27 is the age when all your birthday presents become clothes and chocolate: a very warm pair of black (ninja?) thermal pyjamas, three pairs of large socks, one pair of boxer shorts and - eventually - a new pair of spectacles, for these old ones are rather out of date as previously discussed. I went out with my parents to an Indian restaurant in the centre of town, which was completely devoid of customers other than ourselves. The food served was quite delicate, almost to a fault. (Chicken Tikka Massala advertised as heavily flavoured with garlic should be served heavily flavoured with garlic. I'm pleased that it wasn't too red-hot, but it could have been far less subtle. Dad's South Indian Garlic Chili Chicken had a nice kick to it, but the chicken within was served unusually rare, presumably deliberately.) Talking to you good folk was clearly the highlight of the day, though. It would be nice to hear at some point from the rest of you who weren't on LJ at all yesterday - I shall have to start randomly hanging around the IM services a little more.
My birthday started badly, though - a combination of sleep problems and computer problems. The sleep problems were probably largely due to not being able to relax and possibly due to being too hot. In the end, I slept on top of my duvet, which is something I had felt it had been too cold to do for months. It worked this time, so that's something.
The computer problems are twofold. Firstly, I was having terrible difficulty getting to LiveJournal in the first place - I could barely read other people's journals and I couldn't post my message with my phone number. This got very frustrating. In the end, I had to rely on the help of a Friend with a well-deserved reputation for selflessness and responsibility who will remain anonymous but hopefully knows just how much she is appreciated. Shortly afterwards I managed to get my backup ISP working (turns out I had been barred for missing a payment - oops) and things haven't been perfect since. There are still some web sites stateside which one ISP can reach and the other ISP cannot, with both the primary and secondary ISP being impotent relative to the other in some cases.
The other computer problem I'm suffering is that I'm getting vertical stripes of colours across the screen. These stripes often do not stretch the full vertical height of the screen - sometimes only the top half, sometimes it's intermitttent with less long stripes. These are regular; every 64th column of pixels (starting with, I'd guess, the 33rd) is not being rendered in the way it should. To a lesser extent, every 8th column of pixels is slightly incorrect - this doesn't manifest itself as a deeply contrasting stripe but as a slightly-off-colour stripe, normally only visible in solid blocks of colour. For instance, this white Notepad window has slightly-light-blue stripes every 8 pixels and dark blue stripes from about 25% of the way down from the top of the window to about half-way down the window every 64 pixels. (When I change the screen resolution, the distance between the stripes remains constant, which is interesting.)
Of course, it's a tiny bit more complicated than that. Sometimes it manages to completely get the colour of certain blocks of colour completely wrong, or sometimes it only seems to affect pixels in certain rows as well as certain columns. It once managed to give me a black screen of death with dark-orange-brown writing instead of white-on-blue, which made a colourful change if nothing else.
The strange thing is that this problem is slightly intermittent. It's only manifested itself in the last three or four days. About half the time, maybe slightly more, it appears every time from boot-up and remains that way until I power down or reboot. The rest of the time, it comes and goes from time to time. Indeed, there was a period during this session when the screen was absolutely perfect. I got up from my seat with a start, to answer a knock at the door; upon return to the seat, the lines were back. Grr!
This last piece of evidence leads me to wonder whether it's just a loose connection somewhere, though I have checked the power cables and the VGA cable between PC and monitor. Perhaps it's a loose internal connection somewhere. If it hadn't been the coincident possible knock, I would have thought that it was a video driver problem. I get very fidgety indeed with drivers. How is it possible to check whether a video driver is OK? How does one reinstall a video driver?
Would pictures of what I'm seeing help or interest at all?
There have also been a few interesting game-related developments, too.
songmonk played an interesting capital-G Game at the weekend, where capital-G Game is the generic North Californian name for a large-scale 24-36 hour puzzle hunt, especially with the hunt aspect emphasised and lots of driving. Apparently the estimable Mr. Huang was on his team, rather a handy team-mate to have. I look forward to his description of F0B1K soon. (Hint, hint!) You can also have a look at further information on the Games which have existed at the Snout site. Lots of fascinating ideas there.
The closest that most of us will be getting to this is the Nokia Game. If you own a Nokia, or many Nokioj, registration for the game ends on November 11th. Unfortunately, neither of my two ISPs seem to be permitting me to connect to that URL to check that. Boo. (From what I've heard, the Nokia Games haven't been as interesting as they might have been - almost all the activity has been online games, and fairly limited ones at that. Fair, but not as interesting as the ambitious premise might have permitted.
