Sunday 31 August 2008

Two movies

Our movies of choice last night could not have been more different from each other. First up we had 'Rendition'. The title of the movie refers to the practice that is sometimes employed of removing terror suspects to a remote location for 'interrogation' (torture?) and that is pretty much the theme of the film. Initially I enjoyed the film. Having had the foresight to put my glasses on I wasn't bothered by the occasional subtitled dialogue. The acting was solid and the plot moved at just the right pace. I just didn't like the end of the film. I consider myself pretty much the person that they right movies for. If there is a plot twist I won't see it coming. Rich on the other hand always sees it coming (I'm always telling him he should write movies he is so good at seeing it coming). This gives you a clue as to the unexpectedness of the ending of 'Rendition'. Even Rich didn't see it coming. He thought it was brilliant, and I thought it was annoying... for me it coloured the whole of the rest of the movie. I'll still give it 7 out of 10, definitely worth a watch.

Next up was 'In the Name of the King'. A more different film you couldn't think of. A strange blend of action and fantasty with some almost Shakespearean dialogue from some cast members. It wasn't a bad film. 6 out of 10.

Saturday 30 August 2008

It's all about the numbers

Apart from the fact that I genuinely enjoy watching a lot of different sports there is one other thing that I really like about sports. The numbers. I adore that there are statistics for everything. I keep spreadsheets to monitor the statistics, even the ones that don't mean anything.

It all started ten years ago when I first started watching football and following Charlton Athletic. I made myself a spreadsheet to keep track of the scores through the season. It was a fairly straightforward fixture list with a few complicated "if" formulas and some formatting. Still going strong, now in it's tenth year it provides an interesting side-by-side comparison of Charlton's fortunes.

The next sport to be tracked was F1. Again, fairly straightforward to track grid positions, finishing positions, points accrued... and also effectiveness (how many retirements, accidents, etc.). I have to have one of these for every season as the whole thing gets pretty huge after a while.

The masters of sporting statistics, however, are the American sports. Baseball and NFL. Nothing like these for actual statistics and some more meaningless numbers.

My first baseball spreadsheet was designed to keep track of the American League East (as Rich supports the Red Sox and me the Yankees this seemed logical). It has 162 rows which have to filled in upon the completion of each round of games for the teams in that division. The front page then calculates the current standings. Yes, I realise that I can get this just as easily from CBS, ESPN or a number of other places - but lets face it, they don't always get it right first time!

Just as interesting is my master sheet which tracks the whole of MLB. Games won and lost home and road for every team. This of course gives you winning percentages. Runs scored and runs against - which gives you the difference between the two. A real time assessment of who's hot and who's not! Slightly stranger are my especial favourites - the 'expected win/loss' and the 'elmination number' (also known as the magic number). The expected win/loss uses a rather complex formula to calculate on the basis of runs scored and conceded what a team's win/loss record should be (almost never what it is!). The elimination number gives the combination of wins and losses which eliminates a team from winning the division (or making the wild card race) and conversely gives the 'magic number' for the leading team to win clinch the title.

Sadly the baseball season is into the downhill stretch now with only a month or so before the post season (which isn't looking good for the Yankees right now). No matter though, as this brings me to my favourite statistical sport of them all. NFL.

I love NFL because there are fewer games. The statistics are easier to keep on top of - I can really appreciate the numbers over the course of the season. At a simple level it is a question of winning and losing. For more complex calculations the game stats can be brought into play (rushing yards, passing yards, etc. etc.).

So, I'm off to pick my fantasy NFL team. See you in the end zone!

Monday 25 August 2008

Working at home and other things

On Saturday I took myself of to Staples (office supply store) and treated myself to a new chair for my desk. Up until now I've been using a metal folding thing... which after about an hour makes my bottom numb, and after several hours pretty much cripples me. Given the amount of time I spend at my desk these days a good chair seemed an essential purchase. The chair I chose has a fabric seat (so I can sit in shorts or whatever and not have my legs stick to fake leather or whatever) and a delightful mesh back. I love mesh back chairs... soft enough for comfort but firm enough for support. The chair adjust up and down and has a tilting seat and armrests. Perfect!

This could not have been more timely. On Saturday night I fell down the stairs. Yes, it is true that I had consumed a few glasses of wine which added to my general unsteadiness led to a delightful slip from near the top all the way to the bottom. I bruised the bottom of my back - thank goodness for the new chair, I think the old one might have done for me altogether.

Sadly I've been working today. Shortened Friday (due to the doctor's appointment) and shortened week (due to the Bank Holiday) means that there just isn't enough time to get everything I need to get done finished. Thank goodness, again, for the new chair!

