Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Wil Wheaton Project and making videos

I'm a big fan of several people.  Stephen Fry, my son, and Leroy Jethro Gibbs, to name but a few.

For about a week I went around drinking out of those american travel mugs that kind of look like the coffee pots in NCIS because it made me feel like Gibbs.

One other guy that I am definitely a fan of is Wil Wheaton.  Wil played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and has done a ton of stuff since then.  Wil is unashamedly a geek, and presents TableTop on the Geek & Sundry network on YouTube.

Anyhow, Wil is involved in a new show appearing on SyFy in the near future called The Wil Wheaton Project, which sounds like an awesome show about science fiction, pop culture, viral videos, all that kind of thing.  I don't know if it's going to be available here in the UK but I really hope so!

And on his blog, he's asked for submissions for an item called First Contact.  I'd suggest that you read his blog entry for full details, but briefly they're looking for short videos from people talking about when they met someone famous.  I had a go at recording a video, and I'm pleased to say that the quality of the video is really good, better than anything I've done before.  I've not shared this video on my YouTube channel because I don't know if the show makers would want it kept private - not that I really think that they're going to actually use the submission because it isn't that good, but I don't want to give them any additional reason for not using it - but I used my video editing software to record the video using the highest quality settings it had, and I also did more mucking about with the audio than I usually would, to chop out hiss and background noise, and I'm really pleased at the quality of the final video.  Although I still really want a proper camera, new webcam, and a decent microphone to improve my videos, it is pleasing to see what can be done with a bit of tinkering and effort.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Things You Discover From Kids TV - In The Night Garden

In The Night Garden.

If you haven't seen In The Night Garden, basically it's a psychedelic show that is usually shown about half past six on an evening, because nothing says "Time for bed" like a floating green airship with a pink nose.

Night night.

Anyway, you can tell that it is a British show?


The Pontipines and the Wottingers don't like each other.

The Pontipines and the Wottingers are two families of tiny little people that live next door to each other.  And despite the fact that you'd think that the show would having them being nice to each other, it's quite clear that they hate each others guts.

The Pontipines.

The Wottingers will go round and knock on the Pontipines door to see them.  The Pontipines don't answer the door until the Wottingers go away.  Then, when the Wottingers return to their own home, they'll go and bang on their door, and then go back home before Mr Wottinger has chance to say hello.

Here we see the Pontipines knocking on the Wottingers door.  Guess what happened next. Clue - It didn't involve Mr Wottinger opening the door.

If they do happen to be forced to speak to each other, they will invariably arrange a picnic.  Now, you wouldn't think this would be difficult.  They live next to each door, right?  Surely all that they have to do is prepare some food, and travel, all together, to wherever they want to have the picnic, and eat away like woodland vermin around a diseased rabbit.


The Pontipines will set up the picnic somewhere, and before giving the Wottingers chance to get there, will eat all the picnic.

The Wottingers are waving to the Pontipines, but you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.  I bet Mr Pontipine "borrowed" the Wottingers lawn mower and never returned it.

Amazingly we haven't seen a fistfight between Mr Pontipine and Mr Wottinger, but I feel that it is only a matter of time.

And don't get me started on the Hahoos.  Basically these are a pack of giant smiling balloons that just slowly move towards you.  You can imagine being chased by them - yes, they might be slow, but nothing is going to stop them.
Hello. We're really friendly.  Don't let the fact that we're ten times the size of ANYTHING ELSE in this forest put you off.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Music is rubbish nowadays

So, me and my other half had one of the music channels on TV the other night.  I can't remember why, as it's pretty rare that we have anything on the TV except for:
b) NCIS: Los Angeles
c) Kids TV shows
d) Recordings of Kids TV shows

But, this time, we had a music channel on.  And the music channel was playing a number of hits from the 90s pop band, Steps.  I remember when they were first launched how uncool it was to like Steps (although I can't actually remember what was cool then - Eminem perhaps?)

Anyhow, we watched a few Steps songs, and sang along, and had a great time.

Then the music changed, to some hit of today, a pair of female rappers talking about selfies and fame or bling or some other nonsense.

Now, I've always believed that there is a time in each generations life when you decide, irrationally, that new music is all rubbish and the best music was out when you were young.

