Winter is definitely here!

It’s the 11th of November 2010 and the Winter is here in full force.

I love winter. I love lots of things about it, sitting in the pub by the open fire, going snowboarding and the ever important snow days of which seem to be occurring more often in the past few years. Then theres Christmas which is generally quite a nice time around town and everyone seems to cheer up a bit. So there is lots of good things about winter however at the moment it’s pretty dire!

Every morning consists of me waking up and getting dressed and ready to do what ever it is i’m doing on that day. Usually greeted by the perfect brew left on desk when I hop out of bed. Before the getting dressed part though, I tend to have a shower so I feel fresh for the rest of the day ahead. The shower is lovely, couldn’t fault it most morning unless, the hot water has run out which isn’t often but it’s the getting out of the shower that gets me. Every summer I can have a shower, get out and dry off and be fine but in the winter I get out of the shower, wrap up in towels and head back to my bedroom. As soon as that bathroom door opens a freezing cold breeze hits my face and reminds me that I should have got extra towels and had the towel rail come on earlier. It’s a horrible feeling.

So thats one reason how winter ruins my morning routine but then there is a second of which I have never experienced before; Winter driving. It’s absolutely terrible. I passed my test back in June and the weather has been fine up until now. But Wales doesn’t just rain, it pisses it down and doesn’t stop. Which is how I was introduced to aquaplaning, scarily losing control of the car when going over deep puddles at speed. I’m not quite sure whether I find it fun or flat out terrifying yet but I’ll try not to make a habit of it.
Then there’s the cold, I have to put on my thick woollen coat every morning now and that’s not always enough as the heaters take a while in the car and the gear stick is metal so every time I change gear I get the feeling that my hand has been dipped in liquid nitrogen and would be easy enough to smash apart with a small hammer. Where as these are problems, there’s also having to be sensible with the driving conditions which in man terms means LESS FUN. I don’t have a rally car. I haven’t got a defender either, my car was designed for the road and it gets me from A to B quite smoothly albit with a bit of rattling and so long as there are no speed bumps enroute it should be ok. But this bloody weather has restricted the amount of fun I can have in it and god knows what it’ll be like when the snow comes. Probably stationary to be honest. Anyway the banner at the top of my blog will remain in it’s wintery form until a relevant event happens for me to change it (i.e Christmas) and for now I’ll have to put up with the shocking weather that is persistently ruining my days.

One last thing, Much respect to our service men today. I will wear my poppy with pride.

Bye Bye Alex Epstien!

I’ve watched the past few series of BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’ from start to finish and they have all been reasonably interesting to watch and make pretty good television.

They make pretty good television but I’m basing this on the fact that it’s actually entertaining to watch and that’s all down to the contestants and, sometimes, Lord Alan Sugars witty remarks.

One of the things I’ve noticed in this series of the show is that the majority of contestants are incredibly stuck up, think they really are the best business people in the country and are extremely annoying however one contestant stood out from the start.

Much comparable to Wagner of X Factor I have found Alex Epstien entertaining from the very start of this series of ‘The Apprentice’ even though I knew full well from the start that he would be unable to come out on top. It’s a big problem with reality TV now that being particularly good at something isn’t good enough to take you to the end and to keep these programs viewing figures up it’s necessary to have someone that will actually entertain viewers and this is why I’m sad to see Alex leave the show.

He was a nice guy from the start, slightly odd, sort of professional but still very funny and after the rather hilarious episode of Dara O Brian’s: Your Fired I couldn’t help but think that Alex would of been entertaining for at least a few more weeks. Like Ruby Wax said herself he would actually be quite funny as a comedian and I’m not sure whether this is because he was portrayed by the editors at the BBC as slightly useless or because he genuinely is just funny. I’m pretty sure he won’t remain an unemployed head of communications anymore though. Even though i’m not exactly sure how someone can be a head of communications without a job. It’s like me saying I’m the boss of Pepsi but I don’t have a job there.

I hope to see more of this man. He was good fun and kept ‘The Apprentice’ entertaining. Now the process will all seem a bit more dull but I guess for my fix of reality TV idiots I can still call overpriced voting lines to keep Wagner in the X Factor.

LOVEFiLM

LOVEFiLM is one of those internet startups that just grew and grew and after the merger with ScreenSelect they were virtually unstoppable as far as the UK mail order DVD rental service was concerned. Amazon had a good go at it but LOVEFilM acquired them in early 2008 which pretty much meant there wasn’t much room for competitors in the market.

