The Calm Before The epic.WEEKEND

Ah, lovely stuff…

And as you tune in, good reader, here I am happily preparing for my weekend’s entertainment. Thursday was my Friday this week, hazzah!! So, instead of working on Kinderday©, I and one other Stupor Ed (plus 20% of our readership, in our mate Owen) will be making the short journey down to a place know primarily for it’s racecourse, the sleepy market town of Uttoxeter. It is to the Racecourse we will go, however not, I hasten to add, to fritter our money away on young fillies, but to fritter our time on this earth away playing in computerised gaming constructs and basically leeching all the files we can get our grubby mitts on from the other sci-fi/fantasy/anime geeks in attendance.

epic.THREE is our destination and we plan on reporting the goings-on live directly to you, fair reader, from the trenches of PC gaming itself.

Yes, between Sappers destroying our grounded F16s with explodey jeeps, me shooting some guy’s face off with a Flak Cannon and Gazz trying to conquer all of Asia using diplomacy, we will endeavour to keep up a “Live Blog”, giving you details of what we observe happening on the front lines of the hardcore gaming community. If it helps, you can imagine it a bit like Twitter, but longer and on a web-page.

Anywho, I’m as organised as ever. I presently have no car (it’s in the garage having it’s head changed), have just installed a 1.5TB hard disc I’ve had for a fortnight (for the leeching mentioned above), am backing up my Steam games to said drive in order to repartition my old drive into one and subsequently reinstalling Windows 7 plus games. All this whilst bunged up with cold, running on a portion of chips with two “brown circles” and three quarters of a bottle of Spitfire.

I have now corrected my introductory statement. Now leave me alone… but be sure to tune in tomorrow for exciting instalments of our fumblings with “The Gamersphere”©.

Maple Breakfast Delight

We here in the Stupor Cave have recently been racking our brains for new articles and features we could run, perhaps on an irregular monthly basis. Whilst on sabbatical in Manchesterton this weekend two of your intrepid editors stumbled upon an idea that was too delightful to resist. Get your amusing piny out and ready yourself for the first recipe of the undesignate period…

What you will need for this dish:
One Kripsy Kreme glazed ring doughnut with Maple icing
Four smoked bacon medallions
A hefty knife
A frying pan
A disdain for the advice of medical practitioners

Method:

Go to Krispy Kreme and buy no less than one dozen doughnuts. If you do the maths when making your purchase you’ll find that by not getting a minimum of 12 lovely sugar filled, sugar coated sugar balls you wont save as much money as you could. However, do share them with a friend or two, or you may die an immediate diabetes related death.

Yummy Time

Take your hefty, preferably serrated, knife and saw a glazed Maple iced dough ring in two. Try not to get your fingers in either the the icing, as that will spoil the look of your creation, or in the way of your cutty piece of metal, that might ruin your digital-dexterity based superiority over all of natures other creatures.

Cloven in Twain

Now it’s time for the meat. Get your pan, warm her up and throw in the pig flesh and fry until nicely cooked through. For the Jewish or Muslim person, smoked turkey rashers can be substituted. For those perverse individuals who shun the consuming of animals, you might want to take a minutes to think seriously about what you’re doing with your life, then strap on a pair and get with the program.

Close to the meat

Time for the assembly. Place four medallions on the base and put the top half in pride of place atop the mound of meat. Again, be careful not to ruin the effect you’ll feel when viewing the completed delight by splodging your fat fingers in that maple loveliness. Once it’s all together, sit back and admire your handy work while you psych yourself for an experience of a life time (if you eat more than one your heart my instantly explode through your chest).

Plated Beautifully

And there we have it, nomage ahoy hoy, and one Stupefyingly lucky editor enjoying his Sunday breakfast. Truly the best start to a day of rest.

Nom nom nom...

Star Trek Online Beta Key Available

Hey everyone, well it took me two days to get a free Open Beta key for the new Star Trek MMORPG and now it seems they’ve given me two. It seems just desserts for my filling in of registrations and trawling the net.

However, I’m just not that greedy, so if anyone wants it the first person to post a comment requesting this key will be rewarded with the fruits of my happenstance (you’ll get the spare key).

Can’t say fairer than that…

Tagged… in the USA…

A year ago, in an uncharacteristic show of generosity, a close friend of mine loaned me his “spare” X-Box 360 indefinitely. Over looking how lucky I was to secure such a deal, this has lead to much annoyance on my part and I’ll tell you for why…

When logging on I found the American market place information, this seemed pretty cool, that was until I tried to buy anything and was given the message “not available in your current location”.

