Sunday, 31 January 2010

Andy's birthday

I've been away in Newark-on-Trent all weekend with friends celebrating our friend Andy's 30th birthday. Unfortunately Newark isn't anywhere near me and on Friday I left work just after 6pm, picked Richard and Carrie up at 7pm and we finally got to Andy's at 11pm. Eugh :( It wasn't really a bad journey, just long!

As soon as we got there we unloaded and headed off into town to find a pub. Considering that it was a Friday night I was shocked about how empty the streets were (it's a fairly large town!) and this pretty much sums it up:

Newark on a Friday night - Yes it's deserted!

That's the central market place area... notice the lack of people! It was really shocking. Still I wasn't complaining, I much prefer a lack of people to so many you can't move! Likewise there wasn't much of a problem getting served/having to queue up!

We drank lots of this (Stella Artois):


Which lead onto wanting lots of these:


Then finally we wanted one of these:

I think the captions pretty much explain the evening, but going into more detail: We stayed in the pub until about 1am drinking lots of Stella then we headed to the kebab shop where I got a yummy (although incredibly unhealthy) half-pounder with cheese :) Nommy!

At 2am I unpacked my Wii and we played Mario Kart

Yes I actually have padded cases for my Wii where I've customised the interior so it snuggly holds the Wii, sensor bar, all the cables, 4 Wiimotes, 4 classic controllers, 4 GameCube controllers, 4 nunchucks and GameCube memory card etc. I need to actually get another case to hold all the Mario Kart Wheels and my charging station though (and another for the games would be nice too!)

After playing Mario Kart for a bit we all went to bed and then the next morning we woke up and had the best breakfast ever:

Breakfast on Saturday

Ideally I would have taken a photo when both plates were full, but we were all hungry so it didn't cross my mind to take a photo until we'd all had a few pieces! Andy had to work on Saturday (we knew this anyway hence taking the Wii!) so Carrie, Richard and myself spent Saturday playing on Mario Kart (Wii version and GameCube/Double Dash), Bomberman Blast and Tetris Party:

Playing Bomberman on the Wii all afternoon

Much fun was had by all and when Andy came home from work he joined in with us for a while too. Eventually other people turned up (Vicky, Andy, their daughter Isabel, Dave and Amanda) so we turned off the Wii and were like social and stuff :) Carrie was also crazy enough to let Isabel play with her iPhone:

Issy with Carrie's iPhone

I might not be an Apple fan (at all), but even I wouldn't give an iPhone to a 6-month year old baby! Still, she didn't drop it/throw it or even eat it (she preferred Amanda's Sony Ericsson for eating!)

At some point in the evening we gave Andy his presents which included a lifetime membership to one of the Youth Hostel associations (he very much enjoys walking/travelling/camping/outdoors things) and also a cocktail kit with ingredients including lemons and limes which were all wrapped up individually (which confused him completely when he opened those first!):

Notice the lemons/limes:

At some point people bought out laptops and there was lots of web surfing and Facebooking, etc.

The laptops have come out


It was a fun party honest!

Finally about 4am we all went to bed. The next morning there was a lovely friend breakfast (toast, sausage, egg) and this weekend has been shockingly unhealthy, but very tasty! Before loading up our cars to go home we went over to see Andy's car to pay our final respects:

Andy saying goodbye to his car

You can't see it in the picture, but a few weeks ago he got caught on some ice and slid down a hill and smacked it into a kerb so hard that it really messed up one of the front wheels (it's now leaning out at a terrible angle!) and as such it's basically written the car off... again. He's had this car (Ford Mondeo) for a long time and before that his dad owned it and as mentioned above it's already been written off once by the insurance company for an accident with someone hitting it and he bought the scrap off them and had it fixed. I've driven it myself 2 years back when Vicky and Andy got married and one of the guests drank too much and so I drove everyone to hospitals an hour away at 3am in the morning (I told you I don't normally drink!) so yeh... the car has history. I half joked that we should cremate it. Partly because that sounded "normal", but also because setting a car on fire sounds kinda fun, but I wouldn't want to have to deal with the aftermath!!!