Sunday 24 August 2008

Just another Sunday

First up, this week's film. Chosen from a trailer on last week's offering we watched "The Bank Job". Quite a lot of actors that you have seen somewhere about (Jason Statham (many films), Saffron Burrows (Boston Legal) etc. etc.). Written by the two blokes who amongst other things brought you 'Porridge' it was as amusing as we had hoped. Based on true events it is about a bank heist which couldn't go more wrong... or as it turns out, right. The dialogue is snappy and witty and the action reasonably fast paced. Thoroughly enjoy it and I'll give it 7 out of 10.

This afternoon was the European Grand Prix, moved from it's previous home in Germany to the new track in Spain. The track at Valencia is a road track... oh no, not another one. What with the upcoming night race in Singapore (which I am quite excited about) and now Valencia it somewhat diminishes the unique aspect of Monaco. Despite the gloomy predictions from the commentary team of safety cars and high speed crashes the race passed off without much incident. Sadly the most exciting things to happen were probably Ferrari's disastrous pit stops. The first when they accidentally release Felipe Massa into the path of an oncoming Force India which did well to scoot out the way and the second when Raikkonen attempted to drive away from his pit stop with the fuel rig still attached (predictably injuring one of the mechanics in the process). Evidence enough that Ferrari should dump their high-tech light indicators and go back to the good old fashioned lollipop?!

So that was about it for sport I managed to see this weekend. Charlton were on Sky, but I didn't watch the game on the basis that the last time I saw Charlton play it was dire. My loss it would seem as the final score was 4-2 with four penalties and a red card!

The Olympics are finally over, not that I noticed them much it has to be said. Great Britain managed an astonishing fourth in the medals table after (not so surprisingly) China, USA and Russia. So, London now takes over officially as Olympic Host City (how sick and tired are those of us living here going to get of that over the next four years?!). I make no secret of the fact that I despise the fact that the Olympics are coming to London. All the fuss, upheaval and worst of all expense for what is, at the end of the day, a couple of weeks of sport. There are so many better things that they could do with all that money; and despite the protestations I'm sure that the 'lasting legacy' will be a smooth and seamless as when they recommissioned the Dome. Wait a moment, it stood empty and idle for years and cost the tax payer a fortune... go on ODA (or whatever you call yourselves) prove me wrong!

Saturday 23 August 2008

Time for more medication

This has been some week. It's been busy (and them some) at work, and what with the credit crunch beginning to bite and all we are all having to work that little bit harder. I really wanted to fit in a couple of days working from home again this week. Ever since the evil virus a fortnight ago I've just not been able to get back to normality (the question of what normality is anyway is a whole other can of worms!). My legs have been weak and wobbly and my balance unreliable (even more so than normal). This is why I get a flu vaccination every winter, because there is the possibility that viruses can cause relapses.

Last week I managed a couple of days from home... this week it just didn't work out like that, there were too many things I had to do which needed the office computer etc. etc. By Wednesday I was practically falling down with fatigue (notwithstanding the reintroduction of the Amantadine to combat the symptoms of fatigue). Whenever I have problems with my legs my left foot stops going forwards and goes in (giving me a delightful pigeon-toed stance). This makes it both quite painful and tiring to put one foot in front of the other. So, I rang my MS nurse. After looking up my records she recommended another course of steroids. I used to not rate steroids, but as they did actually work the last time I was all for it. She said as her secretary was on holiday she'd send me the protocol direct and I could take it to my doctor.

It didn't come on Thursday or Friday. Lucky I still had the protocol at home from the last time, so I took that along to my doctor who wrote me a prescription for the steroids. Now I rattle. Twelve tablets every morning for the first week. Here's hoping they work. I am hopeful that these in conjunction with lots of R&R over the long weekend should start me back on the road to recovery!

Friday 22 August 2008

Frogs are back

After not having seen any frogs around for a while they were back again tonight. The first we encountered just outside the back door where the decking doesn't quite meet the house and there is a small gap. Said frog was using the famous small animal logic "if I can't see you then you can't see me", and was sitting with this head under the decking and his bottom poking out. So, I scooped him up and took him back to the Frog Pond.

Some time later we went into the kitchen to find another frog, this time sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor. He looked a little bemused I thought, he'd obviously taken a wrong turn at the back door and instead of finding himself in the dark damp space under the decking found himself in the bright blue airy space in the middle of our kitchen floor. When we turned the light on he turned round and started walking to the back door (frogs look very funny when they walk instead of hop). So, I picked him up and took him back to the Frog Pond as well! King Frog and the first rescued frog were both sitting there to greet him!

