Apr 11 2014

Obsession 1

Okay – so my first obsession. I thought I’d make this one a bit easier on myself by making it very current and writing about my current obsession.

Minecraft.

For anyone who doesn’t know what Minecraft is – a quick description. I’ll try not to go into too much boring detail, but I might get a bit carried way – this is an article about obsession after all.

Minecraft is a game. Not a ‘traditional’ computer game (if that phrase makes any sense) where there is a ‘story’ and you play through it. It’s part of the genre that tends to be referred to as ‘sandbox’ games. You are given a playing environment, there are some inbuilt rules (gravity, money, etc) and from then on you can pretty much do what you want. Grand Theft Auto (3) was probably the first really sucessful sandbox game but there have been many others since, of varying types. Minecraft isn’t really similar to GTA, but it is in (broadly) the same genre.

Even in GTA, there is a ‘story’ and you can play through it – or you can ignore it totally and just do your own thing. In Minecraft, there is no real ‘story’ (apart from a couple of very simple goals that you can freely ignore and in fact might know nothing about). Minecraft very simply allows you to build stuff. Simple stuff, complicated stuff, big stuff, small stuff, whatever you want. It’s a little bit like a giant Lego set (although pretty much everything is a 1x1x1 block)

When I first heard about Minecraft, it sounded a bit ‘arty’ – like it was for creative people. I’m not very creative, so I kind of ignored it. I remember, a few years ago, seeing a video of a guy who had built a scale model of the Starship Enterprise (from Star Trek) in the game, and someone who had built a working computer (of sorts) in game, but didn’t think any more about it. Then, through a couple of connected routes, I came across a couple of YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft and started to get a bit interested (this will tie in to a couple of my other obsessions as well – I don’t know why, but I love watching other people play games).

I played a demo, and really enjoyed it, so I but the full game and just never looked back. In many ways it’s a very simple game, but as with all really successful things, it’s simplicity is really a cover for some quite complex interactions underneath and it really allows you to do some very impressive things. Now I am no expert – I have never really been one for online gaming, and so I have never got into one of the most popular aspects of Minecraft – playing ‘online’ with lots of other people and all interacting in the same environment. I just play on my own. I actually would like to try out some online play, but I’ve never really looked into it too much.

So I just play along on my own, wandering around, collecting stone and coal and diamonds and wood and building little projects of my own. This was one of the first little houses I built.
First build
Which looks pretty rubbish – as pretty much everyone’s first house does. But I built it all myself.

This is my current major build.
Actual Survival build
Which is still pretty ugly, but is a fairly major undertaking for me. The big building in the top left is clearly my main base (with a tree farm on top). In the middle is another tree farm with some structures underneath it that I haven’t decided what to do with. At the bottom is my automatic wheat farm (you use wheat to make bread) What isn’t shown is about 5km of railway that I also laid, because it’s underground 🙂

This is a new game I have just started where I’m trying to think a bit more about how things look.
Tertiary
Not much to look at, but at least it looks a bit better than the big stone lump in my main game.

Why am I obsessed with Minecraft? I guess because it’s so open – there is really no limit to the game, and it’s a real pleasure to just while away some time and build stuff.

I guess I should put in some links in case you are that interested.
Minecraft website
Wikipedia page about Minecraft
A nice video series about a guy playing minecraft

Apr 10 2014

It’s Alive!

I’ve been thinking for a while about a way to revitalise this blog, and actually make it meaningful. I did really enjoy the ‘post every day in May’ project, but that feels a bit too much like work for the long term.

I needed to come up with something that I would actually enjoy writing about, without it feeling like a task. What occurred to me was my obsessions.

I do have an obsessive streak in me. Not in any major or even negative way, but when I come across something that I enjoy, I tend to immerse myself in it, to the exclusion of all other things. This can be good, but can be bad (as I’m sure Mrs Worm would agree) – but overall I thought it might be interesting to write about some of the things I have obsessed about over the years.

I’m not going to do this is any systematic way. Just pick the first topic that pops into my head and see where it takes me.

This will include a fair amount of pop culture, but also (I would hope) some more esoteric things…we’ll have to see.

Hopefully I’ll get the first post up tonight.

Watch this space!

Jun 9 2013

Something You Have Heard

Ok. I’m aware that I’m a little behind with my posts here, but I’ll try to do a couple a day to catch up, and fudge the dates so it looks like it was all fine. So ignore this bit 😉

When it comes to what I’ve heard, I suppose I immediately think of music, but I’ve done a music post already, so I think I’ll think a bit more and mention audio books.