But it's different this time - because this new music IS rubbish!  All they do is jig around with jeans hanging around their ankles, gold braces on their teeth, bizarre waving of their hands which apparently is some kind of dance (maybe?!?) and they shout a lot about members of the opposite sex, illegal substances, gambling, and illicitness!

With nostalgia in mind, can I point you to this brilliant video remembering the 70s and 80s:

Now finally, but by no means least, an extremely talented blogger by the name of Tim Clark has let me loose on his blog - I took the opportunity to rant about technology.

Especially printers.

Why not head over and take a look?

Thanks Tim!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Lime and Coconut are only useful in drinks

That's my wisdom for today - the fruit Lime and Coconut (Coconut is a fruit, isn't it?) are only useful in drinks.

You can't eat them - well you can, but they taste wrong - and they have no other use.

But wait (I pretend that I hear you cry), lime is so cleansing!  What about in washing substances, such as shower gel?


I am currently using a Lime and Coconut Shower Gel, and let me tell you, it's bad.  The lime smells limey, but in a bad way. And I'm a guy that likes citrus smelling shower gels, that's how tough I am.

So tough that I am at ease with sleeping under a pink duvet.

But this lime smells as though it's gone off, and perhaps it has.  It's not a million miles away from what ultra-cheap-value bottles of floor cleaner smell of.

And then there's the coconut.

Now, I understand the importance of exfoliation.  I understand that impurities can get stuck in the skin, like a rock stuck in a sandbed, plugging up pores for weeks, if not months, letting blackheads build into volcanic mountains ready to spew forth icky destruction.

So, you need to, now and again, deploy some ordinance to cleanse the surface of your skin, making it all lovely and raw.  I'm even down with having a go with a handful of salt scrub, or even one of those cheese grater things you can get for your feet.

But the coconut in this is a little bit silly.  Basically chunks of coconut force themselves into their skin - not to mention your scalp if you're silly enough to use it as a shampoo - where they sit, irritating you, and clinging on for dear life to resist any effort to remove them.

However, because I hate to waste anything, and I love an opportunity to triumph over extremely minor adversity, I am going to finish this shower gel, if it's the last thing I do.

Finally, if people want to read a slightly more serious blog post, Crysta of Dancing With Fireflies very kindly hosted a guest blog of mine recently, about why people bother creating stuff.  It's a little bit introspective and not the sort of stuff I put on here, but Crysta is great and does have a great website which is well worth a visit.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!  Are you having a good Easter weekend?  Mine so far has included:

  • Eating chocolate
  • Having a cold
  • Drinking Lemsip
  • Eating a curry to try to kill the cold
  • Drinking beer to try to kill the curry
  • Having my garage broken into and my partner's bike stolen
  • Walking the streets in an effort to find the aforementioned bicycle (unsuccessfully)

I've also made a couple of videos, so all in all it's been a busy weekend.

The first, short, video, is of me opening an Easter egg in my preferred way (i.e. nutting it)

I was quite pleased with the chunky noise that the egg makes when you nut it.

And the second one discusses the joy that is a hot cross bun with bacon.

I'm aware that many of you will want to lynch me for suggesting bacon with a hot cross bun, but I am a long-term supporter of bacon in teacakes, and so the hot cross bun is merely one step further into the abyss for me.

Have a good Easter Monday!

Friday, 18 April 2014

SanctuaryRPG is brilliant!

Before I launch into today's post, I have to give a special shout out to Tony, who made the funniest comment about my last blog post (to set the scene, I was talking about Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS, and how they seem to have a lot of dead marines in Norfolk - which in the UK is a rural place that likes growing asparagus)

Tony commented:

"Grab your gear!"
"Asparagus snatchers again, boss?"

I read it when going to bed and laughed.  And every time I read it again I smile.  I love the vision of Gibbs marching into the office, and McGee/DiNozzo suggesting that asparagus rustlers are on the loose (followed up with the inevitable headslap).  Thanks Tony!

Today we're going to take a look at SanctuaryRPG, a turn-based text adventure by indie studio Black Shell Games. Now, I have to say, I don't like text adventures. They conjure up for me visions of hours getting more and more frustrated, typing commands such as "go north", "inventory", "open door", "unlock door", and "hack the god damn locked door into little pieces with my sword"

But this is different.

Yes, it involves a bit of keyboard action, it's basically the first game that I've played for ages that doesn't involve the mouse. And you know what?

Not a problem.

It's a massive sword.  Not a euphemism.

