21 May 2010

I'm moving this blog

I have finally got sick of Blogger's general ugliness and clunkiness and lack of customizability(-ness), and so I am moving this blog as of today.

My new blog will be Wordpress-powered, and will have its own web address. Unfortunately I was unable to register www.superlative.co.uk because some bastard has already taken it, so I have instead had to settle for:

Which isn't a real word, I know, but it will have to do. In the future I plan to develop the site to be more than just a blog of my life, but to have some of the other things that I work on or that interest me on it as well.

So, for the three or four of you that actually read this blog, if you have it bookmarked anywhere, please update the link to the one above. The RSS feed, if you subscribe that way, is www.superlativity.co.uk/?feed=rss2.

I'm not planning on making any more posts on this Blogger address, unless I have an absolute disaster with Wordpress, so hopefully this will be the last one here. I'll see you soon at the new site!

Thank you so much for reading and commenting, it really does mean a lot to me.

10 May 2010

Iron Man 2 and The Reader

I have seen and enjoyed two films recently. Some people might say they are quite different, but I think they have a lot in common: one is about a 40-year old superhero in a robot suit; the other is about a young boy's relationship with a semi-paedophile former Nazi. You can see why I might get the two confused in my mind, so just because it's easier I shall review them in one post.

Iron Man 2

Some people would call this a flagrant and needless attempt to extract more money from the Iron Man franchise after an initially successful film. Indeed, when watching the sequel I did find an awful lot of similarities with the first film that made me think "was there really any point in making this?"

Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is once again challenged by someone using a hijacked version of his own design and must battle it out and prove his suit is better than the other guy's. There is a vague plot slung around the whole thing, and in this second film Scarlett Johansson prances about in a skin-tight outfit to distract you from the obvious similarities with the first one.

Originality aside though, I did enjoy it, and it was a perfectly acceptable means of being entertained for a couple of hours. The fight scenes are quite cool, the special effects are polished, and Gwyneth Paltrow is reasonably amusing as the unfortunately-named Pepper Potts. Oh and that funny arm-robot that's a bit like a scutter is back too.

It's not amazing cinema, but it's better than being stabbed in the face. I even quite liked Robert Downey Jr in it, despite him not being my favourite actor, as he plays the smug richboy character of Tony Stark quite accurately.

My verdict: B- (not a disaster, but could do better )

The Reader

The Reader, on the other hand, was really really good, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone. It's not very often that I find myself transfixed by a film, and then left pondering it for ages afterwards.

I'll try not to give too much away, but it is essentially the story of a 15-year old German boy who embarks on an affair with an older woman. They lose contact, and years later while at Law School, he finds that his former lover is a defendant in a trial brought against Nazi war criminals.

The story is well-written and the acting is superb. I found Kate Winslet's character Hanna believable, and quite disturbingly touching when you realise what she is accused of. I think that the conflict the audience feels towards her is a testament to the cleverness of the story and her quality as an actress, and the answers that the film doesn't give you allow you room to ponder and interpret it as you wish. In a way you're drawn into the mindset of the male character, who experiences the same mixture of emotions as he tries to reconcile the woman he thought he knew with the woman he encounters later in life.

Quite rightly, Kate Winslet won an Oscar for it, and I also enjoyed the performance of David Kross, her gratuitously naked young lover. And before you say "doesn't that make you a bit of a paedo?", the actor wasn't actually 15 when he made it, he was about 18, so that makes it alright if I had a bit of a look.

My verdict: A (polished and intriguing)

05 May 2010

Birthday booze and 30 looms

I had a really nice birthday weekend and seemed to pack loads into it. I also managed to avoid any particularly bad hangovers, which for me is a massive success and meant I could actually attend my whole birthday weekend and not spend it with a cushion over my head on the sofa.

I came home on Friday to find that Chris had stuck balloons up in our building's front passage, on our front door, and then around the living room, and had laid out my cards and presents all nicely for me, which was lovely. He's much better at making a fuss of me on my birthday than I am of him. I opened all my stuff with a nice glass of wine, and then we had dinner WITHOUT THE TELLY ON because it was that much of a special occasion.

