Sunday, 17 April 2011

Donna and Stonehenge

Many moons ago there existed a time before the Internet. Yes I know that's crazy talk, but it's true! And in this long ago time I used to have penfriends and we would write letters to each other. Then the Internet arrived and my penfriends and I didn't really talk/write anymore, except for Donna. Okay so we don't really "write" anymore either, but we are (thankfully) still in touch!

I probably should explain at this point that I've been friends with Donna for 18 years now and she usually lives in Indonesia, although she's lived a few years in both New York and Australia and at the moment she's doing this absolutely crazy tour of Europe. Well crazy is a bit harsh (and that is just my perspective!), but in last two weeks she's been to Paris (France), Frankfurt (Germany), Brussels (Belgium), Rome (Italy), somewhere in Switzerland, parts of the UK and I think a few other places too! IN TWO WEEKS! She should also be (back) in Germany now too!

Although earlier in the week she was way up north in Edinburgh, it turned out that on Friday she'd be the other end of the country and at Stonehenge and that's just down the road from me so I was like - FANTASTIC!

Unfortunately their tour was for out of hours so they had circle access and as such it was closed to the general public (they wouldn't let me into the car park even!), but I do appreciate that's just the rules and they are technically closed so that's fair enough. Likewise because the road is currently closed off there it means we can actually stop at the end of the road where it's closed as it doesn't cause any traffic obstruction (it would if the road were open like normal!)

As you've guessed from the picture we obviously still got to meet up even if she had to step "outside" to do it! It didn't feel at all weird meeting up as I guess I felt like I'd already "known" her for like forever and as such she was just as lovely as expected!

Don't worry though, I made sure that she went and actually saw Stonehenge and took her time, especially as her tour had inner circle access. We still got to chat for quite a while and obviously it would have nicer if we could have met for longer, but I'm really glad we got to meet up at all and there's a chance she may come back to the UK at the end of the month so hopefully we can meet up then if she does (she can't sit still it seems!) :)

Saturday, 16 April 2011


Two entries in one day!!! Well this one will have to be incredibly fast entry as I have only 3 minutes to spare, but I officially hate moving stuff and cleaning, but thankfully I had some help:

Okay he didn't really help and it wasn't Bigtrak that needed cleaning (although tanks do get very dirty), but this seemed a much more exciting way to show off my new steam cleaner!

It's blue and it fires steam out of it and erm... yeh that's about it really. Oh no wait, it has tons of accessories too. Okay so it doesn't fire liquid hot magma (that'd be cool!), but yeh it blasts through dirt all the same! :)

Sucker Punch (again!)

Carrie wanted to see "Sucker Punch" and I certainly didn't mind seeing it again so I booked us some tickets to see it on Thursday evening. Considering it was only 9pm and it's a multiplex cinema I was surprised as to how empty it was (midnight showing you expect it to be fairly empty, but 9pm?!) and sure enough they were so low on staff that there wasn't even someone collecting tickets.

This is made even more amusing because (as usual) I'd pre-booked us two of the VIP seats (extra comfy/wide leather seats with loads of leg room and the best position in the cinema!) except (ONCE AGAIN!) there was no one else there:

So basically this means I paid for the VIP seats (when there was no one else to claim them!) and there wasn't even anyone checking we had a ticket! I don't really know why I'm complaining though because even if I had known 100% I could have gotten away with it, I'd still have bought them, I'd have felt too guilty!!! In fact, initially we sat in the wrong seats (K6 and K7 instead of K7 and K8 - one seat over) and I made Carrie get up and move over one seat. I think she thought I was joking at first, but the seats were better seats anyway (I picked them!) LOL. We were joined by a few more people, but there was still only about 10 people in the end, I know it's been out a few weeks, but I guess I still expected it to be busier!

