Saturday, 27 November 2010

Avoid the Adelphi

Just got back from the UK, my collegue Jeremiah and I were over for a meeting with Sony and also to attend the Develop Liverpool conference.

I'll be filling in my work collegues on the good stuff that happened over there and indeed some of the bad stuff but it was an interesting trip.

It started off on Tuesday morning with me falling down the stairs, not something I reccomend when you get past a certain age and are carrying a few extra kilos, I banged my backside on every step after slipping on the top one. Fortunately I didn't really hurt myself beyond a bit of carpet burn, but it was a taste of what was to come.

Got to the train station and the machine would not take any of my damn cards, 4 of the buggers, so Jeremiah had to do the honours there.

Finally get on the train, only to be told as it left Breda that it was only able to go 2 stops ahead due to some "incident" on the line which they hoped would be clear by 9pm..not much use when we had to catch a connecting train at 6-40.
"Incident" btw probably means a jumper..The Dutch train system is the preferred method of suicide here in Holland, given there are no cliffs to jump from..its rather common sadly.
So after the train stops in Lage Zwaluwe, a middle of nowhere station, which is not even a town/villiage as such, we discovered there was no connecting bus...Lucky for us, there was 1 taxi which we rushed to..despite noting as we walked/trotted down the crossing bridge, the rather congested motorway we knew we had to travel on.

No one seemed to have thought of using the taxi, everyone else being quite content to wait till 9 in the middle of nowhere for the trains to get fixed, but we had a flight to catch and so we started a stop start motorway trip to Dordrecht where the line was running again.

Though since neither of us had any cash on us, in preperation for our use of UK pounds, the trip to Dordrecht ended with me hunting down a cash machine, a mile away from the station it seemed.

Up and down several stairs later, we squeezed ourselves into the next train heading to Rotterdam, and I do mean squeezed, we were now well and truly into commuter rush hour, and despite having 1st class tickets, it was every passenger for themselves when it came to occupying a precious 6 inches square of standing room. Didn't help either that it was a stoptrein, ie one that stops...every bloody stop and has more people squeezing on.

But we made it to Rotterdam, missing our intended hi speed train, by now we were about an hour late. But we did manage to get on another hi speed and worked out that if we were very lucky, we would get there with 30 mins to spare.

We got there with about 25 mins to spare.
Checked in, machine told us bording had already started and to go to the desk, which we confirmed with the lady standing around helping people....Unfortunatly the desk was hidden behind a queue of people checking in for some holiday bound flight, so we had to try to cut in...which we did, with a few grumbles..But still we could not get to the desk so someone could help us. Eventually..bearing in mind the standing around lady was fully aware of our rush..the standing around lady, told us to go to the service desk at the end of the check in desk...grrr..who in turn told us to go to the service desk further down the lobby, grrrr...where 3 nice KLM ladies were helping a group of 4 Irishmen with their presumably also imminent flights to Dublin...I say 3 ladies who were helping, I should of course say 1 lady helping and the other 2 chatting to themselves while looking at their comptuer screens...they were'nt actually doing much helping at all...despite us turning up and looking stressed and rushed with less than 15 mins till departure.

Finaly the Dublin mob sorted, the 1 helpful lady, asked what we wanted..and we explained we'd been sent to check in urgently on the flight to Liverpool..At which point the 2 unhelpful ladies suddenly aquired a state of awareness and chipped in that it was impossible due to their being a bus to the plane which was now loading.
grrr grrr

and another grrr for good measure.

We tried at least...but walked away dejected...We were told to go to the KLM desk to try and re-book our flight so off we went.

Needless to say on a day of repeated dissapointment, our flight was not re-bookable, since the travel agent had rejected the 7 euro fee which would allow booking. We'd have to buy another ticket, at 275euro's.....each.

Since the flight was not leaving till 1 we decided to see what Easyjet had to offer.

A trip to terminal 2 and a hunt around found the Easyjet desk where we were indeed able to order flights for a plane leaving in 40 mins for 120odd euros.
yipeee...we booked, got on, no hassles.

Finally some progress.. we jetted of to Liverpool on a totally unremarkable flight.