Some time later (when I couldn’t download the Duke Nukem 3D demo!?!), I decided this would no longer do. I went to the X-Box Live website to change my information and found I was able to change every detail apart from my country, which was greyed out and displayed as “United States of America”.

Brown's Broken British X-Box
Brown's Broken British X-Box

Pausing for thought, I figured this may be because my Gamertag information could be linked to my MS Passport, which in turn was populated by my Hotmail account. I vaguely remembered signing up for a US Hotmail account to get the .com address rather than the .co.uk, but that was in 1998 so memories are fuzzy. Acting on this hunch I went to check it out and change the country if I needed to, which would hopefully precipitate the change I required.

After changing my address from somewhere in Puerto Rico (yeah, I know) to England I checked back but nothing had changed. I tried further times and on several different areas, but no matter what I tried the country of my X-Box Live account never changed. Reluctantly I phoned their helpline and was reassured that many other people have experienced the same problem, usually when moving from one country to another for work or university. “Excellent” I said, “there must be a solution then”. “There is”, I was told, “just start a new Gamertag but put England in it this time…”.

Yeah, and that’s it. End of conversation. No more steps. Just bin your ‘tag and don’t use it again. No transferring of achievements or memberships, no process for keeping your MS Fun-buck$ or downloaded content (although this obviously didn’t apply to me), nope just start again from scratch.

Apparently it’s “Impossible” to change that entry on the database. Being a user of MS Access I can well believe that making anything do what you want it to on a Microsoft database can be unnecessarily hard but also being an IT Professional I know that “Impossible” is almost certainly untrue. As such I have decided to continue my quest to find a way around this.

To be continued…

The best form of Offence…

A story came to my attention this week regarding a TV show and a comedian I rather like. The basics of the item were that Frankie Boyle had been disciplined by the BBC for a joke he made on the panel show Mock the Week. He said that Rebecca Adlington (of Olympic swimming fame) resembled “someone who’s looking at themselves in the back of a spoon”. This lead to 75 complaints and precipitated a BBC Trust meeting that decreed the comments may have caused offence to the audience. Boyle has since discontinued his involvement with the show, but the story went on, covering Miss Adlington’s agent recently stating that they thought that he’d not been sufficiently punished and that the BBC had let him off lightly.offense_o_fence_sticker

I reacted in several ways to this article, and they were as follows:

+ I loled, finding the joke reasonably amusing and “it’s funny ‘cause it’s true”.

+ Well that’s a shame, I like that show and he’s the funniest comedian on it.

+ I’m not too keen on her any more. I thought she seemed quite nice, but if she can’t laugh at herself then she’s not as British as I supported her for being (let’s not forget she is from Mansfield after all).

+ What the hell is it coming to when a COMEDIAN can’t make a JOKE on what is quite obviously a COMEDY show.

I can’t believe that anyone could realistically think that regular viewers of Mock the Week don’t realise that some of the content may be a little cutting and would therefore be offended by it. Therefore my conclusion must be that this judgement was made as a horrible knee-jerk reaction to the personal involvement of a well known sporting personality, which is no way to run a public funded television station.

This does obviously raise larger questions about where you draw the lines in comedy and how they should be policed. There are some things we can broadly agree aren’t appropriate for people of certain ages, but that’s not what we’re talking about here, we’re talking about adults in the society we “of-age” inhabit.

Personally I’m a proponent of the Stan Marsh school of thought on this question, “Either everything’s alright or nothing is”.

You can’t start laying down rules, because everything risks offending someone somewhere in someway. Especially when it comes to comedy, as you’re laughing at something and that thing can easily be a person, a group of people or something people feel passionately about.

What exactly is the problem with causing offence anyway? A great number of things offend me. Pumping billions of pounds of tax payer money into the banking system, only to have them immediately start paying out bonuses again. The National Lottery being run by a profit making company, people actually voting for X-Factor contestants, oh, and Miss K Price being at all paid attention to by anyone ever.

However, I’m adult, so I take that offence and channel it into rants like this. I don’t start stamping my feet like a baby and tell them to stop, stop, stop. I simply take note that those people are probably idiots and move on with my life with that in mind.

It is a human right we all have to free speech, the problem I see is that few people realise that it comes with the responsibility to maturely manage any offence you might suffer as a result of someone else exercising that right.

