Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2015 is coming...

So you read this, 2014 is either about to end, or has ended. (that pretty much covers everyone, except possibly for Doctor Who)

How's your year been?  Apparently this year I was going to lose weight and hit the gym, which didn't really happen (give or take maybe half a dozen pounds).  So, I've got a bit of a list for the next year:

  • Lose weight - I'm aiming to get down to 15 stone, through those wonderful things, diet and exercise.
  • Play more tabletop games - I want to try to organise to at least play board or card games once a month, I love playing tabletop games, it's an inexpensive way to have fun with friends and family, so I'm going to try to sort this out.
  • Increase views of my blog and videos - I did set myself a challenge of 600k blog views by the end of the month (looks like it'll be about 573k) and 14k video views (and I'm on 13,415) so they haven't quite got there.  I'm struggling, as I suspect many people do, with engaging readers.  By all means, if people have any suggestions as to blogs or videos that they'd like to see, or maybe they'd like to do a guest blog/vlog, let me know.

Longer term I also have the following ambitions:
  • Learn to swim - no, I can't swim.  Neither can I ride a bike, but I have a car so I don't see that being a big issue. However there is a possibility that I could drown, and a car would be particularly unhelpful in a drowning situation.
  • Study at Oxford or Cambridge (preferably Cambridge).  I'm not talking actually going there, as much as I'd love to, but perhaps a distance learning or online course, or even a short residential course (they do concentrated weekend courses on subjects).  I am a bit of a snob perhaps, a lot of people that I admire studied at those universities and whilst I can't see myself being able to get there to study a full degree or anything, some sort of study programme at one of the two would be great.
  • Visit the USA and Canada.  Over the last few months I've been doing a lot of reading about these countries, and I would love to visit them, perhaps on some sort of long holiday (2-3 weeks maybe).  There's so many places in both countries that I'd like to visit that I can't see us doing everywhere in one trip, but perhaps we could break it down over a number of years.

Do you have any plans for 2015 or new years resolutions?  Drop me a comment and let me know.

I should say that I will be doing my 2015 predictions video imminently (possibly tomorrow morning if I get chance, otherwise it'll be New Years Day), so if you do have a question about your 2015 that you want including on the video, do let me know asap, get it in the comments.

And before I finish, New Years Eve is coming!  I've done a video of advice, covering phones, taxis, and even signing Auld Langs Syne.  Be warned - if you listen carefully near the end you can hear a child counting monsters.

Happy new year!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Adventures in Wesnoth

Recently I've been hideously addicted to an open source adventure game, Battle for Wesnoth.

Here's my team exploring some caves.  Tip for you - elves are rubbish in caves.  Which is a shame because they own pretty much anywhere else.
Battle for Wesnoth is an open source, turn based strategy game, which plays as a RPG/adventure.  I've been working my way through the first campaign, Heir to the Throne, where I'm trying to take the throne of Wesnoth which is rightfully mine.  The campaign is made up of a huge amount of individual scenarios that you have to get through, but they aren't all just "fight the enemy and win", many are searching for a particular thing (an item, an exit etc) and just trying to survive until you find it.
The great thing about the game is that if you can keep your troops alive, you can take them from battle to battle, gaining experience and better abilities over time.  As I've played I've learned to put my best troops in the second wave, with the first wave just there to explore and to soften up the enemy - and to take attacks, while the experienced guys hide at the back, waiting for their moment to strike.  It's not particularly honourable but who cares!

There's a lot of map screens like this.  Inevitably they mean that there's some bad guys to pound.
The game comes with fifteen campaigns of varying sizes, but you can also download more campaigns, maps, and other addons for free.  There is also an ability to play the game multiplayer, but I've not tried that yet so can't comment.

I've found the Sceptre of Fire.  This means nothing to you but I've been looking for this thing for about a week.

In short it's a good game, with loads of content, and it is definitely well worth a look.  Find out more at http://www.wesnoth.org/

Friday, 26 December 2014


You know how you end up eating so much chocolate at Christmas that it makes you feel sick?

Well, this year has been no exception.

A bit of my video stuff was kindly included in TeaMakerJason's brilliant "A Game of Subs" video that's just gone up - do check it out:

And if you want to see my stuff (a bit of it is in Jason's video at 10 minutes, 20 seconds in) then you can watch my full entry here - the sound quality is a bit shocking though.  Wonder if I should have asked Santa for a new microphone.