My phone isn't very good at red eye reduction and I can't be bothered to edit it so you get Carrie looking possessed... :)

I already saw the film the previous week with Richard and Helen, but it's just visually amazing so I totally wanted to see it again. It's very much a "Marmite" film, because if you see the reviews they're all over the place, people are either saying it's one of the best movies they've ever seen... OR they're are saying it's the worst 2 hours of their life... :) I'm in the "one of the best films" category and so was Carrie it seemed. After all it's got robots, dragons, zombies and one hell of a soundtrack! :D

In fact I loved it so much MORE the second time (probably because I knew what was going on and could notice more things) that I'm planning on watching it again NEXT WEEK by myself for a third time! :)

Honestly I totally recommend this film, it's 50/50 as to if you'll like the story, but you won't deny that it just amazing and there's no way any home release will even come close!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


I bet you can already guess what this is going to be about... I GOT MY BIGTRAK! (well actually it arrived on Friday, but I've been busy okay?) :) Okay so if you're going "What's a Big Trak?" then you should click that link, but essentially it was a toy that apparently came out in 1979 (although I don't remember them until at least mid 80's!) and it looks like a sort of space tank (as you'll see) and you can program it with basic commands, essentially: forward, backwards, left, right (in minutes like a clock), fire phaser (light+noise) and a simple loop command. You key it all in and press "GO" and off it goes!!! Okay so it's not exactly the most technical thing ever, but it's so cool! Unfortunately I was never able to have one as a kid (I suspect they were quite expensive!) so when I heard that last year they were re-releasing them I was quite excited.

However, they originally came out for about £40 and I was like... meh... I know all too well that it'll get played with a little, but then I'll get bored and it'll never get touched ever again so £40 is a bit of a waste of money... HOWEVER... it was in an April 1st sale and they were reduced for one day only to £15... BARGAIN! So naturally for that I just had to buy one... and then I had to wait a WEEK for it to be delivered! (longest week of my life...)

Apparently it's actually a bit different from the original because it's lighter, it doesn't have the engine noise whilst running, it doesn't need as many batteries now and a few other little details (apparently!), but I don't care... IT'S AWESOME! Now if only they'd re-release the transport/trailer accessory... that'd be so cool! I don't tihnk they'd going to though.

So although I'm sure I will get bored of this within a few days, I've got an idea for a few project because I've seen a lot of modifications where people have gutted it and used the basic motors with their own programmable boards (essentially updating it to the 21st century!) and that sounds like a fun project... if I ever get enough time anyway! :)

Monday, 11 April 2011

YO! Sushi and Go Ape

It was Lucy's 25th birthday at the weekend and we had a bit of an action packed weekend to celebrate! The plan was that on Friday night there would be a meal and then on Saturday a big group of us would be going to "Go Ape" (more on that in a bit).

We headed into Bristol and Lucy decided that she wanted to have sushi (in YO! Sushi) and I couldn't have been more delighted with this. I'd never had sushi before and as such I was dying to try it, but it turned out to be even better than I expected, namely because we walked in the door and I was greeted by:

The food goes round and round!!!

Okay so if you know anything about me, then you will have guessed that my face lit up like a Christmas tree at the site of all these conveyor belts going round, it was like food meets technology - LOVE IT! As for the actual food itself well I threw myself in and tried loads of new things, namely raw tuna, raw salmon, squid, some sort of crab and lots of other stuff and I pretty much loved it all! Every now and then I also found this guy on the conveyor belt:
Freshness bear cat!

I thought it was a bear and kept calling it such, but after closer inspection I agree it is a cat! But back to the food, everyone else had some of the hot dishes, but I decided to just have the cold dishes this time and I'll try those next time, in fact there was so much choice with the cold dishes that I had stuff queueing up:

I couldn't eat fast enough!

After we were all full of food we headed across town to a certain pub which sold Cherry Beer. Lucy loved the stuff, but Carys wasn't so keen on it and I tried some of hers and I had to agree, it wasn't for me either. I thought it tasted like literally beer and cherryade combined and cheap cherryade at that, but Lucy likes it and it's her birthday (and I'm not the one drinking it!) so my thoughts about it are irrelevant!