Without going too much into the plot detail, you're sent off to deal with The Matron, an all-round bad person, who was taken on years ago by Cyrus the Magnificent (yes, really), but, as in all good stories, The Matron is back and it's down to you to save the day.

Here's Cyrus!  He has a seriously pointy nose.
The game involves a huge amount of combat with all kinds of different monsters, from skeletons to bandits, as well as boss creatures, awesome loot, and some fantastic storylines and dialogue. Will you give Lyssa the rose? Or inject her with a poison? And more importantly, will you restock her bar and get her patrons some beer?

The combat system has enough complexity in it to make it interesting, but without having an infinite number of tactics to choose from. You can link attacks up to deliver some serious damage in a combo, but meanwhile your enemy will be beating on you, and generally causing a pain of themselves, so you need to think about whether to go for the damage, or whether to heal yourself up before they finish you off.  I found that it's easy to learn and before long you're able to deliver a wide variety of attacks and the like.

There are a ton of different items to collect, and other diversions such as quests, the arena, not to mention chatting up the barmaid.  It almost feels a little bit like World of Warcraft in that you can properly get involved in things that aren't anything to do with fighting - if you want to spend your time upgrading the bar, ordering booze and serving people drinks, you can!

The ASCII graphics and 8-bit soundtrack are a blast from the past, and made me think of the likes of ZZT and Ultima 4, two games that I absolutely loved when growing up.

Oh dear.

Can I add that you do really feel it when your character dies, especially when you're on classic mode, and there's no recovering the dead character.  All hail the fallen barbarian Thog - I knew him well.

I strongly recommend that you get over to now and pick up a copy of this bad boy. You won't be disappointed.

For more information catch my live play video of SanctuaryRPG on my YouTube Channel (or watch it below!)

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Just like Gibbs...

On Friday I stopped at the coffee shop (I don't know why I'm being unspecific, I went to Costa, other coffee providers are available but Costa is the closest one to work, and they're open when I go to work, so I went there) and got a drink.  Mainly because I fancied one, but also being it meant that I felt a little bit like Gibbs of NCIS, being able to march into working, clutching a hot drink, ready to do business.

Although the look was probably thrown off a little bit by the drink being a hot chocolate, and by me also clutching a bag with a piece of Tiffin in.

While I'm talking about Gibbs, what's the deal with Norfolk?  You know how an episode of NCIS starts (well if you're addicted to the show like I am you will), basically Tony looks all smug and makes some kind of wisecrack about McGee being a geek, Ziva/Kate shoots Tony being with an epic remark, then Gibbs marches in, and says "Grab your gear - dead marine in Norfolk"

Why Norfolk?  Why is Norfolk, the fairly quiet rural county to the east of England, so popular for marines getting murdered?  Are they choking on insufficiently cooked asparagus?

(Note for American readers - I know Norfolk in the USA is home to the world's largest Naval Base, but in the UK it's a rural county with a penchant for growing asparagus)

Finally, many thanks to all that have watched my World of Warcraft video.  It's become one of my most viewed videos which makes the effort worthwhile.  And thanks again to Andy for helping make it.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

World of Warcraft Sketches Ahoy!

Not really sure why I put "ahoy" in the title of this post, but there it is.  Live with it.

Just a quick post really to say that I, with the aid of the excellent, funny, and very patient Andy of Bad Dog Gaming, have produced "WoW Life" - a series of World of Warcraft sketches!  The sketches are now live and viewable on my YouTube channel, or follow this link to go direct to the video.

Andy eating a cookie after turning me into a vibrating pig through the use of a polymorph spell.

Unfortunately the sound isn't quite 100%, I have spent a huge amount of time working on the spell and it is massively better than when I started, but there's still some bits where the wind does disrupt things a little. Nevertheless I am pleased with the final result and I hope you enjoy it too.  Be warned that there is some mild swearing in there - along with some extremely dodgy acting!

Special thanks to my parents who provided a lot of the props for the day (check out their weird and wonderful magical mail order goods at and obviously thanks to Andy for indulging me.  My other half particularly recommends Andy's sign off at the end of the video.

