6/365 A job search update

So large parts of the country return to work today, obviously that doesn’t include me, not that it ever did, nor Charly for that matter. Neither of us have ever worked in an industry that gives its employee’s Christmas breaks. Must be nice. It does give me a slither of hope that my search for a new job will speed up a bit now though, I hope that more jobs will start appearing on the websites I use and more applications will be answered.

Over the weekend I applied for a bank porter position at the hospital (something I believe I’ve already mentioned) and a position as an Assistant Manager somewhere locally, although the recruitment website didn’t say who it was for, they listed the roles I’ll be performing. Some of them I have no experience in, others I do but its worth putting my name out there, especially as (according to the website) it’s only received 14 applications.

Apparently a local “Working Men’s Club” type bar is looking for bar staff too so I intend to hand my CV in there. I’m happy to give most jobs a try, so won’t be limiting myself unless the role requires some kind of qualifications that I do not have. Ahwell, fingers cross, lets see how things pan out.


5/365 Tribal behaviour

If you follow football, you may have seen the footage, or at least an image, from yesterdays game between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, of Arsenal’s Theo Walcott performing a “hand-gesture” which reads 2-0 whilst he is stretchered off the pitch after picking up an injury. The 2-0 refers to the score line and came about after Walcott received some abuse from the Tottenham Hotspur supporters, this then led to him receiving more abuse, both times he had “missiles” thrown at him.

This is something I don’t understand, why is it deemed okay for this kind of behaviour to be so prevalent at football games. We see people on Twitter and the like tutting and saying its bad behaviour but its not just the throwing of objects that I’m questioning, its the alpha male posturing and childish behaviour that seems so prevalent amongst followers of the “national game”. I often find it embarrassing to state I enjoy the game of football purely because of the behaviour of these individuals, and whilst many will say its a minority of people that behave in this manner, bring up any inter-club rivalry and the insults start and are then excused as “banter”. Again, I don’t really understand this. Allegience to a particular club is often secured in a manner of ways, either geographically, hereditrally or just because a person wants to support that team (I fall into the latter as an Arsenal fan who has no links to the club what with being born in Nottingham to parents who don’t follow football, although other family members do but they support either Nottingham Forest or Notts County). I understand taunts based upon results, but geographical location or political/religious abuse because of ones association with what is essentially choosing a side to support in entertaining us completely baffles me, especially when in the modern game theres very little to link a club to its “community” other than where they have chosen to build their stadium.

I used to be a regular on a football forum, one that was purely about Arsenal, and whilst the abuse on there aimed at other teams or players (and why someone from a completely different country, let alone city, should show any allegiance to their employer I do not know) wasn’t as bad as I’ve seen it elsewhere, it all became a little too much for me. I still enjoy football and I still nail my suport to the colours of Arsenal but I frequently feel more and more distant from the culture that surrounds the game.

4/365 Plans for 2014

I don’t normally make massive plans for the year, normally because nothing ever really goes to plan within this household and it seems to work better to live in the moment and react accordingly.
However I’m going to set myself a few goals to have done by the end of the year;
#1 is obviously to find a job, I’ve already applied for a bank porters position at the hospital, that isn’t ideal in the long term but is perfect to help me contribute to the household financially whilst I look for a permanent solution. I’ve also applied for an Assistant Managers position at a shop somewhere locally, I don’t know where as its through an agency advertising on a job website and whilst I have no formal training as an Assistant Manager I took on many of the required duties during my time at Blockbuster.
#2 is to reclaim the garden, we’ve pretty much left it top the dogs and used it as a dumping ground. We’re intending to get a skip once we know whats happening financially (i.e. when my job situation is resolved and possibly using some of my Blockbuster redundancy money).I think if we reclaim it, dig up the top layer of soil and grass and shove that into a compost bin and take it one step at a time, marking out and developing beds, switching to gravel rather than grass etc we can make it usable for the family again.
#3 I want to build a wardrobe. We have a wierd boxed out n our bedroom that sits above the stairs that we currently used to store our clothes in but it becomes very disorganised very quickly and looks really untidy, plus clothes fall out of it all the time and its generally a pain in the arse. I think, despite never doing anything beyond assemblind some flat pack furniture, I could build a wardrobe into that space, not one with a rail (we already have arail up but very rarely use it), instead I’ll use shelvng brackets and posts and get B&Q or wherever to pre-cut the wood for me, then fit some doors and a fix a mirror to one of them.
#4 Lastly, I think I want to put together a Raspberry Pi media system for the TV, admittedly I already have the consoles hooked up tot he TV to run stuff off but they’re pretty limited codec wise and alot of the anime I want to watch is in the wrong video format. I could easily run them through a program to change that but I think I’d rather just build a small unit to sit under the TV that runs off an SD card and load things I want onto there. Plus its something I’ve never done before and I think it’d be an interesting experience.