I have your movies…

Hey guys and gals and none gender specific trolls (I’m lookin at you Squeil). I just came up with a lovely new game I’ve been playing with myself (please do not insert your own grammar into that sentence and that’s not new, it’s the second oldest game, just behind the game*). It involves entering a message into your mobile/cell** phone and then using the predictive text to deliberately alter the meaning to obscure your true intentions, thus rendering the recipient blissfully unaware of truth that lies beneath…

This can be done for best effect when having something horribly hateful to say but simply disguising it as an informational text or, even better, something nice and complimentary.

80s Style!!!
80s Style!!!

If you want to have a go and then wish to share that go with the world*** post your best tries in the comments section, either with the actual message you have subtly camouflaged in [square brackets] or leaving us all to hazard foolish guesses.

* not the wrestler
** delete as applicable
*** world may only extend to the three people that read this blog ever now and then

The Bleeping Bleeper

So I’m sat there in the wonderful silence of a just emptied office.

“Bleepy, bleep, bleep…” says my phone and I ignore it. It’s probably just Vodaphone telling me I’ll get free texts for an hour in February if I spend another 43p on ring tones or some such.

[Five Great British minutes pass]

“Bleepy, bleep, bleep…” erhhhh, I sigh. I’m trying to get some open-eyed sleep here. I glance to my phone and it’s glowing it’s little flashy “I have something for you” glow. “Leave me alone world”, I think out load and continue to ignore.

[A further five minutes go by]

“Bleepy, bleep, bleep…” I take a cleansing breath, sit up a little straighter and turn to the handset. The screen is progressively lighting up then darkening out as I stare. “Oh well” I think, “it could be a dirty text…”.

I take hold of the phone, closing my eyes wearily as I bring it closer, flicking the screen up with my thumb, revealing the keypad beneath and unlocking the myriad delights that lie within.

I pause for a second then open my eyes. “Low Battery” it says on the half-dark screen. The closing down animation begins and blingy-blongs at me as the phone dies.

Artists Impression
Artist's Impression

Placing the silver now brick aside, I close my eyes and hold my head in my hands thinking about the genius that decided a cell phone’s final resources would be best spent on bleeping and flashing the technicolour death rattle I just experienced. Probably the same wonder-kint that devised the system that sent me 17 e-mails while I was on holiday, to inform me that I had too many e-mails in my inbox.

I raise my head, a solitary tear trickling down my cheek with the final realisation of why they’re actually called cell phones…

Unhappy Shopper…

This might sound like a silly question and I guess it is, but whilst sat here wondering about stuff I don’t think anyone even cares about it occurred to me that most shops are open all day, closing between 17:00 and 17:30 each night. My question is why??

After some brief musing it does seem quite illogical really. Surely the target audience for shops is those with an money and preferably an income, the white whale of these being young professionals with no dependents bring with them that awesome treasure trove the retail lords know as “disposable income”.

As the name implies, this most bountiful of quarries have jobs, usually reasonably well paying jobs that require nine to five attendance at some form of office or singular location. This very fact means that they are almost certainly not available to peruse for their next purchase during the hours the retail outlets deem they should be open. Where is the logic in this??

Game - 11:23am
Game - Tuesday 11:03am

Surely it follows that the majority of people any shop would play host to during week days are those of either the unemployed or too old to be employed. The later have earned the right to spend money on whatever they want but generally have little motivation to spend and the former shouldn’t really be encouraged to spend their money on consumer goods, by having the sotres open whilst they have little to do.

I can see why shops would open during such hours on weekends, as that time slot would likely be the most preferable for those wanting to fulfil their economic responsibility as a consumer. However, even this is curtailed by Sunday trading regulations. I happen to agree with Sunday trading being restricted, but it would be remiss of me not to mention it, as it does seem to exacerbate the situation we find ourselves in.

In any case, would it not be better to simply open at 14:00 and close about 22:00 throughout the week??

Thank you. This has been my plan for saving the failing economy. I am Adrian Cooper and I am your next Prime Minister of these United Kingdoms of Great Britain…

Gameswipe FTW

Just thought I’d post a quick FYI for all of those gamers that read this blog from time to time.

What I anticipate to be a rather interesting program airs tonight that should contribute to the on-going debate over the health and effect of computer gaming and the treatment of those gamers by society. This particular show should be of most interest to people who like their documentaries with a sarcastically honest edge, as it has been compiled by one Mr Charlie Brooker, he of Screenwipe and more recently Newswipe fame. The televisualation will air tonight at 10pm on BBC4 and will most likely be available via iPlayer soon thereafter.