Thursday 21 August 2008

I am...

Unless you live under a rock you can't have missed the latest advertising campaign by mobile phone provider Orange. "I am..." it starts out - and then each ad lists various influences (I've yet to see one which features anyone I've heard of, so I can't gauge their effectiveness that way!). The first one I saw started out "I am my mother, I am my sister, I am the teacher who failed me... and the teacher who spurred me on" (or words to that effect). You see them on the tube too. The upshot of this is that as I was on the ridiculously overcrowded Jubilee Line last night (seriously, by the time it has gone 7:30pm shouldn't everyone else have been home already?) a monologue in my head was keeping up a commentary on all my fellow travellers who were irritating me and putting me in a bad mood.

"I am the man who got on at Waterloo and jammed the doors which delayed the train... I am the boy chewing gum like a masticating cow with his mouth open... I am the crowd on got on with fast food and made the carriage smell... I am the girl with the music turned up too loud so all that can be heard is a tinny beat... I am who I am because of everyone" (sorry Orange, take it as a compliment that your advert has penetrated my subconscious!).

The Jubilee Line has been very reliable in the total failure to provide a 'good' service. The last few evenings I've been quite late leaving the office. I would therefore expect the train to be quiet and running on time. Each evening there are huge (anything over five minutes) waits for trains and when they arrive they are horrendously overcrowded.

I really hope that the engineering works that shut sections of the line every weekend are going to improve the Jubilee Line enough that it can cope with the increased demand the Olympics are going to put on it in four years time. Right now, I don't fancy its chances!

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Strike averted

Everyone in my office was delighted to learn yesterday afternoon that the threatened strike by tube maintenance workers had been called off. Thus the spectre of delay and disruption across several lines was averted. Not that given the behaviour of the Jubilee Line recently you'd notice much more delay and disruption. Arriving in the ticket hall at Green Park last night we learned that the next train going East wasn't expected for 11 minutes. Tell me, how is that a good service?!
There has (of course) been a lot of talk of sport and more specifically the Olympics in our office this week. Not participated in by me as I've still managed to not watch any of the Olympics (and only a few days left to go). I might have watched the baseball if the BBC had shown fit to show it any point... but I really couldn't face watching any of the other fare on offer (which nearly always seems to be swimming for some reason). The conversation I enjoyed most was regarding events in the Olympics and whether or not they could really be called a sport. I think the conversation started with watersports and then moved onto darts and snooker. One argument was that "if it is competitive it is a sport". On that note, I argued, then Ludo and Snakes and Ladders are sports! The next argument was that if you are paid to do it is a sport... so that rules out all amateurs then! I argued that if it is anything I could do with a relative degree of accuracy or skill it couldn't possibly be a sport given that I am the most unfit and lazy person in the office! 

Sunday 17 August 2008

Another week

It was another busy week last week. My legs haven't been all that since the nasty virus, weak and wobbly and not at all obedient to my will. This meant that I managed to work from home a couple of days to minimise the work that my legs were required to do.

I lost half a day to a meeting and an entire day to a training course; and of course there was the revision for the dreaded Health and Safety test tomorrow!

This week's movie was "The Cleaner" starring the ever excellent Samuel L. Jackson. Superb performance from Samuel L. and a pretty good movie all in all - good story, good acting - I found the end a bit dissapointing though, I just thought that there would be more to it all!

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Back at last

I've been a bit remiss in my posting the last week. I had a really bad virus last week which left me in bed and feeling miserable. I didn't even switch on the computer between Monday night and Friday night! As you can imagine not much has been happening in my life whilst I've been working my way through several boxes of tissues, several packets of Lemsip and watching several series of 'Friends'.

I've seen a few movies (on DVD) recently - most of which I'd recommend to some degree or another.

Kite Runner - I didn't know when I chose this one that most of it would be subtitled and the dialogue in Arabic. I'm getting the hang of subtitled films though, as it didn't detract from my enjoyment at all. This was a beautiful story set in Afghanistan (mostly) about the friendship between two boys, and the effects of the various political upheavals of the last two decades on their lives. I think possibly it may be slightly more enjoyable as a book - but the film still gets 8 out of 10.

Vantage Point - this was an intriguing sounding movie. The same story told from several different viewpoints until you build up the complete picture. Sadly despite an amazing cast it didn't really live up to my expectations. My major gripe was at the end of the film I didn't really understand the motivation of Matthew Fox's character - and that annoyed me as I felt that the film was pretty much nonsense because of it. I won't say any more as there are some very nice plot twists and I wouldn't want to give any of them away. Not a long movie, so a diverting way to spend an hour and a half. Only 4 out of 10.

