Sunday, October 31, 2004

Diesel Prices

I keep reading- with not a little amazement- about how Americans are shocked and appalled by petrol prices rising past the $2 mark. People, thank your lucky stars you don’t live in the UK. At the moment, depending on what filling station you buy at the price is roughly 86.9p per litre. I’ll say that once more- 86.9p per litre for diesel. That’s $1.59 for a litre of fuel. That works out to a fraction over $6 for a gallon.

Luckily- or not (I’d much rather be in a big Ford F-350)- I drive a small car which runs pretty efficiently despite being nearly ten years old. Because of it’s age I’m also able to run the car on bio-diesel (something modern diesels, like the one my Dad drives, cannot do). This is pretty neat because I can get it for 71.9p per litre- quite a nice saving. That works out at about $4.96 a gallon. So, I’m buying the cheapest fuel available over here and it’s still over twice what most Americans are paying. Needless to say, the vast majority of the price is tax for our socialist government. Even when they promise not to raise taxes, they can always raise duty on fuel. B*****ds.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Book review: Spiral by Andy Remic

I’ve been trying to read as much as possible lately- time permitting- and I’m not doing a very good job of it. I’ve got a little stack of paperbacks on my desk awaiting my attention (mostly fiction but there’s also a Stephen Ambrose book in there I’m really looking forward to) and it’s hard making progress. One book I’ve been slogging through is Spiral by Andy Remic. I bought it because it was billed as a graphically violent thriller about a super-secret organisation which was the world’s last hope against terrorists, etc. It’s set in the near future and that was my first problem with the book. While I’d been expecting something more along the lines of Ton Clancy’s Rainbow Six, I instead was plunged into a world decimated by an engineered plague and ripped apart by terrorism. Now, that’s not the fault of the book, more one of expectation, but it did throw me for a bit. My second problem with is that the action is simply not that convincingly done. For one the author equips this world with antiquated weapons- Sterling SMGs, even an MP40- which just doesn’t sit right with me. If it’s set in the near future, why the hell are they using weapons that aren’t exactly commonplace right now? Maybe that’s a pedantic gripe but I expect a whole heap of realism in my techno-thrillers these days. Not so long ago I read a few of Chris Ryan’s books (and I’m a fan of Andy McNabb’s books too- of the pair he’s the better writer) and after them, this just comes off as amateurish. And there’s my third problem, the writing style felt clunky to me, not at all polished. It’s rare that I don’t finish a book I’ve started but after wading halfway through this I just couldn’t take it any more. It was an effort to read and while the idea for the plot was pretty good, the execution just wasn’t up to it.

All in all not a book that I’d recommend, but if he writes another I’d be prepared to check it out to see if his technical knowledge and style have improved any. For now though, steer clear.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Kerry owes Bush an apology

Will Kerry apologise now that it’s been revealed the explosives were already gone when American troops arrived?

Somehow, I don’t think so.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Resident Evil Apocalypse

I saw Resident Evil: Apocalypse a couple of nights ago and I’m still trying to decide whether or not I like it. First off, it’s not a great movie. It’s not even a great zombie movie. The script is flawed and the action scenes are abominable. Really badly directed. But despite that there’s something likeable about it. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for the video game it’s based on, and another for zombie flicks, but I can’t not like this film. I watched the first movie on DVD after seeing this and I discovered that I like it better than this sequel. Maybe it’s because you can actually get to see the zombies. Something that doesn’t happen in Apocalypse- there, all the action scenes are a blur. There’s even a confrontation with Nemesis (who was very well done I thought- though not as menacing by far as he is in the game) which was so badly done that I don’t think I saw a single part of the fight, just a lot of swirling camera action. Not good. I’m also not too keen on the direction the script took towards the end of the movie- not at all to my taste. Even so, while I was watching I enjoyed it well enough and I’ll most likely add it to my DVD collection when it’s released. It’s not good but not bad either, if that makes any sense.

One thing I will say is that, if anyone is planning a third instalment of the series- play the games. A lot. Then play ‘em some more. The films are supposed to be like the games. The Resident Evil series are great, tension filled, scary games. Make a movie like the game and you’ll be onto a winner. The other option is to base the movie on the books written by S.D. Perry. I’m currently on the third in the series (which is basically the Resident Evil 2 game) and they’re enjoyable romps. Good clean zombie and monster killing fun. If you like the games or the movies, these books are definitely worth checking out.

