The Sound of One Mind Emptying

Saturday, the 25th December 2010

Happy Saturnalia!

I generally hate Xmas music with a passion of which you can only dream. However, Carol of the Bells is a tune I really like. Of course, it was originally intended as a Ukrainian song for the Ukrainian New Year/Spring (April), but was later adapted to a Christmas song.

This is one of the best versions out there. Without a doubt. Unfortunately, embedding of this version is disabled, but I strongly recommend you go take a listen at the awesome Transiberian Orchestra.

Meanwhile, for lovers of H. P. Lovecraft, here's an alternate re-wording of that spring song.

Happy Saturnalia!
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Wednesday, the 22nd December 2010

Simon's Cat

The other animations are worth checking out also, but this one is particularly relevant for the weather, I think.

Friday, the 17th December 2010

Snow joke!

How do you know when there's a snowman in your bed?
You wake up wet!

A bad joke for bad weather. Last night, at the conclusion of our gaming session, we talked briefly about the weather. Guy had been late getting back from work (gone 8pm) because the car he was getting a lift in got snowed in. When Kim asked whether he'd be going in to work or would phone in due to the snow we looked at the weather report. Snow. In Cardiff. Both me and Owen, without hesitation both made the same claims: "Meh, it's Cardiff. We don't really get snow in Cardiff all that much." There was no real hint that it would be particularly bad, aside from the cold evening.

This morning, my mother woke me with a call asking if she could leave the car on my street. The road over the mountain was closed and there was an accident on the other main road, so she was going to leave the car with me and catch the train. I was a little confused with the wording: "Can I get the car to your road?" Well, why wouldn't you?

Opening the curtains, I had not expected to see it so white. Everything was white with several inches. Inches! Cardiff doesn't normally do inches. It usually operates on metric and does a few millimetres to a centimetre at best, but this was the kind of depth you really have to switch to inches to do it justice.

The sun was actually shining and the sky was blue, so the snow was all so dazzling white. Now, of course, it's snowing heavily again and the snow is just white white. Even as I write this, I just got a phone call from my mother telling me that she got back home. When she left my home, there was a train due in about 15 minutes. She walked cautiously and missed the train. However, when the train was announced there was a cheer from the platform. Apparently, every train before that had been cancelled.

This is pretty serious snow for Cardiff. The bus services have stopped running, even the trains are affected, though I saw a Royal Mail van still delivering parcels! That's impressive.
We all have such an idyllic Xmas card idea of the romantic White Christmas, but the reality is that snow messes things up. It may look pretty but it screws around with public transport, and this close to Christmas is risks people not getting to be with their families, etc. It's a less than ideal situation.

Yes, the snow is pretty. Yes, walking in the snow is kind of nice. Do I like it? Hell, no.

Friday, the 26th November 2010

We're screwed!

From the first moment I chose to play a bard in D&D, I kept humming in my head "We're screwed" to the tune of "Hey Jude". Finally, I wrote it down but it was several sessions before, finally, it was appropriate for it to have its premier last night. With the assistance of co-gamer and the far more talented singer, Chrissy Bowdery, we sung this, complete with a karaoke version of the tune playing on the computer.

So, for your enjoyment, here are the lyrics to We're Screwed, sung to the tune of Hey Jude:

We're screwed, it's really bad.
We took a good plan and did another.
Remember you should have aimed for the heart
Now we're apart and it's all over.

We're screwed, so be afraid.
We were meant to go out and get them.
The minute we let them under our skin,
We were done in, now it's all bedlam.

And I can't run now for the sprain, I'm screwed, the pain
Blood's trickling down between my shoulders.
For well you that it's not cool to play the fool
By running away as I grow colder.

We're screwed, you let me down
Now this hell on earth is unfettered
So remember now that you've gone astray
You'd better pray I don't get better. (better better)

Don't let it out of the box it's in, we're screwed, so screwed
Everything's gone to hell and it's all over
So you thought you could save your own skin, you're screwed, it's sin,
We are all in this shit-storm together

We're screwed, make no mistake.
We should have listened to everything
The moment that anything fell apart
Was time to start to make with the
running, screaming, begging, pleading, please don't eat me, NOOOOooo.....!

Iä iä iä iä iä, iä iä iä, we're screwed...etc.

Thursday, the 4th November 2010

How to build lots of video files and still sleep

So, circumstances mean that I'm using the Beast to create lots of video files for the show on Monday/Tuesday. Unfortunately, this means using an old version of Premiere on a very slow computer, which means that most builds (even of only about 10 seconds) takes on average 13 minutes to render. Horrendously slow, but my faster machine just won't output the codecs correctly.

I got a lot of files to render and another downside with the software is that I can't set up a render queue and just let it build all of the files I need at once, not without having to hack them down into smaller chunks again which would be equally tedious and annoying.

I needed to keep building through the night otherwise I knew I'd never stand a chance of having the videos the way I wanted them on time. So...