Taxi from the airport to the Adelphi hotel...which I just remembered is the subject of this long rambling post...but I think the headline says enough..its a dive, old, cold and well past its prime. It is in the centre of town which is handy, but its a really poor hotel and not worth its high costs...I won't be going there again anytime soon.

It was however the scene of our next dissapointment, as I get a phone call waking me early on Wednesday morning from the travel agents, noting that we did not get on the flight to Liverpool. I explained the train/missed/easyjet story, and was told, oh..ok, but you do know your flight back is now cancelled!!

No I bloody well did not know as I started to fume at the poor chap on the line, who's company had saved 7 euro's by not taking the re-bookable flight option. It seems it is standard procedure on 2 way trips that if you dont' get the outbound flight they cancel the inbound...this despite us being at the KLM desk and telling them we'd try to use another flight.
We'd need to book return flights home..and did we want them to do that......grrrrrr

So while the meeting and conference themselves were worthwhile and useful, though most of the presentations at the conference were pretty dull, the actual travel sheannigans were not fun, the hotel was not fun, and I can't say I enjoyed my trip to the even had 2 guitar shops accross the street, that I never had time to look in...hmmmm maybe I will stay there again next time, so long as I can make sure I can get some time to shop ;)


Sunday, 21 November 2010

not totally dead

A whole week and nothing posted...not much to report really, some interesting things at work, which is mega busy at the moment, I have revamped one of my courses due to the fact that last year the students hated it, (artists hate having to do coding they much prefer to do art!!) and as a result I have way more work to do, as indeed do they, so they now have to keep focused.

I also have a shed load of marking to complete which is always a slow process for me, and finally update some grades from last year that never got posted for various, I can't be arsed I think I'm dying sort of reasons...or just bad bad work managment.

I've got most of next week "off" though, since I'm heading over to Liverpool for a Sony event to launch the PS3 edu program which we are part of as initiates to the scheme, as well as Develop Liverpool converence which will be my 1st chance to meet up with old industry collegues and mates since leaving the UK. Its not going to be totally fun, I have to try to raise the IGAD profile while I am there and see if I can persuade some people to pay us a visit and check us out, but it will be good to be back in geek country.

If anyone here reads this and is going, drop me a line we'll try to have a beer somewhere and ponder how to fix the industry and other things that get discussed at game conference bars.

Guitar practice has been a little sparce this week, I've not added to my amazing Muse riff skills, but I will soon. We'll be doing one of our famous, "thats just noise", jams again soon and I want to get the whole song in my fingers by then.

I am proud of myself too, I managed to keep my GAS (guitar aquisition syndrome) in check on 2 occasions this month. A beautiful Breedlove C25 pro going for about 60% of list price. And, something I wanted for a couple of years a Moondog, only the Spirit model not the much lusted after Grand Auditorium, but still....pretty.

The Breedlove will come again one day, its a big company and they make a lot of them.

The Moondog though is a rarity, though in this case not really as its not an original...I must explain.
All Moondogs were made by a Chinese co-operative and sold by a guy called Tim, he was based in Wales and owned the Moondog brand, he imported them in bulk, chucked out the rubbish ones! He would carefully set them up, added electronics and ensure good quality control. But the trouble with Chinese guitars is they are very random on quality, so he could not keep up a steady line of guitars that met the standard and eventually he went under.
If you can find an original "Welsh" Moondog they are amazing and stunning value for money. But the ones now being sold are the same Chinese companies trying to keep sales going using the name and patterns with a few upgrades...some are great, others are ...meh...This one was a "new" Chinese one, but the seller said it was top quality...All the same...lovely as it is, I passed. I want to try to find an original Tim's Moondog Grand Auditorium. Martin/Gibson quality, for under 500quid (2nd hand 300-400)...they do pop up from time to time but people tend to keep them, for good reason.


Friday, 12 November 2010

I can play....

The bass riff to Muse's Hysteria....very very happy

Took 3 days of very very intense practice to get it up to speed and force my fingers into it, but it's there.....its actually quite an easy riff for a guitarist, but I never claimed to be any good ;)

Why am I doing a bass riff?

ermm....becuase Its a great riff and as it plays pretty much all the way through the song its a greate candidate to use on a loop pedal to play along to. I am going to have a mess about with my Zoom GX2.u to see if I can work out the pitch drop system to make it sound really bassy on the DF, then loop it, then drop back to normal pitch to play the guitar parts.