Our friends joined us later on in the evening for some drinkies and some Singstar, which was a nice easy thing to do and meant I didn't have to leave the house. I think everyone enjoyed themselves, there were about nine of us in the end, which is good because I know Singstar isn't everyone's cup of tea. It was unfortunately rather loud though and we ended up with the neighbours banging on the wall at about 11.45pm. Well, in fact it was mostly one friend who was rather loud because he has the loudest voice ever and thinks that singing means shouting, so giving him a microphone to do it into was possibly not the best idea.

I actually felt really bad, as the neighbours have never banged on the wall before in the six years we've lived there, and I know how tetchy I am about other people making noise. I did turn it down after that though, and most people went off home about 45 minutes later anyway. It left me slightly concerned that our Eurovision party in four weeks might not go down very well with them, but that's normally a bit quieter because it's watching telly (not shouting into a sound system) and it's much earlier in the evening.

I had to get up a reasonable time on Saturday to go to the Children's Parade and take photos for Chris. He's a teacher and he was in the parade, I should point out, it's not that he just likes photos of children. Anyway, the combination of my slight hangover headache and 2,000 children with drums and whistles did not mix very well, but apart from that the parade was quite fun.

And on Saturday night, as planned we went to Pop Kraft at the Hanbury. We took a couple of friends with us who haven't been before, and I'm always a bit nervous when we do that because Boogaloo Stu's nights have a rather.... unusual feel to them. They're fabulous, obviously, and I love them to bits, but the very first time you go you can't help thinking "What the fuck is going on?"

Our friends really enjoyed it anyway, so that was good. I made a cake:

And Chris made a balloon dog:

And then on Sunday, as if all that weren't enough, we had the most GORGEOUS Sunday lunch at the PV. They do a great roast there, and it's just what you need when you're a bit hungover and can't be bothered to cook.

So that was my birthday weekend, and it was great. I've also seen Iron Man 2 and The Reader this weekend, but I might have to write about those separately. They were both good, but obviously in very different ways.

Now that the dust has settled though, I actually have to consider the notion that I am 29 and have entered my last year before I'm 30. How the fuck did that happen?? 29, at least when I was 10 years younger, has always sounded so OLD. But now that I'm there, I don't feel old remotely, and it makes my age feel rather inappropriate.

I don't feel any different to how I felt when I left uni really. When I look back on my university years, yes I was much younger in my mind then, but since I left and started work I feel like I've psychologically stayed the same. Yet somehow nearly seven years have drifted past, which is actually almost twice the length of my whole degree, and that just sounds insane. I know I sound like I'm 60, but where the hell does the time go??

Oh well, it could be worse. I have a nice life, and a job that pays pretty well, and a lovely flat, and I can go out clubbing and go on holiday and drink booze and more or less do whatever I want. So I'm not complaining; I know I'm very lucky. But I'd be even luckier if my stupid age had stopped at 24 instead of stubbornly marching onwards.

It has made me think a little though that maybe there are things I would like to have done before I'm 30, and if that's the case I really ought to get on and do them. I don't know what they are of course, but I'm going to have a think about it. And then procrastinate and not do them, and pretend I never really wanted to do them anyway.

29 April 2010

A catch up on some political stuff

I haven't really blogged about the election campaign since it started in earnest. That's not because I haven't been thinking about it, but rather because I've been talking about it and watching it on the television and tweeting about it to such an extent that it was all starting to get a bit much for me. Even I, who am more interested in politics than most and try to be well-informed, have been flagging at times in the face of the relentless onslaught of the campaign, and the conflict it creates when you discuss it with people.

But anyway, we are now just one week away from election day, so I thought I'd catch up a little bit on the stuff I've been thinking about and where I think my vote will be going (at the moment) when I reach the polling booth.

The debates

I have watched the two leaders' debates with interest, and will be watching the third one tonight. I'm so pleased that they have held them, because it has really changed some of the feel of this election campaign for me, and it seems to have sparked some additional political interest amongst people who normally wouldn't care.

I feel that the format is rather dry, which is unfortunate, and I blame this mostly on the fact that the audience aren't allowed to clap or respond in any way to what they say. What's the point of having a mute audience? It just means it's the three of them talking to camera for long periods, like a party political. It gets much more interesting once they start debating properly and responding to each other, instead of just rattling off pre-prepared answers.