Having resigned myself to losing a lot of sleep anyway, once I started building I went into Olympic-grade powernap mode. I would set the build to start, set my timer to roughly the estimated length (they usually render in just under the estimated time) and then go to bed and shut my eyes. When the alarm went, I'd get up and set the next one to render. It was a mixture of joy and disdain to see a chunk estimate 30+ minutes. On the one hand, I'd get a larger block of napping, on the other hand it meant the project would take even longer to finish.

I cannot believe it, but I actually found myself browsing Intel core Apple Macbook Pros last night, also. I need a Windows laptop, but so long as I keep doing work for St David's Hall, a Macbook might well have it's advantages. The Intel core OSX 10.6+ Macbooks can be set up to dual boot with Windows, which gives me the best of both with the only downside being the annoying single button so probably needing an external mouse for any serious Windows work. The only downside is that the cheapest one I can find is £800+, though that said, if I want to get a suitably powerful laptop I'm looking to pay at least that anyway.

It'll be a long while before I can afford that, I think.

Wednesday, the 3rd November 2010

The Long Week

It's going to be a long and exhausting week for me, that much I know for certain.

It's nearly 3am and I've only just finished spending the day building four video elements for a show I'm working on with Arts Active at St. David's Hall. My history with them tends to have a certain pattern to them, that pattern being a tendency to pull all nighters in order to get the work done on time. This is in no part due to laziness on my part, simply due to the nature of the products and the tight deadlines. It's crazy, it's hard work, but it's fun to do, so I'm not really complaining too much.

Unfortunately, this latest project is happening on the Monday/Tuesday immediately following IndieCon, which means the usual working through the weekend is out and, frankly, any hope of being ready for the tech/dress rehearsal is probably out. This is not so unusual. The past two shows on which I've done video editing for them has usually ended up with the final A/V only coming together for the show itself. This time, I fear, I may be less prepared, however. On the plus side, this is a repeat of a show I did last year. On the down side, I only really get to use, um, two video elements from last year. The nature of the project means that it may as well be a new show from my point of view with me recycling some footage.

I'm getting up in about five hours for a 9am meeting at St. David's Hall to go over the project, then at 11am we're filming the core footage for the show, which then needs to sequenced and edited where needed. That'll probably take me until very late at night. Depending on how I feel, I might do a little more work on Thursday morning, before hopping on a train to IndieCon.

After a weekend of the usual lack of sleep I get at conventions because I'm too busy having fun, it's an earlier than usual return on the Sunday to probably get home and carry on working, possibly even late into the night in time for the, presumably, 9am call on Monday. One long day later, I'll probably need to pull an all-nighter to get everything ready for the show, which I'll then have to operate half-asleep. As usual.

I can sleep when I'm dead! Which at this rate might not be long coming.

Thursday, the 14th October 2010

Almost ready for OddConUK

Well, almost ready for OddConUK. It's been quite stressful the past couple of months. Money has been the root of it for the most part, or lack thereof. Quite fortunately, I've just about got enough to afford to go to OddConUK this year, which is just as well what with me being one of the guys running it!

It's going to be a great turnout. In bookings alone (so, not including walk-ins) we've already surpassed our total for last year. Let's hope we have enough GMs!

Just in case, I've been digging through my old games and I'm taking the following:
  • One of Our Agents Is Missing - Probably the first convention scenario I ever wrote. This two-part Mage: Technocracy game is still a lot of fun to run.
  • Oh Daddy Dear - A spin-off to the Technocracy game, this Hunter: The Reckoning scenario I consider one of my best convention games.
  • The Stanford Redemption - The crazy-ambitious two-part sequel to the above Hunter game, this is also great fun to run.
  • Table 14 - A two-part 1920s Call of Cthulhu game set aboard a four-stack steamer's maiden voyage (what could possibly go wrong?) that's especially fun to run during the opening scene where I'm playing four NPCs simultaneously!
  • We're H.A.P.P.Y. - A straightforward Zap-style Paranoia game, filled with some Classic-style fun.
  • Tournament of Scarlet & White - The first Qin: The Warring States scenario I ever wrote has evolved over the years.
  • The Song of Bamboo Tears - A sequel of sorts to the above Qin game, but with a different flavour.
That's probably more than I'll get a chance to run. For some reason, my pre-printed copy of my Star Wars (WEG) scenario has gone walkabout, so I probably won't be bringing that, alas.

It's also my birthday on Friday (for which I have to get up crazy early to travel), which makes this the second time that I've spent my birthday at a con. The first was the disastrous (for me, at least) GenCon down in Minehead where I got food poisoning and was laid out for most of the following day. Let's hope history does not repeat itself (not sure whether to claim that as pun intended or not).

Wednesday, the 8th September 2010

What the Chuck!?

What a bizarre dream I had last night.

Considering I don't often have dreams with celebrities, let alone ones that I have no real interest in.