This wasn’t exactly a bad thing. LOVEFilM always was and still is reasonably priced with the cheapest package available coming in at just £5.99 per month. I joined LOVEFiLM just over a year ago and not a day go past where I regret it. I can have 2 blu-rays or games or DVD’s at any time and as of recent, LOVEFiLM have been entering the streaming market. At first I would of said the service was not exactly great but it was early days for them and ever since the online service has just been getting better and better and LOVEFiLM will stop at nothing to impress it’s customers. The website alone shows just how much they want there service to be great. The fact of the matter is that LOVEFilM is more than just a rental service, the website has great features from narrowing down local cinema tickets to an everlasting movie quiz, so those of you who really do love movies can get some great use of the website and it all runs ridiculously smoothly. The pages load fast, the search engine is always accurate and the content is everlasting. They even go as far as to colate professional reviews for each movie that comes to the rental service.

Then there is the latest effort from LOVEFiLM which comes in the form of the PlayStation 3 application that was released today. My PlayStation is now the ultimate entertainment machine, with a home server streaming all my digital movies, music and pictures straight too it as well as the new LOVEFiLM app it really has become a great digital hub and is connected via HDMI to my lovely fifty inch panel and by optical cable to my crystal clear surround sound. With the PlayStation application LOVEFiLM didn’t fail to impress either. It allows you to do all the things you would expect from the website such as rate movies, edit your rental lists and even take advantage of the watch online feature. I’ve been testing this out and the picture is great on my TV with absolutely no lag what so ever and I am yet to see an annoying rotating symbol and a buffering label. It’s really easy to use and well put together and hopefully with LOVEFiLM’s already fantastic service we can expect more from them.

I recommend signing up to LOVEFiLM if you haven’t already. Don’t let the odd use of capital letters put you off, it’s only £5.99 for the basic package and you’ll get your use out of it. I would argue that price justify’s the PlayStation application alone.  The service is great, customer support has been nothing but perfect for me with responses on twitter and by email very quick and the staff are friendly and helpful.

Take a look: http://www.LoveFilm.com

iPhone, 02, Contracts.

First of all, let me just say that I actually like my iPhone. Now that’s the positive out of the way. You could probably take this as a mid-term ownership review of the iPhone for the most part. However I won’t be mentioning what I love about the iPhone only the increasing amount of gripes I have with it.

The iPhone 3GS is a poorly made phone, it’s made with cheap components and according to iFixit the most expensive part is indeed the touch screen, a part which is well known to go wrong with most models of iPhone.

iPhone wise I’m on my 6th and I’ve only ever paid for two. One from 02 for £180, the first gen, and the other I indirectly paid for through my Contract with which I took out for the 3GS. The good thing about Apple is every time one of there poorly made phones breaks under warranty, they are happy to put one that has been factory refurbished in your hands at no extra cost. It’s nice to know that with Apple your phone is easily replaces so long as it’s covered by warranty however at the rate these phones break down you need to know that. My iPhone 3GS at the moment is packing in again in a similar way to one of the replacements I had, it constantly thinks it’s plugged into a dock and won’t allow me to use the built in speaker, and since it’s no longer covered by Apple on warranty, it is to remain like that for good as I refuse to pay the astronomical fees that Apple will want to fix this out of date phone.
The battery for the iPhone is also absolutely terrible and always has been. It was shocking on the first gen, shocking on the 3G and shocking on the 3GS. The iPhone four for this very reason has a much bigger battery than any previous generation taking up more space under the hood than any other part of it. This is necessary and from what i’m told from other iPhone users, their iPhone 4’s still don’t hold out through a full day without a mid day charge or docking.

Then there is 02 and there contracts, I was convinced into a contract for 24 months. 2 years for those of you who struggle with life. Now this is a long time and with this contract, i’m entitled to one phone for the duration of it, the one I had in the start, my iPhone 3GS. Now at the time it seemed like a bad deal, if I were to opt for a six month shorter contract I would have been offered something that could of only been deemed useful for a fingerless mute. So here I am with a phone that I have doubts will last 7 months and is now severely out of date. This wouldn’t be so bad if 02 actually had a good service, the majority of times I have rang for help, I’ve been waiting for 30 odd minutes before an annoyingly clueless “tech support” person answers and is about as much help to me as a violin would be to an armless man. Then theres the signal, not only is 02 signal terrible everywhere, 3G hardly exists where there coverage maps clearly say there should be and I’m dropping calls left right and centre, not only this but Apple recently announced that they’ve been using the wrong calculation for the signal bars all along, so even when I’ve got full signal chances are my signal might actually not be that great and when I’ve got no signal and unable to get hold of anyone, my phone might actually just be suggesting the lack of signal rather than guaranteeing it.