3/365 replace “Midwife” with “Nurse”

I regularly read The Independents “concise” newspaper “i”, mostly because its only 20p but also because due to its limited space it doesn’t tend to force opinion onto you, so I can get my daily dose of news in the time it takes to eat a bowl of Corn Flakes and drink a couple of cups of filtered coffee (has to be filtered in the mornings, I can cope with instant through the rest of the day). They do have a handful of opinion based columns, today they had a single page spread dedicated to this “whistleblowing” article from a rather disenchanted midwife.

Reading it, I genuinely felt for her and understood exactly where she was coming from. When our youngest was born in February of last year I did notice that anyone wanting help from a midwife would have to wait quite a while whilst they stayed in hospital. I didn’t really complain, I understood just how busy they were. My partner moaned a bit, she would do, she’s a nurse and whilst she tried to be understanding there was an air of “I’d have answered that ladycall bell by now” when someone had waited for a little while. We all do that I reckon, especially in a field where we share a skillset with someone who is essentially serving us (the amount of times I’ve caught myself tutting about what I perceived to be poor customer service has begun to equally amuse and frustrate me). However, every single complaint the Midwife who wrote that article has made could also be made by nurses. My partners ward has recently changed to twelve hour shifts, this is partly to allow them breaks, reduce the chances of them finishing work late and reduce the number of days in the week that they have to work. However, she still frequently finishes an hour late, and whilst the break situation has improved she still feels frustrated by the level of care that her working enviornment is allowing her to provide.

Unsurprisingly it all boils down to money being spent in the wrong place, as the midwife states, the 1% pay rise freeze is essentially a pay cut, and now GP#’s are proposing a £10 fee to use A+E, a fee that wont be fed back into the service in a constructive manner and will just help line the pockets of directors further. As someone who is in a relationship and has a family with someone who works within this environment I find the way in which the current and previous political powers are running the NHS to be both frustrating and depressing, I can’t even begin to imagine how those who work within it genuinely feel, particularly as its seems to be so difficult to be have your opinion and feelings heard. To me the power and the funding seems to be going into the wrong places and whilst the staff who can make the difference to patients are being treated unfairly, its all feeds downwards to make the patients suffer more than they should really have to.

2/365: A lack of united front?

Earlier today I watched a documentary on US Netflix, it was a sports based documentary and its something I do quite alot. However, this one wasn’t entirely sports based, it was one of ESPN’s “30 for 30” series and happened to be directed by former NWA rapper Ice Cube, it was called 30 for 30: Straight Outta LA” . For what its worth I rather enjoyed it despite some rather wierd animation sequences.

The film essentially documented the Oakland Raider’s NFL team during their move to Los Angelese and the rise of the hip-hop scene around that time. Oddly however, it got me thinking about how there is a bit of history of people uniting around a particular musical movement in a bid to voice their disconcern with the treatment they receive from those in power and society in general. I also begun to think about that nothing really springs to mind that could be relatable in modern music for a generation that is mostly being overlooked and forgotten about in order to, I feel, line the pockets of the people that have put this country in the economical position it currently finds itself in.

Groups like The Clash, Sex Pistols, NWA, Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine have all had enourmous success by blending their creative output with political messages. Some of these had chart successes or went on to become key contributors to specific scenes, others weren’t always as succesful in delivering their message, all of them gave it a go and all of the above have at least one song that the vast majority of people recognise. However it saddens me that the only time such music seems to make any impact on modern popular culture is when a movement is created that see’s an older song pushed to the top of the charts in order to prevent another song getting there as we saw a couple of years ago when RATM gained the Christmas Number 1 Chart position in the UK.