While I remember, time is running out for you to get a question answered in my fortune telling video that I'm doing at the end of the year - if you have a burning question about your future that you'd like answering, then let me know (drop me a comment or something of the sort) as I'll be recording the video in the few days.  It's only a bit of light relief - and depends on me actually leaving the house to buy some fortune cookies - but should be fun.)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas is around the corner

Christmas is just around the corner, as I write this there is less than four hours before Christmas Day begins here in the UK. We've bought, wrapped, and decorated, and pretty much failed to write any cards whatsoever (very sorry if you've sent us one - thank you for it - we've just had various unplanned things happen this year that have just really slowed us down).

I'm really very tired, and I have been for the last few days.  I guess that I'm ready for some downtime.  And for me that's what the Christmas break is all about, it's about spending time with the ones that you love, taking time out, relaxing and recovering for a few days.  How about you?

I'd also like to flag up that find.com have kindly published another of my blogs, this one is about accepting geekness.  Feel free to read if you're a geek - perhaps struggling with being a geek even.

Wherever you are in the world, and whatever your beliefs, I hope you have some time to yourself, to do what you want, and to be happy.  All the best.

Happy holidays!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

3 days to an asteroid impact - time to tweet!

The European Space Agency has been busy this year.  Not content with managing to land a fridge on a comet, they've now worked out that about three days before an asteroid hits the Earth, they would have worked out where it's going to hit.

Armed with this information however, what would you do?

Well, today we're here to provide you with a foolproof guide to help you.

Should a huge asteroid be predicted to hit the Earth in the next three days, DON'T PANIC.

Firstly, travel to your nearest supermarket and buy emergency phone chargers - you know the sort, the ones which are some sort of external battery pack for your phone.  These are absolutely critical because you will get no end of opportunities to tweet exciting news in the next few days, e.g.:

This guy doesn't even realise the difference between an asteroid and a comet.

Next, this is absolutely the time to start up your own YouTube channel.  Everyone in the world is going to want to hear just what is happening where you live.  You don't need to worry about the quality of your videos, everyone will be desperate to find out any information there is about the asteroid.  Make sure you make up information to include in your videos so ensure that people watch them.  Perhaps, from the precise angle that you're viewing the asteroid from, it looks like Angelina Jolie's left ankle?

Finally, and most importantly, you have to bear in mind your own protection.  This is a time to look after yourself.

We're talking skincare.

We have no idea what kind of radiation that bad boy is going to emit on its way down into the atmosphere, so it's definitely time for a good quality barrier cream, maybe even some of that ultra-thick Norwegian formula stuff.  Essentials include rubber gloves, a hat with a wide brim, and make sure that you only use pH balanced soap.

We hope that this has been useful for you, and remember... don't have nightmares.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Anti hacking jeans and more brilliant writing

Well, time is counting down to Christmas, in one weeks time it will be Christmas Day, we still have quite a few presents to wrap (and a couple of buy) but we're not too far away from being ready.

If you're yet to finish your shopping, how about some anti-hack clothing?

Betabrand have worked with computer security firm Norton to create RFID blocking jeans (and a blazer, if that wasn't enough) to protect your credit cards from being attacked.  With the establishment of contactless payments, cards are becoming increasingly easy to access remotely, and I wouldn't be surprised if features like this become commonplace in clothing.

Today I have been listening to the classic Llama Song.  Yes, it's annoying.

And awesome.

I've also been reading through my stories of the spaceship Explorer and its crew in their struggle to save the United Systems of Earth from the Belan Empire (see my previous post for more details and examples of exceptionally bad writing).  I've come across the following gem, written by myself (aged 16ish)...

"Follow me!" Hardy ordered, and the escapees began to run. Gold led the way with Hardy, as several sets of legs came around a corner.  - I hope that the legs were attached to bodies, otherwise it's a bit gruesome.

The other day I did a shout out video the other day about my favourite five YouTubers.  Do check them out if you haven't already, and if there's a YouTuber that you love, let me know!

Finally, time is counting down if you'd like a question about your future answered by the pyramid of mystery - if you've got a question pop it in the comments!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

I made a quiz!

You know all of those brilliant quizzes people take?  For example:
Who is your celebrity arch nemesis? (mine is Justin Bieber)
Video Game Character Quiz - Apparently I'm Master Chief, I'm stoic and proud, I work well with a team, but am better on my own.  I love technology and exotic locales, but am often left to my own devices.  And I look cooler if I keep my helmet on.
Which Christina Aguilera Are You?  (I'm burlesque)

Well, you can make your own ones pretty easily too, so I've tried making one - it's only short, but wouldn't you like to know What Awesome Thing Are You?