Bucket List - I chose this film because I love Morgan Freeman, I don't generally like Jack Nicholson so I wasn't sure whether I'd enjoy the film or not. It's a pretty slow start, but keep going. Although you can pretty much work out what will happen at the end from the start (two old men with terminal illnesses, it doesn't take a genius) the film is well thought out, and occasionally funny. Both actors play characters that are a bit of cliché for them - Jack Nicholson's larger than life and Morgan Freeman's serene and wise... but at the end of the movie I still found it sad and there was a bit of a surprise in the final scene. I give it 7 out of 10.

We are now rushing headlong into two weeks of the Olympics. So far I have managed to watch absolutely none of it... and probably won't either (unless the BBC have a rush of blood to the head and decide to show some baseball).

Sunday 3 August 2008

Sports Sunday and other weekend things

Last night I had dinner at 'Mogul' in Greenwich (the occasion was my friend's Hen Night). Absolutely charming restaurant. Very small (so you'd probably want to book a table) but the food and service were absolutely fantastic.

The Saturday Night movie this week was 'War Games - the Dead Code'. Here's the thing. I'm a HUGE fan of the original 1983 film. I loved it as a kid, and now own a copy on DVD. I loved it to the extent that I changed our PC's 'C' prompt to read 'logon'. I wanted more than anything to be a computer genius. This was back before the internet, and before the widespread global dominance of home computers. Who doesn't remember the delightful synthesised voice of 'Joshua' asking "How about a nice game of chess?". So, I was intrigued that they decided to remake this in the modern day. I couldn't quite see how in the age of the internet and the mobile phone and everything else it was going to work. And, you know what. It didn't. Why can't Hollywood just leave classic 80s movies alone to grow old gracefully? This movie is truly awful. There is nothing at all to recommend it - less so when Stephen Falken and the WOPR made 'cameo' appearances. Sadly they couldn't (or wouldn't) get the same actor back - although I think the WOPR looked pretty good 25 years on! This movie had none of the urgency, none of the humour and none of the pathos of the original. I'm sad to say I give this movie no stars at all!

This afternoon we were treated to the the Grand Prix at Hungaoring. It seemed like it was going to be a foregone conclusion before the start, with Lewis on poll. Masa however took the lead before the first bend - at which point it seemed again that the result might be a foregone conclusion. Lewis suffered a blow out on the 40th lap which put him way back in the field, and gave him some work to do. There were a few other 'moments' but none as unfortunate as the complete failure of Masa's car three laps from the end of the race. Terrible thing to happen when he really deserved to win the race.

Final sporting event of the afternoon was the last game of the Angels at Yankee Stadium being shown on NASN. I missed the first few innings whilst I was in the bath, and I caught up with the game with the Yankees five runs down. After a few runs here and there, and a disasterous eight inning for the Angels (thank goodness I wasn't keeping a score card with pinch runners and going right round the order!) there were three seperate fielding errors in that inning. The Yankees finally won 9-14. Come-back kings!

Saturday 2 August 2008

Planes ahoy!

It's already that time of year when the Red Bull Air Race comes to London. We knew it must be soon a few weeks ago when we got off the boat at the O2 to see several grandstands under construction.

As I was down on the Peninsula this morning I heard the sound of airplanes overhead. I looked up to see four of five planes doing acrobatics in the sky. Whizzing at some speed, barrel rolls and loop-the-loops. I guess it would be fun to go and watch and see it even closer up!

I could still hear them most of this afternoon, although from the house you can't actually see them anymore. It is like some aerial battle going on out there.

Friday 1 August 2008

The buses are talking!

Quite a while ago I noticed that the number 9 bus (Aldwych to Hammersmith) had started talking. There was a display in the bus and a voice over which told you the route, the destination and the stop that you were at. I thought that this was a) overdue and b) useful. The first time I came across this was about a decade ago in New York where the buses would tell you where you were. As a tourist I found this amazingly helpful, especially in the sometimes confusing grid-layout of NYC. I kept wondering why the same thing didn't happen in London, at least in Central London.

Well, it isn't just Central London. The Bexleyheath buses (486 and 422) have also started talking. I'm thinking now that as they are run by the same company and that the buses round here run by a different company don't do this it must be a company specific thing. Getting on the 486 the other evening it informed me that it was the "486 to Bexleyheath Shopping Centre". It also called out (most of) the stops. The 422 I got on tonight did the same thing. Way to catch up with technology London buses!