If you’re into it, there’s a double DVD being released on 28th December of movie one and two. No sign yet of a single Apocalypse release.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Blogs worth reading

I’ve been meaning to update my links lately but every time that I log on to Blogger to do it, I get no joy: Page cannot be displayed. ARGH! It’s pretty infuriating and it happens to me so much that I’ve just about given up using Blogger- I just email my posts it. It keeps my blood pressure down to acceptable levels. Anyway, thanks to John’s Conservative Thoughts I paid a visit to these two sites and I’d like to recommend them both- Blogger permitting they’ll be on my links list shortly.

The first is Head’s Bunker Blog. While he’s been covering some politics lately this guy has a definite liking of firearms. Today he’s got a post about the Beretta Neos .22LR semi-auto. Hopefully there’ll be a write up soon on how it performs. While my personal preference for a .22 pistol will undoubtedly always be the Ruger, this Beretta is a nice looking gun. There’s also a pretty cool gallery of guns. Worth having a browse round. I’ve just had a quick look and there are some nice images of a Yugoslav K98 Mauser.

The second is a joy for a Brit like me to read- Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog. Basically tracks accounts in the press of civilians using guns to defend themselves (but I’ll bet you guessed that from the name of the blog.) Wow. So that’s what it’s like to live in a truly free society. Any Americans reading this- remember, almost every single one of these shootings, if it happened in the UK, would end with the civilian defending him or herself from being prosecuted. Keep fighting for your Second Amendment rights.

So, head along to these two sites and have a read- then add them to your Bookmarks.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Writing stuff

Now that my Other Half has finished her course for this year, it’s my turn to get some peace and quiet and to get back to writing. Last winter I got the bulk of a novel written (there’s only a couple thousand words still to do) and now that I have the time I’m hoping to edit it (which involves re-writing huge chunks) and finally finish it. It’s a tale very much in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs and I’m fairly proud of it. It’s not only the longest thing I’ve written but it’s also the most consistent. My biggest problem as a writer is simply losing interest in a project once I’ve got the plot all figured out and letting the quality of the writing slip badly in an effort to get it out of the way. Not so with this novel, it’s kept me interested all the way through. Re-writing it is going to be a bitch though- some sections need work and it’ll be hard for me not to come up with some new idea while I’m doing that and then veer off on a tangent- making everything which follows obsolete.

In order to get the thing written in the first place I made myself write a minimum of a thousand words a day. Not an awful lot, but an easy enough target to keep to on busy days too. I think that was one of the main things that kept me going and kept me at it. I even kept a log to track what I’d done. I used to only write when I felt like it but with the daily target I found myself in a writing mood all the time- it made it so much easier to blast through the novel and the low target number meant that I almost always was able to beat my goal (and for such a tiny bit of a morale boost, it certainly did work). If anyone asked me for a writing tip, that’d be it- write every day.

I’m hoping that I can get the novel out of the way and then move swiftly onto a series of other stories which I’ve been kicking around these past few months. Lately I’ve been watching some old Hammer horror movies and I’ve also just read the graphic novels 30 Days of Night (too short but, wow, what a story) and The Walking Dead (hey, I told you- I’m a sucker for zombies) and there are a few horror stories I’m looking forward to doing myself. In particular I have a few zombie tales lined up which should be fun to do.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Weight Training Tips

I’m coming down with a dose of the flu at the moment and I feel pretty wretched- what’s worse is that I’m missing workouts. Argh! And things were going so well. Hopefully, this won’t last long and come Monday I’ll be able to start lifting again.

One of the body parts I have a real hard time with in my hamstrings- no matter how well the rest of me is doing I find it really hard to increase the weight I can lift with ‘em. I tried doing a lot of leg curls to no avail. I think stiff legged deadlifts are more effective but that puts a bit of a strain on the lower back which is a big no-no for me. I’ve since been recommended a new exercise, called the glute-ham lift. Basically, it goes like this- kneel down on a mat and have your training partner get a hold of your ankles. Next, keeping your body stiff, lower yourself towards the floor, hands in a press up pose (you’re legs might give out and you’ll need to have your hands ready to stop your face connecting with the floor). I’ve told that at first (and possibly for a while after) you won’t be able to lower yourself all the way to the floor in a controlled manner- once you’re down, give yourself a bit of a push up and come back up. Ouch. Sounds hard, but I’m going to try a few next leg day in the gym and see how it goes.

Another area I don’t like to train is biceps. I just don’t like it- triceps I love. Really love, in fact it’s one of my favourite bodyparts to train and that’s probably why I do quite well with them. Biceps are another matter and recently I decided that enough was enough- time to make them suffer! I’ve tried a variety of combinations over the years but the single most effective bicep exercise, for me anyway, is the preacher curl (I use a cable machine at the moment but when I plateau I’ll switch to a free bar). The great thing about it is that you can’t cheat, you can’t swing the weight. You just have to lift. When I started with this I found I had to drop about ten pounds over the standing curl I was used to, but my biceps have definitely shown improvement. Once again, proper form triumphs.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


No posting for a couple of days- my Other Half has been busy cramming for an exam today (good luck honey!) and Daughter No. 2 has been poorly. Nothing worse than a sick baby.

