Resolutions

Almost a year ago I did a quick best of 2006 and also mentioned that I had some goals for the year. Well one of the goals was to lose some weight and I’m pleased to say that I have.

It took until August before I actually did anything when I bought an exercise bike and started playing badminton again. It was hard going at first as it wasn’t just the fact I was obese. I was totally unfit. Really, really unfit. When I think back a few years to when I was at uni I was doing lot’s of sports and I walked everywhere. Fast forward 12 years and there is no sport and almost no walking – everything is done via the car now. From leaving uni to now I reckon I’ve put on around 6-7 stone. When I started exercising in August my weight was 124kg (19.5 stones). My BMI was 38.3. Shocking.

Weight Loss

Over the last four months though I’ve lost 13.4kg (just over 2 stones) and the BMI has dropped to 34.2. I’m really chuffed with the progress so far as it’s not been without hiccups. I had a quick trip to hospital, a really heavy cold (man flu – honest) and I also managed to tear my calf playing badminton in mid October. Despite this the weight loss has been slow but constant but I won’t be stopping there. I first need to work off the Christmas excess as I’m in no doubt that I’ve put on some weight while I’ve been off and away from home. However I’m keen to keep going and see if I can get the BMI away from obese so that I’m just overweight. That would mean getting down to 97kg – another 13kg so I’m halfway there at the moment. A big ask but something I’m pretty confident of achieving. Once I get to that point? Not sure really. Probably a wardrobe shop is required as I’m already noticing that some of my clothes are looking a bit looser than they used to.

At the moment I’ve not changed my diet really. I’ve cut out snacks and also reduced biscuits – my main failing. However my diet as a whole is pretty poor so I’m sure there is a lot to be done with it. As for exercise, I’ll continue with the bike at the current rate and also return to badminton. I’m a bit fearful of badminton as the calf is still not recovered 10 weeks on from the injury but a proper warm up and gentle introduction should see me OK. As for the bike I’m currently doing 50-70 miles a week and I think that is OK. Since the end of August I’ve done 770 miles on the bike burning off 23000 calories. Allegedly.

Apart from that I’m looking forward to a new job next year. Still at the same firm but moving to IT rather than Engineering so should see quite a change in day to day work. I can’t wait. I’ve been stagnating for a while now and I’m hoping the change will work out well.

Apart from that I’m itching to start programming. I’ve a couple of web app’s that I’ve been wanting to do for a while but I’ve never got round to it. It’s also been a long time since I’ve hacked anything together so it will be great to brush up on skills. There also a couple of house projects to get done that I’ve put off for a while.

And that’s it. Happy 2008 to anyone that has the misfortune of reading this blog and getting this far in the post. Hope it turns out well for you.

Listen 07

A run down of some of my favourite music from 2007. Albums first, then best tracks. No ‘best of the year’ as it’s to hard to pick just one.

Radiohead Radiohead
In Rainbows

This got a lot of hype due to it’s method of release but to be honest it should have got the press for the quality of the album. Easily their best work since OK Computer it’s hard to find fault. The bonus second cd that comes with the boxset also has a couple of gems too. A must buy.

Ronson Mark Ronson
Version

They might be covers but this was one of the brightest and freshest albums I’ve heard in a long time. A couple of the tracks were pretty poor but as a whole it’s a great album.

Maximo Maximo Park
Our Earthly Pleasures

Far stronger than their first album this was a real grower throughout the year. Great lyrics and strong melodies throughout.

Biffy Biffy Clyro
Puzzle

Confident album from these Scots rockers. A stunning opening track but the best thing was the variety of styles throughout the album. Some ‘rock’ albums can sound samey but not this one.

Enemy The Enemy
We’ll Live And Die In These Towns

Before I listened to this album I had written off The Enemy as the next great indie thing, three young lad’s looking to be the next Arctic Monkeys and probably failing? How wrong was I. If I had to take one album away from the year it would be this or Radiohead. Great energy and superb lyrics.