I felt that Nick Clegg was the clear winner of the first debate, based partly on what he said and partly on the way it changed public opinion of the Liberal Democrats. I felt he was always going to have the most to gain from it, as he was suddenly depicted on an equal footing with the other two leaders and people had to actually listen to what he has to say. And what happened in the polls once the three candidates were giving an equal platform? Suddenly it's a three-horse race, with all the parties polling around the 30% mark. That came as no surprise to me at all.

The second debate had no clear winner for me; not because Nick Clegg did much worse, but because David Cameron and Gordon Brown did much better and seemed to settle into the format much more. It was a little bit samey towards the end when they starting talking about similar issues to the previous week, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Stupid party political broadcasts

One of the things I really hate during any political campaign is scaremongering and negative campaigning. I realise that they're always going to do it, but it annoys me intensely because it detracts from the real issues and is insulting to the intelligence of the electorate.

There have been a couple of party politicals in the last two weeks that have riled me up in particular though.

The first was an appalling Labour advert featuring Eddie Izzard, that made me think much much less of him. In it, he talked about the Conservatives (why bother talking about Labour policies, eh?) and said "These are Thatcher's children! Be afraid, be very afraid!"

Fuck. Right. Off.

Seriously, how long are Labour planning on flogging Thatcher's corpse (interesting image) as a reason to vote for them? She was in power THIRTY years ago. It's fucking ridiculous! And contrary to the opinion of most uninformed socialists, she wasn't the worse thing ever to happen to this country anyway. A modernised economy and inflation reduced from 18% to 4% during her time in office? Yes, DISASTROUS. Such a terrible effect on the country that she was re-elected TWICE with whopping majorities and therefore had a clear mandate for what she was doing? Yes, that really shows how the people hated her. Hated her so much in fact that even after the Tories deposed her, they STILL got re-elected the next time around. It's not like everyone went running straight to Labour, desperate to be free from Maggie's claws, is it?

So anyway, I found that advert patronising, childish and irrelevant.

The second party political that's pissed me off is a recent one from the Conservatives, styled as a fictional advert from the Hung Parliament Party. Seriously, it looked like crap, like a GCSE Media Studies project, where it had been so hastily thrown together once the Conservatives realised a hung parliament was a distinct possibility. And it had a stupid noose logo everywhere, despite the fact that a noose would imply a HANGED parliament, not a hung one.

But leaving aside the generally shitty aesthetic aspects of it, the content was what really annoyed me.

A hung parliament would be undemocratic and would mean the country was governed via deals done behind closed doors, they said. It won't be the utopia of cooperation some people would have you believe, they said.

So they're saying that the present system is MORE democratic are they? A system where only 60% of the electorate vote, and then a party is installed as a majority government having received only 35% of that? That's 21% of the electorate backing the party that gains power, who then get to pick whoever they like to fill the cabinet and can spend five years legislating pretty much with impunity, even in the face of large-scale public opposition to any particular plan. How democratic is that?

And on the question of cooperation, other countries seem to manage perfectly well with coalition governments, including Germany: the strongest economy in Europe. The problem actually is that our two main parties are very used to having all or nothing, and they don't normally have to play nicely with the other children. They don't have to negotiate or compromise to get legislation through, they can just force it through on the strength of a questionable public mandate and a large majority in the Commons. A hung parliament doesn't necessarily mean an ineffective one, and the only way the Conservatives can guarantee there would be no cooperation is if they're saying they won't cooperate with any other party.

Anyway, I can feel I'm getting more and more riled up as I write this, so I'm going to leave it there. My final point will be to describe where my voting intentions lie at present, so I can compare that with next week.

At the moment I am voting Liberal Democrat. I would like to see them gain a much larger share of the seats in parliament, perhaps around 100, and for them to exercise that power to bring about political reform.

I really, really wanted the Conservatives to convince me and win my vote, and I gave them ample opportunity. But at this stage, my principal feeling is that I can't trust them. This is based particularly around the issue of gay rights, but has broader implications than that, and relates to the fact that members of the Conservative party don't actually seem to agree with the official line we are fed by David Cameron. There have been too many homophobic views expressed, and it has been enough to put me off. How would these MPs actually vote in the Commons on gay rights issues, if this is how they feel? What value is the official party line if the party's members don't actually support it? And that lack of trust and credibility on gay issues has seeped across and eroded my support for them in other areas, and my whole opinion of them.