Ermm I still have to learn the solo though, that's going to be at least another 3 days....4, ok 5 days or a bit more...


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Coding is fun again

I'm busy working on a bunch of things at the moment, fixing students coding assignments, planning next blocks courses and most fun, coding on OokiBlocks which will be my next commecial game (publishers willing).

Its proving to be a lot of fun getting my coding head back on after 7-8 months or so not having much interest.

I've been doing school work coding but nothing that stretched me so its nice to be back into a project. I put it on the back burner when the cancer thing kicked in and have been building myself up to get back into it again.

I find that I don't really have the obsession I used to have for coding and very much tend to work in bursts, but this is a fun project which has involved several of my students in some level and game design so its important to get it done and out there for their sake and let them see that good ideas do get coded sometimes.

Fixing the 1st years work is quite challenging though, its amazing how much students deviate from the lessons I give them, some in clever and imaginative ways, they even in class?? But its good to give them a bit of a boost in the right direction.
I find the balance of showing them and doing it for them to be great fun and a source of great mischief for me, though its not always appreciated by "some" students. But those who get it, realise they have to do the work to move forward..those who don't...well....we'll have to wait and see if they really want to be game programmers or producers who claim credit for everyone elses work ;)

One thing I am not so comfortable with is my new Flash coding course for artists, it didn't go down too well last year, so I am re-working it to be more focused this year...I find flash very dull and boring though so its hard to set the level right to enthuse them...most really don't want to do it, but its part of the course so I have to make it good, hard, fun and informative..who knows perhaps I can persuade one or 2 of them to cross over from the dark side and switch to "proper" coding. ;)


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

We're no 1 ;)

IGAD, the dept of NHTV where I work, has just had its official accreditation process.
Lots of interviews, intense examination of our processes, and scrutity of the work we do. Quite a rollercoaster few months which saw managers chainsmoking (well he always does that) and people stressing about dotted t's and crossed i's or something.

We came through it with flying colours, not just that but, we achieved a very rare "excellent" standard in several catagories, including quality of staff.

That puts us way up the top of the list as far as Dutch HBO (technical/vocational) courses are concerned and way out in fron of the other Game related courses in the Netherlands.

I always knew this was a great place to work, I am very proud of the staff, students and managers who contributed to making IGAD the best game development course in Holland, if not Europe...we need to get that message out there.

yeeaaaahhh for us!


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Dark Fire is....

What can I say, yes it is amazing and awesome and all those other superlatives and I a have not even scratched the surface, but...yes there is a but. What the hell is going on at Gibson QC? There are so many minor details that are wrong here, the switches are sticky and noisy, the tuner CPU cover is loose and comes off with a tug, the tail piece is waaaaaay too high as is the bridge, though thats partly to avoid a string contact on metal which shorts out the electrics. I hear also that the electronics may not be up to par, but I'm not that far down the learning curve to tell yet.

She's a mighty beast all right but can't help but wonder how much better she would be if she were made 10 years ago rather than 10 months. Gibson seem to have lost the plot a bit, selling high end guitars with sloppy control does not bode well for them. Fortunatly none of the issues I have found so far are unresolvable, but if those electronics do go south it's going to be a pain to repair.....

Oh that sounds like I am being very negative about something I spent so much on, no not really, there are just silly little issues there I do not expect to find when you spend so much on a guitar. Gibson always had a reputation for quality and it seems to have gone in the last few years as they have hit various well documented issues. I'm also realisic, the DF is an electronic, techy experiment, and as with everythng high tech it will become old hat soon, (indeed the new FirebirdX has just been anounced with even more toys onboard..but its uglyand absurdly expensive). I hope that I can find the real guitar inside all the tech that makes it worth keeping as a playing instrument rather than a technical curiosity for years to come.

That said though...I love it, not quite as much as Lucille, but certainly a close and exciting 2nd place. She looks great, sounds amazing and feels fantastic. I am sure I will be spending a lot of time getting to know what she can do.