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[01 Dec 2012|07:22am]
Today Noah is 65 days old, by contrast I'll be 15,101 day old.
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blood [29 Nov 2012|08:25pm]
Last night we had a scare. Clara had fed Noah some time after 1:00am. He did a little sick, leaving a small, blood-tinged patch on his baby sleeping bag. Blood is not good. No sign of scratching, or nose bleed. No injury on Clara's breast. I felt a low dull sense of worry, kept under control by Noah's sleepy smile - clearly he was not unwell in the full sense. Clara wasn't willing to sleep on the incident and I wasn't going to argue against raising the matter with NHS Direct, the free-phone 24/7 medical advise service. Their advise: though probably nothing best get it checked out. So off we drove to the Childrens' Hospital A&E, arriving there at about 2:40am.

Well, after registering, getting Noah inspected by a Nurse then getting him checked out by a Doctor the winning theory was that Noah, having fed hard, had caused Clara the bleed in her milk supply. Noah then just did a normal sick after drinking the slightly bloody milk. False alarm. Good experience in that we now know what entails rushing him in for an emergency check.Let's hope we never have to take him again, although there's a good chance we will.
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[23 Nov 2012|11:26pm]
So, the Murder Night got cancelled. Again. Too many actors off sick, the organizer's said. HR lady, Jen cancelled and scheduled for us to attend a Sheffield Ghost walk instead.
I've never been on a ghost walk before, although on Scout camp at Luccombe Chine on the Isle of wight there was the pervasive sense of an evil presence, generated by the older scouts who had fallen to heavy metal music and satanism (or so they told us, while being chilled-out elder statesmen of scouting.) Every night, as the isolated forest in which we camped became shrouded in bat infested darkness, our minds would fidgit with the stories we'd tell each other: legends about a demonic smuggler called Stoney Crowe, strange shapes half seen beyond the tree line of our camp. It was super spooky, and at eleven years old,I was at the last point in my life when there was still the possibility of impossible things. Those summer nights walking through utter moonless darkness, back in 1982 were the last true 'ghost walks'. Sheffield Ghost Walk was a fun, though fact-lite couple of hours that took the group through some surprising locations, like The Boardwalk and The Museum pub.
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Murder Night [20 Nov 2012|10:53pm]
I'm going to leave that title dangling there to tease you. "Surely Mark hasn't turned his back on a life of trying to be quite nice, donning, instead, the big black top hat of evil." I hear you say. Of course not.

New management
I've moved back under the authority of the Engineering department. Good times, busy times, increasingly technical times. We've suddenly moved into "BIG DATA" which means nothing to you, I can tell by the blank expression, although this could be my imagination, trying to peer through the global system of wires, optical fibres and rubber bands that make up the Internet. I'll try and find some time to write about BD after I have figured out how to sum it up in a handful of svelt and simple paragraphs.

Tiny tot too tiny
Clara phoned me to let me know the result of Noah's latest weighing: not putting on weight quickly enough. He's fallen down to the next percentile which puts him in the bottom two percent of 2-month year olds. We're upset, we feel like terrible parents - but I know that he's still in 'normal' limits and this is only a problem if it doesn't sort of work itself out. Clearly we need to encourage Noah to eat more, which means being more disciplined about his nodding off after a few minutes of feeding. We need to work on the cluster feeding, especially while he's doing these nice long (4 hour stretch) night time sleeps.

Murder Night?
This month's work outing is for a Murder Mystery Meal / Game / Thing. Really looking forward to it. I wonder if I'll survive the night?
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Weak ends [19 Nov 2012|06:42pm]
Another slothenly couple of days off work. It wouldn't be at all fair to blame baby Noah entirely. During my paternity leave I would retire to bed as early as 9:30; whenever Noah decided to call it a day. I'd have no need to burn the midnight oil to feed my artistic or gaming indulgences as to these passtimes I could devote those parts of the day not required for Clara's or the house's upkeep.(Gosh, what an overwrought sentence.)

Friday, I brought home batteries to test Noah's first Christmas present, a wonderful baby gymn from grandma Lucas. Unlike a gymn you or I would use, this one features a brightly coloured mat featuring jungle and rain Forest flora and fauna, over which stand two interlocked half loop frames from which various jungle-themed toys hang. It's really super and Noah seemed to take to it immediately, even though he's still too young to interact with it and all the little toys hang too high for him to reach. Sadly, on Saturday morning the lights and sounds stopped working.

I played video games, finishing Borderlands 2. That said, I immediately invested in the first DLC (Downloadable Content) although I'll probably wait before I play it. Yet another add-on is due soon, I'll probably get that too.

Borderland 2 is a cartoony science fiction first person shooter that blends Mad Max wasteland warriors leather and spikes-chic with more traditional far future outer-space elements like arid wastelands, vast alien creatures, teleportation, robots embued with wacky personalities.

This morning
At 9:27am I became aware of a twitch in my left eye. A muscle spasm that I put down to the strength of the coffee that streams from office machine.
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and finally for now [16 Nov 2012|12:15am]
Little to report, except that my coffee tolerance is that of a very large brown bear, who worked in Starbucks as a student. I had four strong white coffees before lunch, and that was a mere starter. I think the Ill effects that you might expect were masked by my horrible head cold, which has now become a normal all-rounder cold, having dropped its specialisation for doing my head in. Productivity was low, except for the 3000% increase in snot. I'll hope for a clearer head tomorrow so I can get my head around radical new architecture employed by next version of our MultiSite product.