I’m not saying there aren’t any politically minded groups out there, but there does seem to be a lack of unity amongst those of us who are struggling under the current political regime and whilst I acknowledge that the charts will always be saturated with groups like One Direction now that music has become so heavily commercialised, to the point that “alternative” movements don’t even seem to recognise that they’re buying into the same machine (I’ll fully admit I’m guilty of this too, we’re all entitled to financially support groups and performers that we enjoy listening to, it also becomes much more difficult not to support mainstream groups as you gain a family and those children grow as peer pressure is an absolute bitch that I personally can ignore, but it becomes more difficult if your child is bullied for not liking the same things as those in her year bracket at school). However, these politically motivated groups seem to have a much harder time being heard, either because of the way we consume music has changed so drastically in the past decade or simply because there’s just not the motivation to get behind a movement that has had enough of things like cuts to the NHS, government alteration of unemployment figures or Work Fair, or maybe we just have a generation of people who feel so disconnected with how the current political system works that they feel that they don’t have a voice. I honestly don’t have any answers to any of this, and it leaves me a little sad and a little concerned, both for my own future, for my children’s future and their childrens future.

1/365: 20113 – Exhausted


2013! What an exhausting year, I’m glad its over. 2 jobs for (technically) 3 employers, a second child and mucho stress and unemployment.

Still, onwards an upwards. My two main goals for the forseeable to future are to return to writing on this blog regularly (in fact I want to throw myself in at the deep-end and add something each day) and find a new job. I’ve, obviously, already made a start on the former and the latter I’ve started extending the branches, have updated my CV and have begun to look around with a few applications that I aim to fill in when things quieten down around here later this evening. I’d also like to get into the routine of contributing to bitparade more regularly.

So, okay, this is a short contribution and is just to get things started, tomorrow there may (or may not) be something more substantial, I’ve not planned anything ahead, I’ll take it all a day at at time. Here’s to hoping 2014 is better than 2013.

E3 2011 Day 1: Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony

I actually wanted to post this on bitparade first, but its not letting me do it (something to do with the URL being too long), will let Mark know when I see him online/if I see him online and see about getting it posted. Maybe this year I manage to psot one for each day of the big conferences, including one tomorrow for todays Nintendo and individual game conferences (FORZA 4!)

So anyway,

So thats Day One of E3 2011 over and done with, I sat through the Microsoft, EA and Ubisoft conferences whilst they were broadcast live, then this morning I watched the Sony conference as I wasn’t staying up any later than I already had, I’m getting too old for that!

Microsoft have had the weakest E3 from what we’ve seen so far, they didn’t have any new hardware to show off, so their show became about the games and services they will be bringing to their XBox 360 over the next 18 months and really, it was all a little flat. For non-Kinect loving gamers there was very little to get excited about, Gears 3 looked like a safe bet, Ghost Recon Future Soldier looked good, Forza 4 was always a must have for me personally, Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary wasn’t really a surprise and didn’t look as well developed as I would have hoped, Tomb Raider looks pretty good although I think somebody was playing with Keeley Hawes’ naughty parts whilst she was recording for the role of Lara, Modern Warfare 3 is Modern Warfare 3 and there were some continuity errors (in my opinion) in the Halo 4 reveal.

Interesting implementations to the 360’s dashboard include YouTube, Bing search and live TV, although it remains to be seen how usable these are. They’ve already missed the boat somewhat by having a very limited Last.FM, Twitter and Facebook service available (all of which should be accessible through your guide button, in-game, in my opinion), and I can see the YouTube functionality being the same sort of deal as the services already offered, Bing only appears to work with Kinect and there’s no further details on the live TV stuff although Sky was mentioned in passing and I imagine that UK XBox 360 customers will have to have a Sky subscription to take advantage of that particular service from Microsoft much as you already do to watch sports on your XBox 360 despite the US having free access to ESPN.