24 month contracts are ridiculous.
The iPhone is not the best phone at everything like Apple so boldly claim.
02 tech support is awful.
Just because a phone can be replaced easier than others doesn’t mean it should. The phone should work in the first place.

The iPhone 4 will probably be past it’s time when I’m due an upgrade so we’ll see whether the iPhone 5 is enough to keep me in on the iPhone game but for now I would seriously consider getting another smart phone. A lot can change in 7 months though. We will see.

James Blunt, Some Kind Of Trouble.

Yes, my brand new signed copy of James Blunt’s fantastic new album has turned up today and I couldn’t be happier.
People give Mr. Blunt a bit of a hard time for only releasing albums that have a slightly depressing theme to them but this album certainly is a bit more upbeat and on the happier side. For example one of the songs is called “no tears” which shows how there is no longer “tears and rain” for James as there was in one previous album and shows how he’s cheered up a bit over the past few years.
It would also seem that Mr. Blunt is taking a bit more of a liking to the ladies from some of the song titles such as “stay the night” and “I’ll be your man”.  He would also like the ladies to “turn him on”. It’s brilliant. Anyone who doubted him being a ladies man can now go and sit in a ditch because if “your beautiful” wasn’t enough to convince you this man is a big fan of the opposite sex then these incredible songs really will.

For those of you who don’t like James Blunt, I think you should give him another chance with this album and his latest songs. On the other hand you could continue being an absolute fool.


Goldeneye Wii

Today, I awoke to various things that were good and bad. The bad was that I woke up with an empty wallet and a screaming headache, the good was that the postman arrived with a parcel adressed to Mr Timothy C Ford.

The parcel wasn’t exactly anything special, to be honest it was a grey bag with a brown box inside. It’s what was in the brown box that was exciting. It was in fact a re-release of one of my favourite games of all time, Goldeneye.

Goldeneye brings back good memories for me and I still regard it as one of the best multiplayer games ever made. It is possibly the most entertaining first person shooter I have ever played and I honestly don’t know why. It was one of those games you played all the time and no matter who you played it with it was great, even if it was with your brother who’s gut instinct was to punch you square in the face every time you killed him.
I haven’t had time to get into the multiplayer due to unforeseen circumstances (A hangover) and lack of friends but from what I’ve read on various websites it will not disappoint and still has whatever that key formula was to make it so fun.
I managed to get through the first level, Dam which came with the first surprise of replacing good old Pierce Brosnan with none other than the latest Bond, Daniel Craig. I’ve no idea why they decided to do this but it doesn’t really change the game play seeing as the majority of the time you spend looking at a hand or a gun and unless your missing parts of your hand the chances are the Wii’s poor graphic output would make absolutely no difference in what the hand would look like.
The second surprise that came to me was how terrible I am at video games. I haven’t played a shooter in a long time but I thought I would be able to beat the game with no issues, especially when I had wielded my new Golden classic controller. Turns out I was wrong and spent a fair amount of time staring at my 50 inch Plasma Television fill with blood. I am sure that I will get better at the game as soon as I get used to using the classic controller but I’m used to the layout of the playstation controller at the moment and the golden button box may just take a while to get too grips with.
After a long shift tonight I’m sure I’ll be up for playing through some more of it tomorrow although if the past few weeks are anything to go by after an eight hour shift I tend to sleep for almost all the next day.

Spotify, iTunes and Piracy of music.

Spotify is an incredible little application that appeared from nowhere with a big ambition which it seemed unlikely to succeed but so far has been a pretty big success here in Europe.

I discovered Spotify in the early days when it wasn’t open and when it was invite only, unfortunately for me, I couldn’t get hold of an invite. So I waited and waited until it was available openly and downloaded it and have been using it avidly since. The problem with this was, it was avid listening that ended up with me using up the 20 hours I had been given free pretty damn quickly. This was the first problem, then came the second, Adverts. It was fine at first to think that Spotify was ad supported, in fact it was like running your own litte radio show with your music and a few adverts here and there, I actually quite liked it to start off with and then came the last few hours of my 20 hours. I started to get annoyed at the fact that soon I would not be able to listen to the music that I had put into playlists without paying £5 a month to remove the limit and the adverts when many of my friends were getting as much music as they liked although still receiving adverts. Then there was the other option of having a £10 a month deal in which I could save the music to my iPhone and have the playlists offline on my mac, essentially giving me unlimited mp3 downloads. Yet again this is restricted, in a year I could buy 120 mp3’s from iTunes for this and that would be music I want to keep, granted there might be a few albums in there too bringing the mp3 count up. They would work no matter what on my iPhone, Mac, PC, PSP, PS3, Netbook and DS. But with Spotify, the moment I stop paying the £10 a month this music becomes worthless and un-usable. When compared to microsoft’s zune pass which is currently US only though would convert to about £8.99 over here, you get the spotify experience with 10 free mp3’s to keep a month which seems like a much better deal straight away. So with that I could be getting the iTunes experience of 120 MP3’s a year and the spotify experience of streaming any music I wanted, wherever and whenever.