Back on track though, it still took about 5 hours to get back home, but with daylight helping and less traffic we actually stopped for 15 minutes to get some food and again to get fuel so we were probably about 20-25 minutes faster going back.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Rubik's Magic

Way back in the 80's I used to be hooked on the Rubik's puzzles and I was lucky enough that whenever I had a birthday or Xmas I would sometimes get another one. Over the years I acquired the cube, snake, missing link, triamid, fifteen, tangle, the clock and others including my all time favourite... The Rubik's Magic:


The idea of it is to get it from the 3 unlinked rings on the left to the 3 linked rings on the right (it's on the other side of the puzzle) by flipping/twisting it and using the tiny wires in the grooves on each piece to completely change the shape of it.

I had many hours of fun with it, always being careful never to push it a way it wouldn't go and I can actually solve it in UNDER 3 seconds and with my eyes closed (that's how much it's been played with). Skip forward 15 years, a friend of mine picked it up, fiddled with it and broke it in less than a minute :S As you can imagine I wasn't particularly impressed. I kept meaning to replace it, but never got round to it until last week. The "current" version of it is red not black (same technical design though), but I wanted an original one so after some hunting around I found someone selling the original ones (1986) and still new/sealed and these days really not that expensive either! Fantastic! (the above pictures are of the "new" one that I received earlier in the week).

But then I thought to myself, they made a "Master Magic" version in 1987 with *12* panels instead of the standard 8 and I had always wanted that, so why don't I get that one too? It took a bit of shopping around to get that (because again I wanted the original version), but I found it and it arrived today:


Interestingly they changed the pattern - the original goes from unlinked to linked, the master version goes from linked to unlinked. To say it is a lot more complicated is putting it mildly (although as you can see I've solved it already and worked out how to get it from start to finish and back again). A lot of the logic is similar to the original "Magic", it's just more complicated and as such if I get it stuck in some random pattern, currently it's taking me quite a while to get it back to something I recognise, but that's just because I'm not used to it yet. Once I get the hang of it I suspect I'm actually going to find it easier because with more panels it's easier to make smaller moves, but I could be wrong on that!

Aren't toys fun? :)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Disaster planning

I was on Facebook last week and there was a mini survey asking about "How prepared are you in the event of a natural disaster?" to which I could only answer "sort of prepared". So I looked up a list of "how to be prepared" and the biggest thing missing to me was to have a wind-up/solar powered radio (so that you can hear news broadcasts still) so decided I should at least get one of those:


It has a radio, torch, clock, alarm, internal battery, chargeable by either solar/USB/mains electricity or manual crank and it can also double up as a mini charger of itself (you can charge a mobile phone (or a Gameboy Advance!) off the internal battery :) w00t.

Hopefully I'll never need it, but you never know... Now where do I put it so I'll actually REMEMBER where it is when I do need it? :P

DDR

The other day I was horrified to find out there's not one Dancing Stage/Dance Dance Revolution game for the Wii, but rather two of them! (official ones anyway) and the 3rd one is due out any time now. How did I miss that?! Well I ordered them both (Hottest Party 1 & 2) and 2 arrived today and 1 should arrive tomorrow:


It's the standard Konami game, but with some major changes/additions. For starters there are two "hand" gestures as well (shake wiimote/nunchuk) and tons of other new additions. For example some of the arrows you have to hit 2 or 3 times in a row (they bounce back down the screen as you hit them), others appear halfway up the screen, others randomly pick an arrow at the last minute, extra things are added that if hit will SHRINK the arrows making it harder (i.e. don't hit them) and tons more. Wow. Oh and you get points for moving the wiimote/nunchuk in time even if there's nothing to "hit" :)

All in all I'm very impressed, especially as there's a *4 player* mode so you can actually have 4 people on the screen at the same time, each with their own set of arrows. But seriously, who has a living room large enough for *4* dance mats?!

Monday, 25 January 2010

FlipFold

I've been looking for this for quite a while, but they don't seem to make it in the UK so in the end I just bit the bullet and imported one (well I found a UK company who imported it on my behalf!). A few weeks passed, but finally it arried and I'm now the proud owner of a blue FlipFold. Wahoo!