The rest of the show was all about Kinect, and whilst there were some interesting things, such as the ability to scan yourself in and make your Avatar a true representation of the real you, and what appeared to be finger gesture recognition, it all looked rather gimmicky and tacked on whilst the games themselves looked like Eyetoy products with better graphcis, really wasn’t impressed. I have no issue with Microsoft pushing Kinect, nor with people buying it, there’s a few games on it and coming out for it that I’d buy because my daughter would enjoy them, but to turn up at E3 and show off so much stuff thats not for the kind of people who pay attention to the conference is really kind of suicidal on Microsofts part.

Next up was EA, and they really did get the ball running with a number of great looking games, almost all of which were known about. The additions to this years FIFA looked incredibly promising, with Social Networking options across all formats and versions of the game plus a bunch of engine additions that add depth and realism to match engines that could really make FIFA even more enjoyable to play. Mass Effect 3 looked as amazing as you’d expect considering the other two games in the series, the one everyone was waiting for, Battlefield 3, looked great graphically (they were running the PC version and deliberately showed someone using a mouse and keyboard playing the game to point that out) but I felt underwhelmed by the choice of level they chose to demonstrate the game. There’s no denying it showed the sheer size of the maps that will be offered up and it got to show off some great particle effects as the player controlled a tank, but other than that there was nothing to really wow the audience although that didn’t stop the customary whooping and hollering. The biggest surprise from EA was to unveil that Insomniac Games are working on a multiplatform title for them, and in my opinion, it looks like it could be quite good. It’s called Overstrike, and from what I can gather, its a arcadey squad-based shooter, probably with a large focus on co-op. EA’s conference was probably the best overall for the opening day, but it all felt a little safe really.

Ubisoft however was all over the place, I’m really not sure what impression I got from “Mr. Caffeine” the over excitable host of the French publishers show, but he did his job well and there was some games that I am looking forward to playing, most notably Rayman Origins which looks absolutely delightful and is something that has kind of been missing from this generation for those that have ignored Nintendo’s output for the “core” market. A game based on the TinTin license was announced, and during the build up to showing the game Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson spoke about the product, whilst they were doing so there was alot of concept art shown and I was getting excited at the idea of something that looked a little like the cartoons I watched as a kid, possibly 2D like Rayman Origins and even had it suggested to me that something like the original Prince of Persia games could suit the feel of TinTin perfectly, what we got however was 3D/2.5D visuals and whilst it looked good enough, I felt underwhelmed by the final appearance of the product and felt Ubisoft had missed a trick by taking this route for the game. We saw more of Ghost Recon, and whilst it looked good, I was hoping we’d get a new Rainbow Six. A new Brothers In Arms was confirmed, although its nothing like the series used to be and felt a little like Inglorious Basterds meets Team Fortress 2. Far Cry 3 looked absolutely stunning, its now back in the jungle and there was some absolutely amazing water effects going on, most notably when the lead character walks through a waterfall and through the mist being thrown up by the water he spots a guard. Uising the mist as cover he manages to take the guard out without being detected, I really enjoyed that bit and hope to see the environment being used even more throughout the game. Trackmania 2 made a small appearance and I can’t wait to play that as I do love Tracmania. Then we were shown two “casual” games in the shape of a new Raving Rabbids title which uses Kinect and Just Dance 3, again not my kind of thing, but at least Ubisoft managed to limit themselves to only brief showings of these titles.

Most people were waiting for the big showing of the new Assassins Creed, which to be honest, looked as good as Assassins Creed always does when you watch someone else play it, but I always feel dissapointed when I actually get to have a go so I’m not really interested in that, however, I wouldn’t mind seeing a full release of the Another World inspired version of Assassins Creed they used to introduce the game, that looked pretty damn cool in my opinion, as did most of the other “Retro” versions of the games Ubisoft announced.