Cherry beer

Talking of Lucy, I think it's about time I threw in a picture of the birthday girl looking very snazzy (although the shoes look very uncomfortable!):

Birthday girl

After the cherry beer we decided to head back home (it wasn't even midnight, we're getting old!) and we put on the DVD I got her, "Panda! Go! Panda!":

Yes it was as weird as it looks...

It's made by Hayao Miyazaki in 1972 (pre Studio Ghibli) and... it's not quite what we expected. For starters the giant panda has a MEXICAN accent and this was a source of much amusement for the next 24 hours! We didn't quite watch the end of it as we were all tired/went to sleep as tomorrow was going to be a big day!

The next day we were going to "Go Ape" and it is literally described as a tree-top adventure. You're put in a harness so you can go round a course navigating it via the trees, but after the initial training you're left completely on your own to get on with it at your own pace.

We went to the one in "The Forest of Dean" which meant that the quickest way to get there was to go across the bridge into Wales (costing us £5.70 per car!) and then literally 5 minutes later we're back in England again... crazy huh? We could have gone right the way over the top and down again, but it would have taken at least 20 minutes longer and an extra 30 miles of travelling.

Carrie and her warpaint

Waiting to start

As mentioned above you get some training first which involved the instructors making sure that your harnesses are on correctly and then a quick demonstration of how to use your gear. The key motto was "Stay attached" and all our harnesses had two safety lines. As you were switching from stage to stage, you did this one line at a time so you would always have one line attached and even this is only for a second as you move/reconnect the other line. In fact in lots of place (usually when ascending) there would be an additional hook that you attach as well so you would have three connections to something!

Adam and Phil on the first part of training

Amazingly I managed to actually mess up the very first part of that training and didn't have my pulley correctly attached to the wire (much to everyones amusement!) although learnt from that mistake and there weren't any actual problems whilst on the course and we got started on that pretty quickly.

It wasn't until I was 3/4 across that I even noticed the HAND RAILS - D'OH!

It wasn't long after we'd started that we came across a section where you needed to swing into a net (and grab it to climb up) and I admit that at first I found this a bit daunting. It's just everything you know tells you NOT to jump out into mid air and yet you need to do just that (and trust in your equipment!), but after a moments hesitation I did it and it was much easier than I expected. In fact almost straight away we had much bigger zip line (and then later even bigger ones and larger net drop as well), but once this initial one had been conquered the rest were pretty straightforwrd.

Do I really want to do this? (hell yes!)

Andy filmed it as he went down the zip-line!

Carys about to start the next section of the course

At a few places you could choose which route to take with different difficulty levels and within 2-3 stages they'd end backup at the same place so ultimately it didn't matter which way you went. One of these choices involved crossing on riding stirrups:

Evil footholds!

I started to do this one (extreme difficulty), but I immediately ran into problems finding the footholds and quickly decided that although I probably could do it, it was going to take a while and I'd probably be exhausted by the other side, so instead (with a little help from Andy pulling me back!) I went the other way instead and did the "moderate difficulty" section instead until we met back up. It turned out that path wasn't that much easier though! :) Although at one point near the end we had a choice where we could do either "Difficult" or "Exterme"... nice... :) We all did extreme though as unlike all the other choices it was quite a bit longer (and we'd obviously got the hang of it by now as none of us struggled on it!)

Carrie making her way across part of the course

I thought this one looked the worst, but it actually turned out to be the easiest!

It's a long way up!

Somewhere in the middle of the course was a mini zip-line to another tree which was both cool and bizarre... and caused me a problem because my zip-line twisted round and I was heading very fast straight towards a (padded) tree whilst going backwards... :) Still no broken bones so it must have been okay! :)

Mini zip-line to another tree!

The final part of the course is a huge 180m zip-line back to the ground and WOW that was quite a rush! I felt sorry for my poor pulley as you could just hear it getting louder and louder (and I imagine it was getting rather hot too!). I admit my landing wasn't very dignified either (a large object accelerating down a wire and smacking into the ground results in woodchips all over the place!), but I know it must have looked worse than it actually was!