You can flip,flip,flip and your t-shirts/polo-shirts are folded just like that :) They're all exactly the same size so they stack nicely too - Awesome! Folding my polo shirts actually just became fun! :) You can buy non-official ones, but I wanted the official one, mainly because Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory has one (also in blue!), but also because I wasn't sure what the quality would be like for non-official one (yes I know it's just a lump of plastic!) Here's part of the episode which features Sheldon using it (Season 2, Episode 1):



Nifty eh? :)

Vee, "Bodies Revealed" and some pizza

I met up with Vee with the main plan of seeing the Bodies Revealed exhibition (Which is similar to "Body Worlds"). There are multiple human bodies on display in various states. For example there quite a few full figures with the skin/flesh removed to expose all the muscles/bones and there are various other partial things like heart/kidneys and also some exhibits which show ONLY the arteries of the lungs etc. It sounds really macabre, but it's really not (I guess that depends on your viewpoint, but there were TONS of people in there and no one was being ill or anything like that. :) There's a rather good gallery on the BBC site located here.

There's also a special "foetus" room which has water filled tubes with human foetuses in various stages of growth. Personally I found these the most fascinating exhibits as it was just amazing to see how they developed as they aged, but given that there's warning about what the room is and that you can skip it if you want, I doubt everyone feels the same way about it.

I wasn't really that blown away with it all though. Sure it was interesting, but for the large part there wasn't anything I didn't really "know" already, but it was interesting to see in person (does that make any sense?). Still, I'm glad I got the chance to see it at least :)

After this we headed off to get some food:


We went in Pizza Express and that's Vee cutting up her pizza and giving me the evil eyes for taking photos :) I had the "Diavolo" which is spicy beef, pepperoni, onions, tabasco and jalapeno peppers - Extremely yummy. Vee didn't really know what she wanted so opted for the Four Seasons so she had four different quarters: mushrooms, pepperoni, anchovies/capers and mozzarella with black olives across the whole pizza.

After this we decided to also have some dessert, I had the cheese cake (which was lovely) and Vee had the tiramasu which was really quite large as you can see from her shocked expresion:


After this we headed into town and just went in some random shops. Whilst in Clintons (card shop) we came across a "Hello Kitty" display. I took a photo message of it and sent it to Lucy, it was just crazy!


In the shopping centre one of the doors was broken and there was a big sign saying so, but to our amusement the sign was also broken so I insisted that we had to take a picture of it:


How funny is that? :) Brilliant :) By now it was getting dark so we started to head back and took some pictures of the city from the bridge that goes to the car park:


And finally the obligatory "in-car" photo:


Another fantastic day with Vee! :)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Brr! It's cold in here

The title is in reference to my heating which has annoyingly decided to stop working and when I came home last night the house was absolutely frozen, this morning waking up wasn't much better!

Annoyingly the hot water works, but the central heating doesn't - Great. After some diagnosis (my heating system really isn't that complicated), it's a problem with the 3-way valve and one of the microswitches in the actuator isn't working so it doesn't turn on the central heating when signalled to do so. Yay. :( Dad came around early this morning and dismantled it and he's in agreement that's the fault so I've ordered a replacement valve/actuator (£55) which should arrive tomorrow... but we're not sure that we'll be able to fit it.

Technically it's pretty easy, 3 pipe connections and some wiring, however you're really supposed to drain all the water out of the system before doing this which we don't to do, so I might have to call out a plumber to actually install it. Not sure yet, we're going to look at it on Saturday possibly. In the meantime I found a way to "trick" the system by increasing the hot water temperature so the boiler comes on and increasing the pump speed so the radiators fill quickly, but this only lasts a short time as can't keep the hot water at such a high temperature and it only works when I do it manually (i.e. cold mornings/coming home at night) Boo :(

On the subject of coldness, here's some pictures I took last week when we still had some snow and it was insanely foggy at the same time:






It was really bizarre, you could look out into the fields and there was "nothing". It was really hard to tell where the horizon was and where the snow stopped and the fog started!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Mexican Mario weekend!