Last, but not least (that award goes to Microsofts conference), was Sony, showing at 1am GMT. After brief introductions to the PlayStation brand and Sony’s vision,  a playthrough of a pre-Alpha build of Killzone 3. Now I’ve not played a Killzone game since the first one, not having a PS3, but Killzone 3 looks like it could be pretty entertaining as far as modern console first-person shooters go. Obviously we’re well aware the colour pallette is very, very grey, thats something thats really not worth complaining about (although that won’t stop some people), but the lighting was rather impressive and it looked and felt alot less scripted than the Modern Warfare 3 playthrough and more exciting than the Battlefield 3 playthrough, if anything Sony chose the right stuff to show off as explosions and gun fire were going off left right and centre with plenty of events happening both in the foreground and in the distance of the players view. Sony’s focus for PS3 gaming appears to be to push 3D gaming, first party titles like Killzone 3 and Motorstorm Apocalypse have been developed for 3D TV’s whilst Gran Turismo 5 will have a 3D patch applied to it, third party titles will also receive the 3D treatment. Obviously, the 3D stuff is entirely optional, but I’m still not sold on the concept of 3D in general and can’t really see how it can add to a gameplay experience, but its another thing that Sony can stick on the box to their products as a selling point and it’ll bring some customers in who are interested in the technology I suppose. Two new collections will be available on PS3 in September and playable in 3D, these collections are Team Ico Collection (ICO and Shadow of the Colossus) and God of War Origins (both the PSP God of War titles).

PS3 will be getting exclusive content for a number of games, including the third Saints Row game, Bioshock Infinite will include the original game on the disc, an exclusive Star Trek game is in development to tie in with JJ Abrams second movie release. Now, I must say, it took a while to find the conference being shown in one piece, so things are a little muddled up. Being removed from the PlayStation console brand for so long (aside from my PSP) has meant I’ve missed out on the love that Uncharted has received. But watching the footage of Uncharted 3 I really can appreciate why people like it, it looks like everything that the software on the original PlayStation, and to some extent the PS2, was building up towards, in that it seems to have all the best elements of games such as Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid and Syphon Filter. Rest assured that when I do eventually get around to owning Sony’s current home console, I’ll be playing these games. In fact, the footage shown, of Drake escaping from a ship of some description (I assume its a Tanker, they’re always Tankers) reminds me of the original E3 trailer for Metal Gear Solid 2 when it showed Snake escaping from the Tanker (a part that wasn’t including in the final cut of the game). As for Resistance 3, I’m not sure how much its needed, there seems to be an air of indifference to the series in general and it feels like Sony’s focus is divided between that and Killzone even though they’re by seperate developers.

An interesting development is a PlayStation branded 3D TV, available for $499, that enables you to play multiplayer split-screen without actually splitting the display, instead it uses the 3D technology to broadcast two images, one for each player. Dust: 514 sounds interesting, its a tie-in to EVE Online, but I’m not entirely sure what it is. Gameplay footage shows it to be an FPS, but its links to EVE could suggest something a little deeper than that.

The thing we’ve all be waiting to see properly though is Sony’s new handheld, the NGP or as its been renamed Vita, we know what the hardware has and it looks bloody promising, and indeed exciting for someone such as myself who happens to be a big fan of the current PSP. Interestingly, the Vita has something that the PS3 doesn’t currently have, and that is party chat that can be used in or out of a game. Seeing the thing running Uncharted Golden Abyss is truly impressive and by giving the player the option of using standard controls or using the combination of the dual touch pads and sixaxis system everyone can play the game in whichever way they choose. One game on Vita that looks really interesting is Ruin, a dungeon crawler/Dungeon Keeper-clone type affair that challenges you to build and defend a dungeon against a multiplayer opponent or attack one created by someone else. Ruin can be played on the Vita or even on PS3 using cloud gaming and saving. Other Vita games shown were Mod Nation Racers and LittleBigPlanet, Wipeout 2048. LittleBigPlanet is the star of the show really, it looks as charming as ever, and now even more inventive than the previous versions, I’ll definetly be interested to see what its community can get out of it! Vita will launch this Autumn, the wi-fi only model will retail for 249Euros whilst the 3G & Wi-Fi will retail for 299Euros.

Preceding all of this, Jack Tretton launched a lengthy apology aimed at everybody from editors of websites through retaillers, developers and publishers, to the consumers. It was a nice touch, but I think with the Welcome Back pack and everything thats happened since the PlayStation Network was hacked, Sony have apologised enough, but thats my opinion, obviously some will never forgive or forget.