Other albums that are well worth purchasing are…

Digitalism – Idealism
Kate Nash – Made of Bricks
Justice – Cross
Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Decay Sustain Release
Crash My Model Car – Ghosts & Heights
Band Of Horses – Cease To Begin
Arcade Fire – Neon Rainbows
Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare

Favourite tracks are…

Jigsaw Falling Into Place – Radiohead – In Rainbows
Is There A Ghost – Band Of Horses – Cease To Begin
Roc Boys – Jay-Z – American Gangster
Shooting Star – Air Traffic – Fractured Life
Do Me A Favour – Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
Machines – Biffy Clyro – Puzzle
Pogo – Digitalism – Idealism
Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors – Editors – An End Has A Start
You’re Not Alone – The Enemy – We’ll Live And Die In These Towns
Standing In The Way Of Control – Gossip – Standing In The Way Of Control
Song 4 Mutya – Groove Armada – Soundboy Rock
Pioneer To The Falls – Interpol – Our Love To Admire
Stronger – Kanye West – Graduation
Genesis – Justice – Cross
Foundations – Kate Nash – Made Of Bricks
Beauty Of Uncertainty – KT Tunstall – Drastic Fantastic
Oh My God – Mark Ronson – Version
Sandblasted And Set Free – Maximo Park – Our Earthly Pleasures
Hustler – Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Decay Sustain Release
Wide Awake – The Twang – Love It When I Feel Like This

Next up will be a viewing and playing review but it might be next year before they are posted.

Ripper

After Shakeel re-ripped his music library I’ve started to do the same, brought about by a lack of quality TV at the moment and anticipating some games playing over the next few days. On Windows good quality ripping tools are abundant with EAC almost universally recommended. On the Mac though there seems to be a bit of a dearth when it comes to ripping. Max is often mentioned but I found it a bit buggy so I’ve ended up using iTunes-LAME from Blacktree.

The latest version makes use of Lame 3.97 although the latest latest version available on the Blacktree site was a bit flaky with tags. I have used iTunes-LAME-2.0.9-34.zip without issue so far and I’ve ripped around 30 cd’s today. As for quality settings I’ve went for something a bit beefier than 192kpbs which was my old default. For iTunes-Lame I’m using the following setting:

-V 0 –vbr-new

Visit the Lame Wiki for more info on the numerous command line settings for Lame. What’s nice is that once the ripping is done the tracks are automatically added to iTunes. What’s not so nice is that I’m re-ripping some cd’s so I will lose ratings, play counts, last played details etc…or so I thought. A quick trip to Doug’s AppleScripts and I found a script that would copy my precious meta data to the new rips. Bliss.

Pity I can’t find a script that will rip the other 150 cd’s.

LocateTV

LocateTVStumbled on this site this morning and thought it was worth mentioning. LocateTV lets you search for TV shows and movies and easily see when they are to be broadcast or whether they are available on DVD. That’s it really. What really nice is that it’s fast and covers UK, USA & Republic of Ireland. So many of these sites work in the USA only so it’s nice to get some UK coverage. You can also set-up a favourites list so you can see when your programs are to be shown over the next few days. This is limited though as it works via cookies. If this worked over many machines via a login then it would be a really nice service. Well worth a visit and is currently free.

myDigiGuide does something similar but looks more feature rich but at a yearly cost (and the software is for Windows only).

Where's the Truffles?

Every Christmas I usually pick up a couple of tins of Celebrations. One for work, one for home. At work the Galaxy Truffles always disappear first with a pack of hungry wolves searching through the tin devouring all in their path. So it got me wondering – are there less Truffles in a standard tin? So I took my 2 * 1KG tins and counted out the split. The results are of no surprise but still disappointing.

Celebrations

So that’s why the Truffles and Galaxy’s always go first. At least the Topic’s are no longer part of the tin but it’s poor that the sweet’s aren’t split evenly. If only they would sell a packet of Truffles on their own. Mmmmmm – lovely. Still – none for me as I’m still trying to keep the weight loss going at least until Christmas arrives.

Schmap'd

Back in April I had a stroll around Glasgow with Shakeel and took some photo’s. It was a pretty good way to spend a day and I plan to do some more winter shot’s around Glasgow during the Christmas break…weather and time permitting.

Anyway, to the point of this ramble. Someone at Schmap liked one of my photo’s and from today the Glasgow guide is featuring one of my snaps. Nice one. Even nicer is that I’ll be able to see if anyone clicks on the photo and visits my Flickr photo’s via their new stats service.

Stats and other Mince

Okay. My love of statistics knows no end. Three stat related topics, one of them seasonal, all of them useful..ish.

