair basketball over the US ‘Dream Team’ steamrollering their competitors any day of the week.  Similarly, as exciting as it is to watch Usain Bolt routinely smash through the established wisdom of how quickly a human being can run, I found the 200m duel between South African ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorious and Brazilian Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira an utterly riveting race, not least because of its unexpected conclusion.

“Don’t focus on the disability – focus on the ability” was Pistorious’ request to the media (and by extension, the World) prior to the Games opening ceremony and , after nearly a week of fiercely fought and utterly compelling sport, who would argue with his assessment?  That these athletes face unique physical challenges before ever getting to compete is obvious a key factor in the existence of this competition but the obvious thing to take away from the Paralympics is that this competition is every bit the equal of the Olympics in terms of quality, thrills and inspiration.

I find myself wondering why we don’t get to see this kind of competition on a more regular basis on TV – Channel Four have been doing a brilliant job in the run-up to London 2012 of positioning Paralympians and their sporting disciplines into their schedule and making sure that we knew the Games were on their way but I now wonder whether this commitment to athletes with physical challenges will extend beyond the end of this Summer.

Isn’t this the kind of sport which belongs on Channel Four – whose remit has traditionally been to offer perspectives on the world which are outside the norm?  I like to think so and I really hope that they continue to bring us more of this brilliant, life-affirming sports coverage long after the glory and ceremony of the London Games have faded from memory.  Give me real athletes like those of Paralympic Team GB rather than the overpaid, talent-light, half-wits of the Football Premiership any day of the week

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