I survived!

It turns out we took 3 hours to do the course, although this will have partly been because our group was quite big so we held ourselves up, but it didn't feel like that long at all!

It was a totally fantastic day out and we had great weather and I would totally recommend it to anyone!!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Lots of reviews, including Sucker Punch!

Okay so (obviously) I haven't written in ages so I figured to get back into things I'd write about the recent books that I've read as well as the latest cinema films that I've seen! :) Oh and don't worry, there's no spoilers anywhere in this (other than saying things that happen in the first chapter/first 10 minutes etc!)

The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)

Okay so I know it's one of those books that you must read at least once in your life (at least that's what everyone says), but I'm afraid I'd never read The Hobbit OR the Lord of the Rings and to be honest I was kind of dreading them as they just didn't seem like the sort of books I'd really like.

I found The Hobbit straightforward enough to read and got through it pretty quickly and for the most part quite enjoyed it. There were a lot of bits though that I didn't really think were necessary (namely all the singing!), but yeh it was pretty good! I'm glad I've read it so at least I'll be ready for when the movie comes out!!! I still need to read the Lord of the Rings and I've got that to look forward to...

The Passage (Justin Cronin)

I'd never even heard of this book before, but Amazon kept throwing it at me (The cover is one of the sample images used in the Kindle's promtional material) so I decided that I should give it a go and see what it was about and that turns out to be a great idea!

This book is absolutely massive, but I was totally hooked by the end of the first chapter. The basic story is that the US government is trying to do some genetic experiments to create super soldiers, but (predictably) it gets out of control and the virus infects the majority of the United States. That's just the first PART of the book. It goes on and on and on and on and on and on... but it wasn't boring at all. The story kept changing, it stayed fresh and I was really sad when it finally ended, but not for long because I then discovered it's the first part of a planned trilogy... hurrah! :) So although it's one heck of a massive book (even in Kindle terms!), totally worth a read!

Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)

I kept seeing trailers for the film and telling me that it was based on this "The Best Novel of the Decade" which I thought was one heck of a statement to make, but the short trailers didn't really tell me anything at all about the film or what it was even about! However, I decided that I should definitely try and read the book before watching the film so I hastily did and was very disappointed.

It's hard to really discuss it without giving anything away, but I think everyone knows (the movie trailer at least says this much!) that basically all the students at the school have preset lives and are there to become organ donors until their 3rd or 4th donation kills them. Sounds pretty macabre right? (and not too unlike an unrelated 2005 movie!)

The hardest part for me was that I just couldn't understand why they were all so "okay" with this. At no point does anyone really stand up and say "hey hang on a minute, I want my own life and I'm going to do anything I can to get it!". There are some subplots I haven't mentioned (which would likely be spoilers), but whilst the book was pretty easy reading (unlike Kate Mosse's Labyrinth for example!), I could just never really feel any attached to the characters because I couldn't understand them.

I know this should be in the film section at the bottom, but I've since watched the movie and MY GOD IT WAS DEPRESSING! Previously my award for "Most depressing movie I've ever seen" went to "Closer", but "Never Let Me Go", easily beats that... and not in a good way. It's pretty much the same as the book (and more enjoyable because it's over quicker!), but yeh... sorry I didn't like it. And if someone says that I wasn't the target audience that leads me onto the next book...

Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert)

Okay so this book has a tag line of "One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia" and is quite obviously NOT aimed at me (a 30-something male) and the author confirms this in the first part of the sequel, "Committed", that it was written specifically for women, so why on earth would I want to read this book? Because Raj from Big Bang Theory liked it. Yes really that was my reason.

The book is a written memoir style about the events that happened in the authors life a few years ago which involved her spending 4 months in Italy (Eat), India (Pray) and Indonesia (Love), although it wasn't until I was halfway through "India" that I realised what the title of the book meant! At first I was like "erm this is weird", because I've only ever read "stories" and never anything that's actual factual (at least I assume "The Hobbit" isn't based on a true story...?), but for reasons explained right at the beginning of the book, it's split into 3 parts (the countries she visits) and of those is split into 36 sub-stories which all are linked together. I'm probably not explaining it very well, but I really liked knowning there was 36 sections per part as it just felt that I had a constant idea of how far through I was.