  • Google Zeitgeist 2007 has now been published. There is nothing too surprising this year although it’s great to see the Wii top the poll as Christmas comes around. Great stock management Nintendo. Definitely keeps people thinking you are the must buy games console.
    Where's Wii?
    Also worth noting that HD-DVD is more searched than Blu-Ray despite Blu-Ray disks outselling HD-DVD and that more people want to know what love is rather than who God is.
  • Flickr StatsMore stats can now be found on Flickr. If your a pro user, activate your stats and in roughly 24 hours you too can see who is viewing your photo’s. As expected nobody is finding any of my photo’s interesting but it did remind me to get my tagging and geo-tagging sorted.
    The stats are really well presented. Clear with lot’s of white space. You can also dig down into screens that show more details i.e. all photo’s. You can then sort by comments, date’s, your photo’s that have been added as a favourite by other members. Very informative and a great place to waste a few minutes. I even found some photo’s that I had put up that I had totally forgotten about.
  • Now onto a festive stat. Well, when I say stat I really mean reviews. My friend Roy has been road testing Mince Pies (not to be confused with mince rounds). So far the mince pie to beat is from Starbucks. I’m in shock. Having just sampled a Marks classic mince pie I really must seek out a Starbucks version over the holiday period. Anyway, if you have any more recommendations for Roy and his co-workers to test then add a comment below and I’m sure they will oblige.

I hope to have my own further stat/review post up this weekend. Stand by for startling revelations!

Fifa or PES?

For the football loving gamer this is usually an annual question with an easy answer. If you prefer real stadiums, teams, leagues and players as well as some great graphics you pick Fifa. If you prefer subtle controls, a more realistic game and some flowing animations you pick PES. For me PES has always been an easy choice. Fifa suffered from repetitive gameplay, easy goal scoring and a real lack of challenge. PES was tough and I felt a better sim of football.

However the last release of PES on the 360 was disappointing. Stuttery graphics and more importantly gameplay that was far less fluid than the PS2 version had left a bad taste in the mouth. Online wasn’t bad but it wasn’t exactly glowing either. A subsequent patch had left it almost unplayable as it would drop half way through a match.

The demo’s for this years versions pointed to a far closer battle. PES was smoother in game than before but still stuttered badly in replays. Fifa felt very slow but had a lot more depth than previous versions. Both had camera issues but that was down to poor options in the demo.

Why I Bought PES
So I stumped up for PES yet again. The game was a lot better than last year with all in game stutter a memory that only returned during replays – they were awful! The gameplay was also smoother with a lot more depth and a nice feel to the game. Strict referee’s were back but once again i was happy with PES. Online though was a kick in the teeth. The first online PES 2 years ago was a mixed bag. Cheats could quit without penalty and the net code wasn’t the best. But it did allow 2 vs 2. Last years was less laggy but cheats could still prosper. Also the hosting was shared between the two gamers…meaning you could have a great first half if your hosting followed by a horrible, laggy, torrent spoiled second half. 2 vs 2 was also dropped.

This year still sees only 1 vs 1 and the couple of games I played were mixed. Seemed to go OK but after a period the lag was horrendous making the game unplayable. It was PES but only just. This was disappointing especially with Fifa promising online leagues, a way of playing for your team online and also a 5 vs 5 mode. To be honest I laughed when I read that – they’ve no chance of getting that to work well.

Why I bought Fifa
A couple of trusted friends eventually bought Fifa….and loved it. It didn’t have the depth or the fluidity of PES but online it rocked and the 5 vs 5 mode…..worked a treat. I’ve had the game over two weeks now and it is superb online. 1 vs 1 and up to 5 vs 5 is a very special game mode. Lag free and just a joy to play. It can be spoiled by greedy and mouthy players but played with a few friends is a great experience.

Graphically the game is good although sometimes the animations are a bit clunky. Sometimes the game can frustrate as it just isn’t as good as PES. However the online mode is so good you can overlook those issues.

You also have the ability to create your own public and private leagues, upload video’s and pictures to the net and take part in matches representing your team. Offline has much the same modes as PES but not to the same depth as PES master league.

So what should you buy?
If you only play offline, PES. If you are going to play online at all or never have done but like multiplayer gaming them Fifa is for you. It’s been a long time coming but Fifa has finally bettered PES this year for me. If only Konami could get near Fifa’s performance online – what a game that would be.

Orange Stats

Looking forward to playing Orange Box (especially Portal) at Christmas. Glad I kept that game back during the games deluge over the last month or so. Something Valve is known for is publishing game stats and with Team Fortress 2 they haven’t let anyone down. Great to see how popular certain classes, weapons and map’s are. Achievements also broken down – looks like it wasn’t played that much on-line with big parties. Either that or people have no friends.