The other interesting venture along these lines was the old Cloudmakers community for Microsoft's game connected with the AI movie. There have been some interesting discussions, springing from absolutely no factual basis whatsoever, about the possibility of a similar game in the future set in the Buffy universe, presumably run for profit or for publicity. I can do no better than to point you to five URLs in order:
Incidentally, it turns out that BBC's recent "Spooks" series had a substantial Cloudmakers-like online co-operative discovery game component which didn't catch on in any way, shape or form - ditto "Push, Nevada" in the US. Perhaps I might have taken much more interest in the series if I had known there was some sort of game to be played - a bit too subtle for its own good, perhaps.
This latter fact comes from mssv.net, Adrian Hon's personal weblog, "featuring mainly articles on massively multiplayer online entertainment, and also science topics". Sounds good. Technically I would argue that Adrian runs three simultaneous weblogs which you can happen to see on the same page, entitled "massive", "middling" and "tiny", referring to the amount of personal commentary accompanying the link. Hmm-mmm. I can see the point, but I'm not sure about the implementation. I'm now starting to see why some people have separate journals and weblogs and why others have explored having separate entities for substantial content and for simple link propagation. Difficult to work out how to get the balance right and when just to provide a link without a load of waffle just for the sake of avoiding it looking bare. Talking of simple link propagation, Adrian links to Terra-Quest, an online interactive mystery/scavenger hunt-o-game-o-thing coming in Q4 (ie: soon) with a quarter-million-buck prize. Watch this space.
The Middlesbrough Gamers Club had a 7½ hour Saturday morning-and-afternoon session last weekend, which was noisy but quite good fun. There were, I believe, something like 45 folk there. The distribution of games was about the same as usual: roughly 40% CCGs, 20% miniatures games, 20% RPGs and 20% board games. (Possibly slightly more miniatures games than usual.) One amusing thing is that there were three ladies present, total age possibly 39, and all of them were in the same (board) game of Lord of the Rings that I was playing in. I enjoyed that coincidence.
The Middlesbrough Games Club is going very well - almost too well, in fact. Our meeting room is getting really quite packed out on Tuesday evenings (last four weeks' average attendance: 45) and as a consequence the club is making more money than it knows what to do with. A typical week's profit (subscription fees minus room hire cost, plus canteen takings minus canteen expenses) is on the high side of £75 and the bank balance has built up very nicely to the point where I assume we are one of the richest handful of games clubs in the country. I submitted a nine-page discussion document with 67 ideas about ways to spend our stash to the committee on Tuesday; the only idea I expect them to take up is the one that I put as number one - "the club pays for all its members to go and see the next Lord of the Rings movie", which surely must appeal to almost every gamer - but that would be a good start.
The "Oh my!" department consists of two local news articles. It appears there is a summit every two years from representatives of towns around the world whose name implies "new castle". For instance, the first one was in Shinshiro, Japan in '98 and it attracted representatives from seven Newcastles - however, not the English-speaking world's biggest two, Newcastle, Australia (population 463,000) and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England (population 208,000). It gives me great sadistic pleasure that Geordieland is not the world's most important Newcastle after all. Ha! (Could well be that there is some other city in China that dwarfs even Newcastle Down Under with a newcastle-ish name.) 2000 saw the conference go to Neuchatel, Switzerland, and this year saw a two-location conference in New Castle, IN and New Castle,PA. A 38,000 population Newcastle in South Africa is the next destination. Perhaps the Middlesbroughs and Middleburgs of the world should do something similar at some point.
There was a documentary on local TV about newsreader/interviewer/anchorman Mike Neville tonight, celebrating his forty years in television. (You might notice some mild consternation that he is from Newcastle, for reasons not unconnected with the local media's heavy Newcastle bias, to explain said sadistic pleasure of the last paragraph.) You won't have heard of him unless you're from these parts because frankly he was never good enough to get any national exposure other than a stint on short-lived early-'80s BBC news magazine "Nationwide". (The documentary wheeled out all the local stars to pay tribute to the Mike: Robson Green, Denise Welch, Alan Shearer, Brendan Foster, °. A top-quality lineup... we're lucky like that in the North-East.) He is effectively very much of the Michael Aspel / Richard Whiteley mould; it's probably only a quirk of fate that it was Yorkshire, rather than Tyne Tees, who produced their own local version of "Countdown" back in '82 which Channel 4 picked up. Had the butterfly farted in the opposite direction, who's to say that it wouldn't have been Mike Neville cracking up on national TV as Vorderbeast sidekick and Whiteley languishing as a mere local ferret wrangler?
Definitely Hobson's Choice, I fear...