When the India/pray section started I thought to myself "oh no I'm going to hate this", because let's face it, there aren't many people LESS religious/spiritual than me (I have a Flying Spaghetti Monster emblem on the back of my car!), but very quickly I really got into it and I think overall, India was actually my favourite part of the whole book! Not sure what else to say really, but this book is TOTALLY worth reading, although given that it's such a popular book now, you've probably already read it right? :) I was next planning to read some books that my friends Colleen and Diane have written (very long overdue, I should have read these ages back - Sorry!), but I decided I wanted to read the sequel to ("Committed") straight away whilst it was all still fresh in my head and although I'm not really enjoying it as much, I'm still finding it very interesting. But back to EPL, I've got the Blu-ray movie now, but I just haven't got round to watching it yet!


Onto the cinema films now, the trailer for this showed a man (Liam Neeson) being in a car crash and waking up to find someone else has replaced his life and even his wife seems to be in on it. I found the film totally gripping and when they did finally explain what the heck was going on... well, I would never have guessed that in a million years (yet it almost seems so obvious!). Very good film, total worth a look!


The plot here is about a man (Bradley Cooper) taking a drug that allows him to access the full potential of his mind so he achieve things he wouldn't normally be able to, although of course, nothing is ever quite that straightforward! The story was really good and the effects (when he took the drug) were pretty trippy too! It's very hard to explain because it was more everything coming into clarity with vivid uses of colour rather than lots of CGI. I know I'm not explaining this very well, but since I'm going to also recommend you see this film, maybe you will and you'll understand what I mean! :)

Battle: Los Angeles

There wasn't really anything on at the cinema that we "wanted" to see this week so we decided to watch this, but we didn't really have very high expectations (or at least I didn't!). It's not exactly a new concept, aliens invade, humans fight back, the most obvious comparison would be "Independence Day" and... that's probably better. The effects in "Battle: LA" were pretty spectacular and there were things blowing up all over the place and blah blah blah. It was okay, definetly worth a watch at the cinema (as the TV release will be rubbish!), but I don't think I'd ever watch it again, the story just wasn't "that" gripping. Despite what this sounds like, I did enjoy it, but given the two movies above this and the one below... it's not really in the same league... :)

Sucker Punch

I can't remember the last time I was this excited about seeing a film (okay I can, Iron Man 2 in May 2010) and I've been taunted with the trailer for weeks and I was sure that this was going to be either the best movie ever made... or the worst... I mean it has robots, samurai's, zombies, a DRAGON, tons of things blowing up and a rather good looking cast! (oh c'mon, they are!)

Well it wasn't the best movie ever made, but I going to say it's one of the best films, I've ever seen (even though it has mainly negative reviews). When it first started off I was like "What the heck is going on?" then things started dropping into place and my god, the effects were AMAZING. Then about 2/3 of the way through the film, something changes (no spoilers!) and the whole story goes off in a different direction and I think that last 1/3 of the movie was the best part, because OMG the finale... I cannot say anything else, except - WOW!

I'm gutted they didn't shoot it in 3D as that would have been spectacular and there were originally adding post-production 3D, but quite rightly dropped it because of all the negative feedback about post-production 3D. I know a lot of people don't like 3D and/or don't see the point in it etc, but regardless of that, having seen films shot in 3D (Avatar, Saw 3D) and films that were post-production 3D (Clash of the Titans) there difference is noticeable! So much so that when the new Harry Potter comes out, even I'll be watching that in 2D! (post-production... BOO!)

But back to Sucker Punch... I know the reviews are generally bad and I fully expect that a lot of people reading this will say they didn't like it and that's okay... but I loved it :) So much so that I'm hoping to see it at least once more at the cinema, possibly even twice more!