Take the quiz here: http://www.onlineassessmenttool.com/what-awesome-thing-are-you/assessment-14927

Do let me know in the comments which answer you got, and if you agree with it!

Also, I'm doing 2015 fortunes over Christmas (click this link for more information from me whilst wearing shorts) - if you'd like your fortune telling (maybe you have a specific question you'd like answered) then drop me a comment with your question!  It can be silly - I'm going to answer them using fortune cookies, so it's not overly serious - but do enjoy!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Do you want to know your future?

It has returned, from another dimension...

Or maybe from a shelf.

It's the Pyramid of Mystery!

Last year, with the aid of the Pyramid of Mystery and a load of fortune cookies, I did some light hearted predictions for 2014 for a bunch of people.  Well, it's nearly 2015 and I'm going to do the same!

So, what I need from you is a question about your future that you'd like the pyramid of mystery to answer!  Drop me your question with your name in the comments below, or email me at mike.raven@gmail.com and I will endeavour to answer as many questions as possible in my video!

I made a video essentially saying what I've written above.

While I'm writing, thanks for all the positivity regarding my "pretend to be a time traveller" video!  Eating coconut shower gel isn't easy - and isn't recommended!  Kids... don't do this at home.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Happy Pretend To Be A Time Traveller Day!

It's December the 8th, and that obviously means one thing - it's "Pretend To Be A Time Traveller Day"!

Today is a day to dress up as a time traveller, either from the distant past or the distant future, and be amazed by the world today.

I was extremely lazy in my video supporting the day, but at least I made one (it's been long enough!) and I did go through artistic hardship.

Warning: Do not watch if you are offended by expectoration (i.e. spitting).

I'm hoping that this video helps me on my challenges to hit 600k blog views by the end of the year, and 14k video views.  As things stand I'm just over 91,000 views away on my blog, and about 800 views away on my videos, so we'll how how things go - it's all good fun anyway!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Stop the sun!

This morning my other half wanted to show me her favourite song at the moment, Avicii's "Addicted To You", but it hard was to see the screen with the sunlight shining.

Hence this photo:

I've just given a website, http://analyzewords.com/, a try.  This website analyses your tweets and gives you feedback on your personality from that. Using mine (@ravenswingthog) I got the following results:

Make of the results what you will, to be fair it probably has a hard time with my tweets because a lot of them are promoting either a blog post or a video, but it's a bit of fun.

Monday, 1 December 2014

I have a working PC! (just)

I have a working PC!

My longtime PC died a few weeks ago, when the motherboard suffered a lethal injection of electricity in the wrong place, so I've bought a refurbished ex-office PC and I'm currently using that.  I did attempt to merge it with the gaming parts of my old PC, but due to issues with cases (the office PC bits won't fit in the gaming PC case and the gaming PC bits won't fit in the office PC case) I've basically dismantled the office PC, damaged it, and reassembled it so that it works, but the case won't actually fully close.  Hopefully I won't spill a drink on it because it'll go straight in.

Nevertheless, it's great to be able to use it, and also to take this opportunity to copy everything off it - I do have files going back quite a few years on it.  The oldest files I can find are some science fiction stories I wrote in 1999, about Commander William Thrax and the crew of the K2a-class starship "Explorer", one of the Solfleet vessels defending against the aggressive "Belan" alien race.

The technical designs for the K2 and K2a.  I'm happy to report that my graphical capabilities are as good as they were 15 years ago.

Particular highlights from the stories (which generally involve the Explorer fighting off waves of Belan spaceships) include:

The force stayed in a lump as it closed on the battle around Sirius base - because all good generals keep their task forces in "lumps".

Suddenly from out of nowhere, a Belan fighter burst through the ranks of the human fleet, firing point blank range into everything there - everything there?!?

The rotatating lasers on the sides of the human cruiser emptied several crippling busts into the passing fighters. - I never knew that if you made lasers "rotatate" that they could fire busts.

I hope Natasha is behaving herself on the flagship of the fleet. Her and sensor equipment - if you're not careful the computer storage could fill with intense data of an asteroid if she's interested in it. - It's been fifteen years and I still can't imagine why I ever wrote "intense data".  Or even imagine what intense data is for that matter.

A third ship, a hunter-killer, appeared. They blasted the side of the Explorer. "Shields shaky!" someone shouted. - possibly the best status update ever given on the bridge of a starship.

Did you enjoy this blog post?  Drop us a comment!  And if you'd like to read a bad story, why not check out the six questing mugs of Cupland!
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