My main disagreements with the Liberal Democrats are on issues such as the euro. I don't want us to join the euro, I don't think that we need it or that it presents sufficient benefits to us. However, as the LibDem pledge is to hold a referendum on the issue 'when the conditions are right', I can live with that. If we have a referendum, I'll vote no. And if most people vote yes, I'll just learn to live with it. It's a democracy after all; if that's what the majority of people want, then so be it.

So that's my political update and I'll shut up now. Roll on election day because it's all starting to get rather exhausting.

27 April 2010

Birthday shopping success

Having said to everyone that I don't know what I want for my birthday, and I don't need anything, and don't bother wasting your money if I don't want anything, I actually had a highly successful trip to the shops on Saturday and bought myself LOADS of cool stuff.

The coolest acquisition was these fucking excellent shoes:

I'm wearing them right now and I looooooooooove them. They are Onitsuka Tigers, and I've wanted some for ages but always decided they were too expensive. They're not too expensive when I'm not paying though! For some reason I really like the pattern on the side (most Onitsukas have it), and I really like the colours on these too.

I also bought Amelie on DVD, which I have seen quite a few times but which I really like. It'll also be good for my French to watch it again too, I must be getting pretty rusty by now. I haven't read anything in French or Italian for ages and I know I'd be a bit tongue-tied if I tried to speak them now. In fact, some people who are only occasional readers of my blog may not realise that I actually have a degree in French and Italian and am supposedly fluent, because obviously it doesn't really come up very often when you spend your days pottering around doing (English) websites. I'm not fluent any more anyway, certainly not in Italian, although I could probably make an attempt at French and not sound too stupid.

Anyway, as well as Amelie I also bought Little Miss Sunshine, which I LOVE. I watched it the other night, I couldn't wait until my birthday to see it again. The little girl in it is just SO sweet, and the people are all such fuck ups, and the ending is just hilarious.

So yes I'm pleased with my DVD purchases.

AND on top of that, I bought three t-shirts. So not bad really! It's a nice feeling to come home clutching lots of shopping bags and knowing you've got lots of nice new things.

My plans for my actual birthday have been a bit last-minute (because I refused to decide what to do), but on Friday (my actual birthday) I'm now having people over to ours for booze and SingStar, and then we've got some friends coming to stay on Saturday and we're going to go clubbing and be entertained by Boogaloo Stu at Pop Kraft.

So it should be good hopefully. I hope very much to keep my drinking in check and not get carried away like I usually do, so that I don't suffer horribly the next day and end up spending my birthday weekend in bed or with my face in the toilet. That would be rubbish and would annoy me, so I must MUST remember to stop drinking at a sensible hour.

Will post some pictures of the weekend if any of them are stimulating enough.

21 April 2010

In your FACE, Sony Ericsson

UPDATED 2 JULY 2015: During 2015 the domain name repairmob.com was purchased by a different company based in the United States. The comments made in this post bear no relation to the new owners of this domain name. This note has been added out of courtesy to the new owners.

I fixed it!!!

This is an update to my post from yesterday about Chris' shitty broken Sony Ericsson.

I looked at it again last night, as I said, and tried the Phone Repair function that is part of its program on my PC again. It had already failed to repair it several times on Monday, so I thought it was a bit of a long-shot last ditch attempt, but I had suspected that the reason it was failing was that the battery wasn't lasting long enough each time for it to wipe and reload the software before the phone switched off.

It was difficult to charge the phone though, because it seemed to refuse to charge for more than 10 minutes at a time before all its lights went off and it looked suspiciously like it was ignoring the power input. So in the end I kept unplugging and replugging it every time the lights went off until I decided it might have enough power stored up to give it a go.

And it worked! I was SO surprised, as normally these things never do anything. It successfully downloaded the newest version of the software from Sony Ericsson, accessed the phone in some weird Flash drive mode, wiped everything (this is the point where it kept failing and I thought I might have actually made the phone worse than before), and then shoved the software back in before it ran out of power.

And now the phone is up and running again! Yes it has lost all of its previous data and phone numbers, but that ship sailed the minute it packed in on the plane anyway.

AND we won't have to pay anything getting it fixed, or mess about sending it off for repair. And that's probably all the repair person would have done anyway, so it would have been a total rip off.

So yay me!