Last night, purely by chance, I caught the final debate. For some reason I was convinced it was tonight. Good thing I was up late (it began at 2 a.m. here). I thought Bush was good- though he didn’t rebut Kerry enough for my taste. Perhaps it was because it was towards the end of the debate but I thought that Bush should have hammered Kerry over the Assault Weapon Ban question. Correct me if I’m remembering this wrong, but Kerry told a little story about being out hunting with a Sheriff who told him about a drugs bust on a house in which (gasp!) there was an AK-47 present. From what I took of this tale, it happened during the AWB- therefore proving that it didn’t work (and BTW, you could still buy an AK-type weapon during the ban- just one without a flash suppressor- what a totally pathetic piece of legislation). As they say, when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. The other thing about this is that Kerry criticised Bush for not stopping the Sunset. Now, isn’t Kerry a Senator- isn’t it his job to try and pass legislation? Shouldn’t he maybe do what he’s getting paid for (and why hasn’t he quit as Senator- he sure as hell isn’t doing the work he’s supposed to)? If he feels this strongly about it, why the hell didn’t he try to pass it? I wish Bush had got at him about this.

This is the first time I’ve watched the debates so perhaps I’m getting it wrong, but isn’t the Moderator supposed to do a little more than just ask questions? Shouldn’t he also attempt to get the candidates to answer the questions? Kerry’s performance was so appalling because he couldn’t answer a question. Within moments of opening his mouth he’d have gone off the point and begun to criticise Bush, without actually telling the electorate what he himself would do. Guess that’s all the proof you need to see that he doesn’t have any plan. And mentioning Dick Cheney’s daughter? Talk about bad taste. The sooner Bush wins the better.

My Other Half was particularly impressed by Bush’s references to his wife- his story about meeting her and love at first sight- and also by his passion for freedom, for the elections in Afghanistan. I honestly can’t see how anyone could say Kerry won this one.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Weekend Recharge

Yet again I’ve had a busy few days and haven’t had the time to blog. My sister-in-law is in hospital at the moment about to have a baby and it seems to have somehow thrown my routine out of whack- and all we’ve done is baby-sit her boy for a night. One of these days I’ll get organised. Maybe.

Good news is that British Telecom has finally upgraded my local telephone exchange so that it’s now broadband enabled. Now all I have to do is select a reliable ISP. My dial up connection (as well as being horribly slow) has been really bad lately. Sometimes it takes six or more attempts to connect. The only problem with broadband is that I’m going to have to buy myself a bigger hard drive to replace my 40Gb. I’ve seen a few 120Gb drives going for fairly respectable prices so that may fit the bill nicely. I had a hard drive die on me a while back and I lost a hell of a lot of stuff. I back up now and then, but I know that there are folders here and there that haven’t been copied onto disc yet. Going to have to streamline my system first, bin all the rubbish, and then fit the new hard drive and do a fresh Windows install. Try and keep the junk to a minimum.

People gripe about Microsoft all the time but since XP came out I’ve been a happy bunny- as far as I’m concerned it’s as stable as can be. Load up Mozilla to avoid all those nasty Explorer bugs and you’ve good a nice reliable system. It’ll be interesting to see what the next version of Windows is like- I’ll not be putting it on my PC for a while after it’s released. Early adopters never fair well.

I had another good day in the gym today- increases on all my exercises. I’m beginning to adapt pretty well to this too- I’m not feeling quite so knackered by the end of each session. Not that it’s getting any easier, but that’s the joy of weight training; every session is a challenge to be overcome.

Finally, this week coming I’m hoping to organise a few jaunts to the cinema- high on my list of must see movies is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy it despite the presence of Jude Law. Second is Resident Evil: Apocalypse. I have low expectations of this but it’s got zombies in it and so I’m compelled to go see it. Finally, there’s Man on Fire with Denzel Washington. I haven’t formed an opinion on this one, one way or the other, but it’ll always nice to see an action movie on the big screen. Also, it’s one my Dad might be interested in seeing so I’m going to try and talk him into going too. Reviews to follow…

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Hitting the weights

I’m into week three of my weight training regime and it’s going pretty well. This Monday I was able to add another 20kg to my leg press and today I increased my bench and shoulder press by 5kg each. It’s taking its toll on me of course- even though I had a good fitness base from the rowing, there’s nothing quite like weight training to really put your body under intense pressure (if you’re doing it right). Each workout (I’m training three days a week- legs and biceps, chest and shoulders, back and triceps) is just under an hour long but by the time I’m finished I’m totally wiped out. I’m taking Maximuscle’s Viper drink while I train to keep my energy up but even with that I’m struggling come the last exercise. I’d forgotten what hard work lifting weights is.