For those of you who aren’t aware, this also comes as a timely riposte to an ITV “documentary” which went to screen last week. That particular piece of pseudo science, reactionary drivel followed three children over three years, in what was laughably referred to as an “experiment”, to see how these kiddies dealt with videogames in their lives and what affects they might have. Apart from proving that individuals with various social disorders should be wary of the dangers of over indulgence in the electronic arts*, it also displayed the journalistic integrity of a hobo standing an a box reading aloud from an upside down copy of The Daily Star by relating every behavioural problem they could find to avid video gaming. My personal best was 7 minutes continuous viewing, before having to pause again and take deep breathes to assuage my frustration and outright anger at some of the crazy claims and bulls**t statistics used to justify them.

I’d urge everyone to try and watch the above travesty (available here on ITV’s website for a time) in preparation for tonight’s undoubtedly superior observational piece on a phenomenon of our times.

Watch, record or iPlayer Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe or thou shalt be full of lose…

Epic Lootz Found @ Tesco

So, this will seem a little sad to a few people out there… alright, THE few people out there, but I’ve discovered/invented a new activity. I’m currently referring to it as “Urban Scrumping”, but I’m sure a heard a comedian use that to describe the theft of car stereos and it has thievery connotations I’m not entirely happy with. So, any suggestions for a better name would be gratefully received, please comment away fine sirs.

It all began and finished at Tesco. That lovely five-striped emporium of everything you can imagine and more. I was there to buy 2 pints of milk, but that almost inevitably snowballed into spending 50 minutes perusing stuff I didn’t even know I needed ’til I’d gone in the darn place. Anyway, it was then I made to “check out” and found the person controlled check points full and queued up, but the “scan ya ownes” strangely deserted. Truth be told, I usually avoid these DIY scan-o-ma-jigs for two main reasons:

Pawns
Pawns Perhaps?

a) they seem to be a less than subtle way of the supermarket reducing the numbers they employ

b) why should I do for free what they are perfectly willing to pay the sixth-former 5 yards away minimum wage to do??

In this case, however, I was now in a rush, so threw my values to the wind and began to scan. I happened to have chosen one of the machines with an attached conveyer-belt, which came in handy later, but at this stage simply meant my things were piling up rather rapidly about 4 feet away from me.

So, all done and time to pay. Pressing the button on the screen I then scanned my key fob club-o-card and proceeded to pay via chips und pins. At this point I went to grab my receipt, but much to fast for the poor old (new) machine and got hold of the previous customer’s. Looking at it I realised it wasn’t mine, but for some reason I looked closer. Reading down I found a bar code at the bottom which would allow the redemption of the club card points that were earned with that purchase. 33 of said Tescreds in fact. Apparently you can take these to any scanning point and have them added to your account, for cases when you forget your card…

My receipt then emerged, but the damage had been done. As I went to pack my pile of assorted produce I began looking for further slips of paper, and there they were, scattered all around. I can only assume that they fall from the printer onto the conveyer or that people simply throw them aside, as there were quite a number of receipts mixed in with the disposable bags and a good few had sizable rewards.

200 points I came out of there with, and a wonderful sense of victory to boot. Not only did I pick-up what amounts to free money (in the form of points that will eventually become vouchers, but that seems fine) but simultaneously I will be able to stick it to The Man by supplying them with useless marketing information. Let’s be honest, the only reason they give us points is to amass a mountain of data on each of our shopping habits and to then use that against us to sell us more unneeded rubbish. We are, to a large extent, complicit in this whole scam but that doesn’t make it right. So giving them information that I bought toilet roll and tampons then 22 minutes later bought £34 worth of assorted booze followed 10 minutes later by chicken wings and Pop Tarts makes me feel a bit better inside.

Coming back to the point, that is my discovery and purpose in writing. I now plan to “cash in” my receipts steadily, one or two at a time whenever possible. Growing my fortune slowly, let’s not get greedy. I urge you all to seek out such rewards for yourselves, forage in the long grass of the grocery stacks my hunter-gatherer brethren. After-all, you do your own scanning and packing on these things, so you deserve a little extra don’t you?? And keep in mind, though the data trend analysis will be impacted minimally and the rewards to us will be smaller still, every little helps…