I have spoken to other people who like audio books, but I also know people who don’t like them, or haven’t tried them. Like any medium, there are good examples and bad examples. In my experience it very much depends on the reader – quite logically, a good reader can really make the whole thing work, and a bad reader can make it unbearable.

Audio books are very good for when you are walking, driving, ironing, working in then garden – pretty much any time you would normally listen to music or the radio. You do have to pay attention to a certain degree, but not as much as you might expect.

I have listened to quite a few different readers and authors. I’m not going to do an exhaustive list, but here are a couple of examples of some I have very much enjoyed:

  • The Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O’Brian – read by Patrick Tull
    Patrick Tull has as amazing voice, very expressive without being over the top, and he has an ability to bring to life different characters, with different voices, without it ever sounding forced or ‘theatrical’. he has read books by many authors, but these are a very fine example.
  • The Inspector Morse novels of Colin Dexter – read by Kevin Whately
    Kevin Whately (who played Lewis in the TV adaptations) does a straightforward but solid job, never trying too hard, but capturing the tone of Colin Dexter’s books very well.
  • The Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett – read by Nigel Planer
    At first I thought that Nigel Planer was an odd choice, but that just goes to show how much I know because he does a really good job, and does the best version of Vimes that I have heard.
  • The Harry Potter novels of J.K. Rowling – read by Stephen Fry
    Stephen Fry has a wonderful tone, a rich and rangy voice that does great credit to the source material, but as with Patrick Tull, he manages to bring to life a whole range of characters without ‘doing voices’ and relying much more on tone and delivery to do the job.
  • So, if you’ve never used an audio book, I thoroughly recommend that you do so. They can be expensive to buy, but many libraries will loan them out, and there are places on the internet where you can get out-of-copyright books for nothing.

Jun 8 2013

Something You Have Fixed

I’m not exactly Mr Fixit – I’m way too clumsy for that. In fact, while I think of it, I have mentioned Billy Bragg before, and his new track really sums this up for me.

and while I’m drifting past the subject – big love for Billy Bragg. I don’t think the man has written a bad song his life.

(I just went on a 20 minute YouTube diversion watching Billy Bragg videos…)

So what have I fixed? Not a lot really. The best thing I can come up with was that when I was young I had a massive tape player – really big thing, that was also a turntable and radio. But the tape player was broken – it didn’t have the plastic drawer that you put tapes into. You just had to insert them into the machine itself.

This meant that the tapes didn’t quite sit right, and would sounds odd, like they were underwater or something. My solution, after a lot of experimentation, was to put a small model car onto one side of the tape which would hold it down in the right way to align the heads and get good sound quality.

Fixed.

Jun 7 2013

Something You Have Failed

I’m pretty sure you could say I have failed at lots of things, but the one that springs to mind is my degree.

When I was a kid I always wanted to be a doctor. My whole school path was aimed in that direction. I loved maths, but I wanted to be a doctor, so I also studied biology and chemistry. Unfortunately my grades were not quite good enough for medicine, but my maths results were good enough, so I went to King’s College London to study maths.

My first year was, frankly, a breeze. My A-Level in Further Maths was a great preparation for university, and most of the first year was pretty straightforward. However in the second year it turned into real study. Nothing super hard, but I did have to study.

Unfortunately, by this time I had discovered the internet, and my attention was elsewhere. I failed my second year but, for medical reasons (glandular fever) was given a chance to resit.

I blew it. If anything, I studied less, and while I did better in my exams, it wasn’t enough to pass so I dropped out. I could blame lots of things – I was very young, alone, blah blah blah, in the end, I just didn’t try.

I moved home, got a job, moved in with my girlfriend (now Mrs Worm), got a better job, and started studying with the Open University.

This was much more suited to me, and I passed with flying colours, narrowly missing out on a first class degree.

I’m proud of my degree, but in the end it’s just a piece of paper, and while I know I did a lot of things wrong the first time around in London, I wouldn’t change it because it led me to where I am now, and that’s good.

Jun 6 2013

Something You Have Forgotten

Well to start with I almost forgot to write this post.

But apart from that, this is a tricky one because, by it’s very nature, it’s hard to know what I have forgotten. Oh I forget lots of things, names, dates, who I have leant stuff to – the usual sort of thing. I do however have a pretty good memory for useless trivia, and phone numbers. I still remember the first phone number I had. 2500 That shows you how long ago it was, and how small a town I grew up in – four digit phone numbers. My best mate was 2713. I have no idea why I remember those things, but I do.

That said, I can’t remember my current mobile number for the life of me – I always have to look it up. And it’s not to do with length – I can remember Mrs Worm’s number every time – not that I have to, she’s in my contacts obviously.