The problem spotify currently has is it’s pricing strategy is all wrong, at the moment there charging you £5 a month just to get rid of adverts and a limit, for this I could go make a youtube playlist, hide the window it’s playing in and have the exact same experience without ads for free. Then there is the £10 a month just to use it with all the devices I need to use my music with and that doesn’t include keeping any actual music. It just doesn’t seem right.

For casual listeners I definitely recommend Spotify but for someone like me who listens to music for hours a day whether that be in the car, on my phone or just about the house it just isn’t worth the subscription. There’s better deals out there and these music companies are not gonna get anywhere in the battle against piracy unless they drive there prices down. Artists are still in these dreamy days where people are willing to pay good money for a CD but it’s just not like that any more. People can store millions of tracks on a computer, thousands on a device thats smaller than your average wallet and music is changing and growing faster than ever before. People will buy music if the price is right and at the moment there still isn’t necessarily a great way of owning music or buying it. iTunes is the best solution for a lot of us and they are charging £1 for a song that’s popular and less for ones that aren’t. Who listens to a song that isn’t popular? why are we still being ripped off for music?

I will continue using Spotify until my hours run out each month but I’m not subscribing until the music business isn’t overpricing itself. I’m not making any choices on my main source of music. The other day I listened to an hour of spotify, bought two songs off iTunes and bought James Blunts new album on CD. I should be able to get all the stuff I need in one place at a good price. Until then music industry, you will be at war with the pirates.

I’m Reading The Paper Now.

I had never read an entire newspaper in my life until today. It never appealed to me. The big broadsheets were a nightmare to hold, organise and read. I’m pretty sure that even today I could suffocate in one of them.

The only real experience I’ve had of the writing style of newspapers is the odd snippet here and there or the websites of various columnists and the ugly metro. But about a week ago the independent, a newspaper I understand to be of neutral political ground, released it’s new paper called “i’, targeted at people who don’t really have the time to be reading broadsheets or the bigger sunday papers. I am not someone who doesn’t have the time, I could probably find it somewhere however I am someone who genuinely couldn’t think of anything worse than reading an absolutely huge newspaper everyday only to know that I’ll have to do the exact same thing the day after and half the stuff that I’m reading, I genuinely couldn’t give a shit about.

“i” is in the perfect format for me, it’s a concise paper with lots of information about lots of different things. I have a short attention span, this very post your reading I probably will have left and come back too about fourteen times by the time it’s finished and published however with “i” it gives me enough variety without giving me too much, short enough to not bore me to the point where I would actually love to throw myself off a bridge and written in a way that’s easy to digest without being trashy like the red top papers or retarded like the metro. Not only that the daily paper only costs twenty pence and being a student, I don’t exactly want to be spending over a pound a day on a paper when I could technically get the same information off the internet. Although saying that, reading the paper is a completely different experience to reading off the internet, it sort of has a bit more charm  to it and you don’t look at it in such a way to criticise or throw yourself into a comment war with a bunch of stuck up wierdos about something, the chances are you can’t ever change. So that alone to me makes it worth the pennies.

So with all that, I recommend the “i” newspaper to anyone who can’t be bothered with the bigger more expensive papers or anyone who wants to avoid the absolute trash that is written in the red tops.

Half Term Over.

Yes, the whole week that I spend an average of 6 weeks looking forward too is over all but too soon and whilst I complained about it at the start it actually turned out to be alright.

I’m now actually back on the road and little punto has been running quite well to be fair to it and by quite well I mean it can be driven and get you from A to B. I do not mean that it is at all a comfortable, relaxing and quick drive. No, punto doesn’t do that. Punto simply gets me from A to B. That’s what it does, that’s all it will ever do and hopefully in the next year or so it will be doing it for somebody else and not me.