A bunch of geeks or geeky criminals had, in the boot of their car, much to their horror and surprised, Chuck Norris, who they had apparently kidnapped by accident. Don't ask me how, they had no idea either. "What the fuck!? How the hell did you manage to kidnap Chuck Norris by mistake?" asked the leader. "We don't know!" cried the hapless mooks. "What do we do?" Over and over, they would open the boot and look at the unconscious body despairing at what to do. However, the last time they open it the boot does that clever film thing of not closing fully and it bounces open slightly, just long enough to see Chuck's eyes wide open, but nobody spots this. Then as the boot rests slightly to a close, shrouding Chuck in darkness, all the 'camera' is left with are his glowing (yes, glowing) blue eyes.

I then promptly woke with an unholy thirst bordering on a dehydration likely to provoke a spiritual awakening. Scrambling to the kitchen to down a couple of glasses of water in quick succession, I then returned to bed, having now denied the world my enlightenment to the nature of the universe.

I very briefly had another dream. This time, two people were desperately trying to rid themselves of a huge tablet the size of a house (yet able to be comfortably carried by two people) upon which were emblazoned Chuck Norris Facts (the only thing I really know about Chuck Norris, considering I have never actually watched one of his films as far as I know). Coming to a part of the road above some houses, a grassy slope leading into the back-gardens of a row of houses, they ditched the tablet, careful not to hit the garden with some people in it. This garden had an estate agent in it, showing around a couple, except this estate agent had a dark secret: he was being stalked by Chuck Norris.

Seriously! What the Chuck!? I don't even rate him beyond the humorous fun 'facts'.

Sometimes I really wonder what the hell goes on in my head when I'm not paying attention.

Friday, the 20th August 2010

Evil Spider Mastermind

Living in a flat with a garden means lots of spiders. You really have to get used to them and you can't afford to be an arachnophobe. Nonetheless, when confronted with a spider the size of my palm, even I couldn't help but feel a little disturbed by its presence. Long ago, at some point in my childhood, I lost the ability to pick up spiders with my hands. I started to find the sensation a little bit... *shiver*. I also don't believe in killing spiders. Not because I think it's bad luck, I just don't believe in killing them.

Now long-time readers may remember the saga of Gerald and my encounters with Boris at my old flat. To summarise, I thought I had a giant spider that turned out to be a mouse and just when the mouse seemed to vanish I had a few encounters with a giant and tenacious spider.

Here, I've had no direct mouse problems. Ironically, upstairs has had mice and sometime I hear the little bastards scampering of nibbling in the walls, but they don't seem to be in my flat. Spiders are a something else. Spiders are everywhere in every shape and size. I'm fairly used to seeing them, but every now and again there's one the size of your palm or the size of your fist that forces me to grab a glass and an envelope and forcibly eject it from the premises. Most big spiders tend to be quite gangly, unmistakably a spider and catching them without accidentally breaking one of their delicate legs is something of an art...

Tonight was different. It was not a mouse, that much was sure, though I doubted myself for a moment. I was sure it was a spider. It moved like a spider, but it was the size and speed of a freakin' mouse as it scurried under the TV unit that had, in the last flat, been the focal point for most of my early Gerald sightings. I figured it had just disappeared, as spiders do, and that would probably be the end of it... for tonight, at least. But then, I saw it crawling up the wall... Not even the wall near where I had seen it, but the side wall... Big, black on the white bit of wall above the gas fire. This was no gangly spider. It had muscles. It had texture. These were not legs that looked like they would accidentally snap. These were legs that looked like they could punch through anything too flimsy, like glass. This was hairy scary spider territory.

I hit pause on my V+ box for a film I'd seen a dozen times, hoping the act of freezing the action of the film would freeze the action of the arachnid and commanded it to stay put. "Don't you move, you bastard! You're way too big to stay!" I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a suitably sized glass and envelope, dashing back, half expecting to see it gone. But no, exactly where I left it. Curiously, it didn't scamper away. It made a few cursory moves as I adjusted the ornamentations that were in the way of my capturing it in the glass, but otherwise it put up little resistance. In fact, when the glass came down, it leapt from the wall into the glass as though welcoming it. Nonetheless, I carefully slid the envelope without breaking "the seal", and escorted it to the bathroom window, the farthest point of re-entry and threw him past the spider family living around my bathroom window (about half a dozen of them, competing in their daily web-design championships) and into the garden.

Afterwards, I gave a shiver. A genuine and heartfelt shiver. I swear I could see a little crown upon its head, declaring that it was king spider. And a little twirly moustache, perhaps even an eyepatch (no wooden legs). Ok, those might have been fancy, but it barely struggled. It just... looked at me. Grinning.

What is Anansi planning? Her minions have already firmly infiltrated this place. Why so blasé about her capture? I have no doubt that this is not Boris. Oh no. Anansi was not afraid. Not in the slightest.

Friday, the 16th July 2010


I voted at the Ennie Awards 2010
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