I’ve no doubt forgotten a lot of the stuff I learnt at school, but I’ve learnt a lot of new things since then as well, so it all balances out.

I’ve forgotten to go to bed a couple of time, then realised it’s 6am so probably not worth it.

Jun 5 2013

Something You Have Eaten

Well I did a food post not too long ago, so I guess I should approach this slightly differently.

I’m not going to go through my favourite food, favourite restaurants etc., but I have thought of a couple of things to go over.

I love sandwiches. Really love them. I can’t claim they’re my favourite food – I like Italian too much for that – but they are a good, solid reliable and creative way of eating. I like creating sandwiches with a wide variety of ingredients and trying things out.

That’s not to say I need loads of things in a sandwich – two of my favourites are very simple indeed.

  1. Lettuce
  2. Crisps

Mrs Worm always says I’m odd when I have a lettuce sandwich, but I’ve always liked them – nice bread, nice fresh lettuce, a good wodge of salt – absolutely lovely.

Other options I regularly enjoy, and there are quite a few ingredients that really just suit sandwiches and any really good gourmet sandwich will have one or more of these:

  • Cheese
  • Mustard
  • Corned beef
  • Tomato
  • Mayo
  • Gerkin
Jun 4 2013

Something You Have Seen

I have gone through so many variations of things I could write about for this heading. At the end of the day we are largely a visual animal so ‘something you have seen’ could be just about anything. I guess what I have gone for is ‘something you have experienced’ but I think it still counts.

In 1994 I saw Barenaked Ladies live at the Irish Centre in Leeds. They were still a relatively unknown band – this was billed as their ‘Little Tiny Tour’ with only 5 dates in the UK. I went with my mum, stepdad, girlfriend (now Mrs Worm) and my best friend NoRM.

The Irish Centre is not a big venue – capacity of a massive 800 – but the atmosphere was amazing. The fact that I was seeing one of my favourite bands, with my favourite girl (and my favourite guy) may have given me a rose-tinted view, but it really was a magical night.

The support act was an unknown band called ‘The Libertines’ (not the one you’ve heard of) who did a nice mix of country/pop – we bought the CD and I still listen to it. They also played a cover of ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ which we knew intimately from the version that the Doug Anthony All Stars used to do. A genuinely good support act.

Then BNL hit the stage, and just blew everyone away. Tight musically, funny, improvising, acerbic and grounded, they totally owned the crowd from the moment they walked on stage. This was before the second album (Maybe You Should Drive) had come out, so we got to hear some new songs before they were available, and loved them (‘ayyyyy like Fonzie said coz he was very cool’), and to cap it all we hung around afterwards and got to meet the band, who were all very cool indeed.

I’ve seen them many times since, but that first time will always be special for me. And I really do have the t-shirt.

another one from the memory banks

Jun 3 2013

Something You Have Read

I have, of course, read a lot of things. I could talk about any number of them. But the one I have chosen is a poem.

I am a great fan of aphormisms. In many cases, I’m not sure of the exact detail, or the exact source, but I still like them. I have some real favourites:

Nobody wins unless everybody wins
Bruce Springsteen

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent
Isaac Asimov

Be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else
Dolly Parton

I’m really not sure about the source on that last one, but it’s a very good sentiment.

The poem I want to mention is basically a collection of aphormisms. I first heard it as a folk song, set to music by Vinn Garbutt. It really spoke to me, and I have heard it and read many times since. It has become quite well known, but not everyone has heard of it, so maybe this will be be a first for someone. This poem says so many things about who I want to be, who I try to be, and who I’m gad I don’t have to be.

IF

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling

Jun 2 2013

Something You Have Lost

I’ve lost many things. I am totally useless with keeping track of things – keys, phone, wallet etc. However, most things turn up eventually, and then it’s quite a nice surprise when you come across them later.

Unless it’s your passport or something, then it’s quite frustrating.

I have often meant to find out where a friend of mine got her bag. Many people put things away, and invariably they describe that place as ‘somewhere safe’. My friend had a bag that was decorated with words that said – Somewhere Safe. Great idea.

I quite like finding things that I had forgotten about. It’s a lovely thing to bring back memories that had gone away completely.

However I have, on occasion, lost things that I really didn’t want to lose. Rarely things of real value, usually things that meant something to me, of sentimental value. Not a lot of things, but I do think about those things every now and then. However, I try not to dwell on those things, because in the end it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry – these things make you what you are, and you never know – they may turn up years from now and give you a nice surprise.