I had the most awesome weekend EVER with Carrie! We had lots of mexican food, lots of video gaming (mainly Mario Kart - ALL versions), the ENTIRE of season 3 of Big Bang Theory (the 12 episodes that have aired so far anyway), quite a bit of alcohol and a LOT of Twittering :) In fact I have possibly annoyed people with all the tweets, but it's just so easy now my phone natively supports Twitter/photo uploading.

So anyway, I decided for this entry I would literally just put up ALL the pictures that were taken this weekend and sent to Twitter (sorry to anyone who already saw them all!). I've put the Twitter comment below each and any additional comments are in square brackets! :) They're in the right order so you should get up a sort of trail of events of what I got up to this weekend:

Vodka, lemonade and lime (with lemon)


My mexican corner of the kitchen. I have way too
many fajita kits!

[I forgot to unpack the tacos
so they're not in the shot]


Mmm fajitas!


Apple and caramel sponge pudding! Nommy!


Mario Kart!

[Wii version]


Marshmallows roasting on an open "hob"!


Time for some shots! Cherry+Apple+Vodka = Yum!


Lemon Skittles vodka!


Vanilla and lemon cream vodkas!


Chartreuse (Absinthe variant)

[You don't actually need the sugar with Chartreuse
as it's sweeter than typical absinthe, but it looks good]


Peach and apple schnapps, because it's fun to say
schnapps! (sorry no peppermint!)

[Reference to the Big Bang Theory]


Carrie playing with toilet paper!

[iPhone game where you have to unwind the toilet paper as fast as you can]


What to try next?


We're just grabbing random drinks now

[Cherry-Cola thing, raspberry Sambuca and Starfruit drink]


Whatever it says on labels

[J├Ągermeister and Pamplemousse-Citron]


Nachos!


Lemonde and lime (and lemon!) Zesty!


Tacos!


Mario Kart: Double Dash!


Mario Kart 64!


Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo!


Carrie in her new role as a Mexican wrestler


More camera effects from my phone

Wow that was a lot of scrolling eh? :) But yay for a great weekend! I guess I should probably plug my Twitter about now in case anyone actually WANTS random stuff like that appearing on their feed: @worldofneil :)

My plans for the rest of the week are going to be climbing with Lucy on Monday night, cinema with Richard on Tuesday (don't know what yet) and hopefully taking Carrie to see Avatar in 3D on either Wednesday or Thursday and I'm dying to see it in 3D! :)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Best version of Tetris ever

Rajesh Koothrappali (@TheRaj) tweeted this (yes I'm now following CHARACTERS from a tv show) and it's an uber cool version of Tetris:

First Person Tetris

At first it looks like normal Tetris... until you press rotate. WOAH! :) Very trippy! Although I'm getting used to it and I really quite like it! Every 10 lines it changes colour too!

If you think that's bad, then try the "night" mode... it's even worse!!!

Brilliant! :) I must tell everyone I know about this, right now! :)

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Graze

I normally get Graze boxes delivered every Tuesday and Thursday, but I haven't received any at all this year and then 3 turned up at once:




The contents are: milkshake mix, hot chilli almonds, korean chilli rice crackers, raisins infused with pineapple juice, sweet and sour mix, banana coins, love mix, pecans, whole dried plums, yoghurt coated peanuts, island nut mix and wasabi peanut crackers - All yummy! :)

It'll take me a few days to get through them all, but if you want your own FREE box yet then go to www.graze.com and use code 2RBMR42 to get yourself a free no obligation box (and half price of a second box if you decide you want another!). Yes really you can join with that code and they'll send you a free box which comes via normal Royal Mail and as it's so thin it'll fit through your letter box and you can cancel as soon as you've had the first one. No evil phone numbers to ring, just a few clicks on the same website. Of course they hope you'll continue to buy more boxes, but they even say on the sign up page that you can cancel anytime. :) Oh and although you can't exactly pick what you want, you can pick what you DON'T want :)

Okay that's enough advertising from me :)