As for the rest of the week i’ve got up too a few things such as going for a curry with the “curry club” on Friday to a place called La Hoar which was extremely amusing. After leaving the house to pick up my two friends who i’d be escorting to the dismal city of Newport, I received a panicky phone call from my friend Arvin who insisted that not so long ago the La Hoar curry house had been closed as some Alsatian meat was found in the fridge, naturally this was a bit of a shock to the system although we did already have a table booked and I’d eaten there not so long ago and was delighted with the curry which was served. For this reason exactly I insisted that the boys gave the La Hoar a chance and we all came to the conclusion it was indeed a very good curry. We did however have a great time reading through the menu which offered a grid format in which it was possible to order a “chicken curry” and a “mushroom vegetable”. Interesting choices from a traditional indian cuisine. We actually came to the conclusion that if we ordered one of these, rather basic dishes that the curry house offered, the staff would undoubtedly look at us like we were in dire need of a neurologists expert advice.
The night also became a lot funnier when we ventured back to Usk to our favourite public house. The reason for this being is a young gentleman who nobody really knew decided to invade our personal space and annoy us for the rest of the night. This included repeatedly mispronouncing names, talking in a way that could only be defined as bellowing and making inappropriate references to parts of the female anatomy. Naturally the lads of the group found this absolutely hilarious and were aiming to find out exactly what else the “space invader” could do which lead to a completely hilarious night which ended with three of us actually pretending to drive home and then pegging it back to our houses in the hope that he would not invade our personal properties as well.

As for Saturday, I just worked at that very public house and got on with my job as I usually do. Enjoy serving the familiar faces and the people who are genuinely pleasant people and then winding myself up about the absolute ridiculous people who think it is funny to deliberately mess the bar staff about when the exact thing they are trying to retrieve is in the sole control of the bar people themselves. Seems silly to me that people think they are going to get a laugh out of me when it is indeed a lot easier for me to just turn around and say that I’m no longer going to serve them. It is then me with the final laugh and it’s something that I have learned since working at the pub. It’s a great job so long as you can put up with the odd comment here and there be patient with the people who are struggling to shift through the depressing amounts of change they have left from the money they have already spent getting themselves into a position where they can hardly hold their head above their shoulders. This is not too say that I have never been in that position but the more and more I work at the pub the more and more i’m put off by the situations that extremely excessive drinking actually does. It’s not till your stood up for eight and a half hours observing that you actually realise how incapable people become by deliberately intoxicating themselves. But what can you say, everyone does it, I do it and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.

Sunday was just a very relaxed day that involved me getting as much school work done as possible and the watching the results of the X Factor at my friend house in Caerleon and then returning to Usk to meet some of the boys at the pub where 4 out of 5 of us drove and were drinking soft drinks and the only one without a drivers license sat and indulged himself in the finest ales and whisky the Kings Head has to offer.

And now it’s back to sixth form.

Pontypool Dry Slopes

Ventured up to Pontypool dry slopes yesterday. I’ve never been too sure on the dry slopes. As a keen snowboarder and skier I’ve always liked the idea of the dry slope however it’s always been a poorly maintained slope and the experience just isn’t close enough to the real thing. However this time I went up and snowboarded with a friend who was skiing. It was good fun after we’d gotten used to the slope but the problem was again with the maintenance of the slope. I’m sure it’s more fun for skiers because you might be able to pick up a bit of speed doing the “penguin dash” but on a snowboard you could be going down the reasonably steep slope and just stop solid because the material just was too sticky to slide on. This could also be partly due to the fact that the snowboard I rented had massive scratches down it and some deep cuts into the board and looked like it had never been waxed.
Then theres the pommer lift that’s terrible. Placing the button between your legs and pulling a lever to engage the pull on the pole is fine but then your dragged up the hill with a series of jolts in random places and it actually wears you out because the surface beneath is so sketchy and you have to keep control of the board and at the same time and strangely enough, avoid some nutcase dog who is interested in nothing but getting in your way and after you dismount the lift, trying to catch the pole and button in it’s mouth. Strange thing to have at a dry slope I thought.
Turning on the slope was fine if you could get up enough speed to actually do one before stopping in a random part of the slope and there was also a small ramp and rail at the top of the slope of which I managed to hop onto and slowly move across because this ramp and rail are so near the top in a position where a snowboarder would struggle to keep up with a zimmer-equipped elderly person.
All that said though, we did have fun up there and with a few more of us up there it could be absolutely hilarious although if we do go again I think I will have to ski in order to do somethings a bit quicker and get more out of it. The price was alright too, £10 for I think pretty much as long as we wanted and equipment (although that was awful) and we lasted about an hour and a half before discovering how incredibly unfit we are and staggering to the leisure center in dire need of a drink.

So yeah we had a bit of a laugh up there and we will probably go again. It’s just a little rough around the edges that’s all but when your skiing somewhere it never snows and always rains you expect it to be.