As an aside, it took the bruises from the "auto follow" sketch about a week to clear up!  Hope you enjoy the video, if you do feel free to like / share / comment / subscribe to my channel!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

TableTop Gaming Day 2014 Report

So, yesterday was International TableTop Day, a day to get together with people, and play all kinds of tabletop games, be they card, board, dice, or whatever.  My day kicked off with a few hours manic cleaning to try to get the place up to standard before revelers arrived, as well as doing something that I very rarely do - engage with strangers on Twitter.

Twitter for me is generally about my news feed, and about tweeting.  TableTop Day is one of the rare days that I go on, and actually search for a hashtag, and fire out positive tweets to anyone else I can find that is also taking part, and Twitter is great for this because it really reminds you just how big the world is, and makes you wonder at how you can get a message from you to people on the far side of the planet in an instant, and you find out fascinating things - for example, TableTop Day was particularly good in some parts of Australia, because it was the same day that their daylight savings time ended, and they all got an extra hour to game (or sleep or do whatever) - this is slightly mind-boggling for me as we've just started our daylight savings time!

It's also given me the opportunity to think of the next games I must buy, which are:

  • Pandemic - I saw tons of people planning to play this, and even though it's supposed to be rock hard, it's a great game
  • Pass the Pigs - I had this when I was a kid and lost it!  But it's great fun.
  • Settlers of Catan - again, like Pandemic, a very popular game indeed and one I must sample.

TableTop Day is a great opportunity to connect with other geeks (not that you have to be a geek to play games!) and one that I've endeavoured to take full advantage of.

Looking at my TableTop Day, on the day we played Cluedo, Ivor the Engine, QI, Hare & Tortoise (which I messed up as I did last year!) and Cards Against Humanity (which was by far the most popular as always!)

Here's a very brief photo timeline - very brief due to the fact that I only took four photos during the whole day!

8am - got all my games out.  Slightly embarrassed at the amount of dust on some of them.

1.30pm - about two hours in, and after a visit to the chippy for lunch, we got into some good old dice rolling "Snakes & Ladders" style gaming - Ivor The Engine is a game for 4 to 7 year olds, and this made it a lot easier for us to understand/
3pm-ish - I discovered a cocktail of cream soda and pretend Jagermeister, which was pretty decent, and became the forfeit drink for Cards Against Humanity!
5pm-ish - Cards Against Humanity mid-game.  I spread out my successful question cards in an effort to make them look more impressive.  Note how empty my glass is in comparison to the previous photo!

After the games I enjoyed some indian food and some NCIS before falling asleep on the sofa - all in all a pretty decent day, and one that must be repeated more than once a year.

Remember - play more games!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

April Fools - the answer!

So, what was the answer to my April Fool post?

As a recap, in my last post I gave nine truths and one lie about me, and invited people to guess which one was untrue.  The ten statements were as follows:

1) I can't swim or ride a bike.
2) Sneezing out of a window seems logical to me.
3) I once eBayed a cherry that had been kicked by Dylan Moran, the Irish comedian.
4) I massaged a Moroccan chap called Abdul.  Multiple times.
5) Stephen Fry once called me "Mark" instead of "Mike".
6) I once planned to travel around the country in a van.
7) I wrote a skit about Tony Blair.
8) I wrote a short story about a fruit machine, and a mans love for it.
9) I once conversed with Robert Llewellyn about the state of Starbug in later series of Red Dwarf.
10) As I write this, an uneaten doughnut is on a plate next to me.

The answer is number nine - although I would very much like to communicate with Robert Llewellyn, being an awesome person, the writer of one of my favourite books (The Man on Platform Five) and obviously the man behind the mask of Kryten, I haven't done so at this point in time.  Everyone seems to have been thrown off by the amazing truth that I managed to not eat a doughnut, until I had finished the post!

In other news, I hate my socks.

Seriously, just look at them.  Scum.

These socks are scratchy, and don't stretch, and are just simply not really nice to wear.  I have a selection of lovely bamboo lined socks, as well as more basic thin cotton ones.

But the trouble with these other socks is that they inevitably are worn, and then separate from one another in the washing basket/washing machine/tumble dryer/sorting of clothes process, so that I only have one of my lovely socks to wear.

And these ones are always there.  So in the end, faced with the choice of once again wearing a non-paired couple of socks, or wearing the horrible pair, I plump for the horrible pair.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has viewed my blog - I've just hit 50,000 views (by Blogger statistics anyway) which is really great.  Thank you!  And do keep an eye on my YouTube channel, I'm working on a new video which is going to be quite decent (hopefully!)
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