On the plus side, my Other Half tells me I look more muscular and less fat. I’m feeling stronger and I’m lifting more now than I was when I last trained. Pretty good for only three weeks into the cycle. I reckon it’ll be another month or so before my body is acclimatised to this regime- at the moment I’m a mass of sore and stiff muscles. It’ll take some more time until I get used to the punishment.

The great thing about weight training is that I’m losing fat, eating more (four meals a day with one or two Maximuscle Promax shakes for good measure to keep the protein up) and not having to worry about portion sizes or the like. The only concession I’m making at the moment is restricting my intake of Pepsi (or other fizzy drinks) to one a day. This is my main vice- I don’t tend to eat crisps or chocolate- and I’ll sometimes find myself sinking a tin without thinking. Easier than dieting though. This is the best way to lose fat- eat more and train hard.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

More on Kerry and the debate

So it looks like Kerry brought a pen into the debate with him- so I take back what I said about him needing a cheat sheet. The actual cheating part still stands- and it seems like such a petty thing to do. It's as if he's a stroppy teenager trying to prove he's tough by breaking the rules. But of course, he breaks a really tiny rule, just so he can get away with it and not be in too much trouble.

As for Kerry's "global test" (the only surprising thing about that comment is that he admitted it)- he's looking for legitimacy “not just in the globe, but elsewhere”. Wow. What a surprise the media isn’t over this the way they are whenever Bush mis-speaks. Honestly, I’m not surprised by this one either; I always thought he was a space cadet.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Did Kerry cheat?

I sat up until 4:00 a.m. a few nights ago watching the Bush-Kerry debate. Having followed Kerry’s progress from the primaries I had to admit that he performed better than I expected. Not to say that he was good- just better than I thought he would be. His garbled message still makes no sense in a post-9/11 world. This is not the time or place for a shameless opportunist like Kerry who has no moral backbone.

As for his plans? Well, France and Germany have already announced that they won’t be sending any more troops, Iran doesn’t want his nuclear material (gee, thanks for that plan, John), and China says that the entire international community knows that bilateral talks are not the way to go in N. Korea. So, let me see- what does that leave exactly? His secret plan to bring the troops out of Iraq in six months while concurrently sending up to 40,000 more. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not just a backbone that Kerry’s missing, but a brain too?

One thing that has emerged from the debates (apart from the near hysterical media coverage claiming Kerry won- yeah, he can talk well for ninety minutes and keeps his self-contradictions down to a few, but it doesn’t exactly make up for a 20 year span of…nothing in the Senate) is the claim that Kerry might have cheated by bringing something into the debate with him- perhaps a cheat sheet? While this has been ridiculed by the left as inconsequential (gee, get over it, it’s only a bit of paper) and dismissed by Kerry’s team (“this is just another Republican distraction- step away from our candidate, do not pay attention to our candidate or anything he says; he’s running against Bush don’t you know”) the simple fact of the matter is that if Kerry did indeed bring something in with him it’s cheating. Is this what you want from the POTUS? People constantly claim that Bush “misled” them, that he lied, that he can’t be trusted- well, if Kerry can’t be trusted to abide by rules that he and his team agreed to, how the heck can he be trusted if he makes it into the Oval Office? If he’ll cheat over something as minor as a debate with Bush, then how do you know he isn’t cheating about a whole lot more- Christmas in Cambodia, his medals, throwing his medals away, his medal citations, the meeting to discuss the assassination of a Senator {well, okay, he owned up to this one- after lying about it}, his Chinese Communist assault rifle- need I go on? In fact, on whole, Kerry is the one who had displayed a complete inability to be truthful over the course of this campaign- not George Bush. How do you know he won’t “cheat” a hell of a lot more if he gets into the most powerful office in the world?

The second thing about this possible cheating episode is this- if Kerry needs a cheat sheet to debate with Bush (and as much as I admire the guy I’m the first to admit that he’s not the best debater or public speaker in the world) then how’s he going to cope when he comes up against an antagonistic foreign leader? If he doesn’t know the facts on foreign policy (and I’ll bet there are hundreds of bloggers who can rhyme this stuff straight off the top of their heads, no preparation required)- on his own foreign policy for that matter- then is this really the guy who should be running the world’s most powerful nation? If he doesn’t have the nerve to face down Bush in a simple debate, then how’s he going to perform when the chips are down and something real is at stake- say the safety of America?