One thing I forgot to mention before was that I am APPALLED by the new 'repair under warranty' system that Orange seem to be operating. When we went to the Orange shop and the guy agreed it needed to go off for repair, he gave Chris a card for a repair company who he said were now handling all their repairs. But in order to send it off to them for assessment and repair, even under warranty, you have to pay the company a £15 handling fee! How is that even legal? If it's broken and under warranty, it should be fixed at the expense of the retailer or manufacturer, surely? So we weren't very happy about that at all.

But anyway, fuck it, it's fixed now and it didn't cost anything, so repairmob.com and Sony Ericsson and Orange can all suck my balls. They'll have to form an orderly queue though.

FINGERS CROSSED it will remain fixed and not screw itself up again. My C510 lasted without error for a year after it had its software upgraded, so I'm hoping this will be the same.

I shall be basking in my own smugness until such time as it breaks again anyway :-)

20 April 2010

Stupid Sony Ericsson AGAIN

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that last year I had some issues with my new Sony Ericsson phone. 'Some issues' is probably an understatement actually, as its software decided to completely fuck itself up and render the phone inoperable.

After some internet searching, it transpired that this was a not uncommon problem with phones using that version of Sony Ericsson's software, and that the only solution was to have Orange send it back to the manufacturer to be wiped and the new version of the software installed. This I did, and I lost all my numbers and it was annoying, but the phone at least worked again until I replaced it last month. Well, I say it worked, but that was only with some bits of paper jammed in next to the battery to stop it from switching off all the time, in another apparently characteristic problem with Sony Ericssons.

Anyway, shortly after my phone woes, Chris decided that he liked the tariff I was on with Orange, and he also wanted a 3G phone like I had, so off we toddled and bought him a nice new Sony Ericsson W595. As I mentioned in my previous post on this subject, that phone also had the randomly-turning-off problem, but as I didn't know about the bit of paper solution at the time we had to take it back and get it replaced immediately after we bought it. After that it was fine.

Except that after that it is NOT fine, stupid stupid me for possibly thinking that it would be. Because what has happened? The software has fucked his phone as well! As we boarded our flight to New York and he was checking his texts before switching the phone off, up popped, to my horror, a funny error message: "Insert correct SIM". Erm... OK, it's still got the same SIM in it.

Maybe it's got some dust in it. We'll just take the SIM out and put it back in and it'll be fine. No, no that's not done it. Well we'll just leave it switched off and then charge it up when we get to New York and it'll probably sort itself out.

Plug it in in New York. "Unable to charge. Use only a Sony Ericsson battery." Now WHERE have I seen that message before..?

I can't fucking BELIEVE it. What kind of faulty crap are Sony Ericsson producing?

So I bought my C510, and it broke. I got it back, and it still wasn't right, and I had to jam lime green post-it note pieces inside it just to make it work.

Chris bought a W595, and it had to be replaced straight away. And then the fucker breaks with EXACTLY THE SAME PROBLEM as mine a few months later.

I'm absolutely APPALLED. When the phones work, they are fine, brilliant in fact, and Chris had actually just said minutes before it broke "I love this phone, I don't think I ever want to change it". Ho ho ho, well thank you sod's law for pissing all over that.

But to have such a catalogue of failures just between the two of us I think is terrible. My previous opinion that Sony Ericsson make the best phones has been replaced by the view that they make shitty, shitty phones that you can't trust. I've never, EVER had a phone that has died due to a manufacturing error and needed to go back for repair before I bought my Sony Ericsson. I've had Nokias, Motorolas, LGs, and even a fucking Lobster (yes that is a real phone make), and they just worked until I replaced them or bashed them and the screen went funny.

And to make it worse, Chris doesn't have his receipt. Why doesn't he? Because when he took his first W595 back THE DAY AFTER BUYING IT BECAUSE IT WAS SHIT, Orange took it and clipped it to something so they could send the faulty one back to Sony Ericsson. So now it won't be covered under warranty.

What a fucking shambles.

There's a Phone Repair function on my Sony Ericsson PC Suite that I'm going to try again tonight which may allow us to fix it at home, but I tried it last night and it failed. I'm hoping that's just because it needed to be plugged in for longer so the battery had more of a charge. If it won't work, it'll have to go off for private repair.

I really don't think I can bring myself to buy a Sony Ericsson again. They should be fucking ashamed of themselves.