GTA-5 new trailer!

While it doesn't exactly drip with nextgen-ness, it looks incredibly refined. More cinematic, hopefully more physics-based sandboxy too. I don't know why it's got me the least bit excited as I didn't play either of Rockstar's last two titles for more than a few hours - although I certainly was blown away by their scope and crime story sass.

Time Remapping, or “Speed Ramps” in some programs, is a visually dynamic editing technique that we can’t seem to get enough of these days.

Took photo prints of Noah to mum. I,ve also got a set for step-mum, Carol and a set for Clara's mum, Mary, if she wants them - she's an excellent photographer in her own right.

Just logged in to Amazon to buy a digital copy of the SF novel, Robopocolypse, however the mixed reviews have left me discouraged. I should first complete my current pile - right now that includes Charlie Brooker's "I Will Make You Hate" - Brooker has so far failed dismally as my only reaction so far has been innards-wrenching, tearful laughter. Also reading "The New Executive Brain", about how some of the fronty bits of our brains work to make decisions by linking to other bits. It's slightly more complicated than I'm explaining, and I'm pretty sure it's more complicated than the author, Elkhonon Goldberg actually explains, he does an amazingly good balancing act between easy reading pop science and an overview of a peer-review ready journal, aimed at brainy medical types.
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Tuesday [14 Nov 2012|06:56am]
Big day. Matt and I pulled into room, told that we're moving out of the product team. We'll be moving under Engineering's umbrella - although maybe forming a new team if we can agree on a name. We're taking on a new tech writer - looks like I pulled the right name out of the air , when asked to suggest a new addition because within an hour of dropping the name, the person had agreed to come in for a chat. Exciting times, indeed.

Forgot to call step mum, Carol. She heads in to hospital today for brain surgery. Must call, and organise some flowers.

In the evening Noah had an old style screaming fit. It's true that any apparent baby routine can break at any time. Still I'm hoping this isn't a return to a time when most of our evenings are taken up with trying to console the inconsolable one.
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Goings on [14 Nov 2012|12:47am]
Time for an update. Weekend gone: Saturday nice and restful, much the same way that a thimble of water is refreshing after a long walk in a big desert. Spent more time interacting with Noah, now that he's increasingly aware of us. I took some photos not long after we got up, demonstrating Noah's early attempts at smiling - very promising it is too.

We started watching a film, "Safe House", a good, though not great riff on the Bourne movies. Ryan Reynolds plays Matt Weston, a low level CIA officer charged with maintaining a safe house in Cape Town. Eager to advance but also trying to hold on to a serious relationship, Matt is flung into that agency's spotlight when recently apprehended rogue agent Tobin Frost (Demzel Washington) is delivered, prior to shipment back to the U.S. A large group of mercenaries storm the safe house, forcing Matt to go on the run with his manipulative and dangerously insightful (inciteful) charge. The next hour and a half sees the usual chases, punctuated by exposition that predictably forces Matt to question his loyalties. I would have enjoyed it more watching it in one sitting. Noah wouldn't stop wailing, the Clara gets tired. The last act was far too predictable, but Reynolds and Washington both bring their best efforts to bear and the set pieces are nicely handled.

Sunday: Like Saturday, except I could feel the steady build up in the headache chambers. A head cold was coming, the only question was how bad would it be.

Monday: The answer was "very bad". Stayed home. Slept. Felt sorry for self. Increased mucous production by 3000%. Watched episode 5 of Breaking Bad - which continues to be quite brilliant. Brian Cranston is a real acting craftsman.
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Crawling towards the finish line [09 Nov 2012|08:45am]
It's been a long week. Time for an update, though. Reflecting on yesterday... Absolutely no reflections. Right now I don't remember anything that happened, except we had dinner, we watched tv, and then spent most of the evening trying to persaude our son to go to sleep.
There was dinner. Nice dinner. Clara's very authentic tagine - defrosted from it's months-long slumber. It's good to make use of the freezer, I have a tendency to use the freezer as a means of delaying the throwing away of perfectly good food, by up to 2 years. Maybe I don't like the idea of frozen food, the modern form was innovated, rather appropriately by someone who preserves dead animals for a living, that's right, Captain Birdseye wasn't a captain, he was a taxidermist. Anyway, that's got nothing to do with yesterday. The desperate attempt to get Noah to sleep instead of cry was pretty much the only theme.

We watched the second half of Channel4 News, some of that Come Dine with Me "Reality TV" program. I think I managed to get about half an hour of Battlefield 3 gaming in before I had to go and nurse Noah. After a year of play, Battlefield 3 is still pretty darn good - when playing on well run servers.

Noah weighed.8lb 10oz - That's nearly a pound in 2 weeks. Quite acceptable! Now tall enough for carrying in our Baby Bjorn Carrier. Excellent news, we think. Lets see how Noah takes to it.

On the cards
I called my step mum, Carol to thank her for some baby clothes that she'd posted to us. We'll get organise to visit her in the next few days.
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Today will go down in history... [08 Nov 2012|05:12am]
[ mood | exhausted ]

as the 7th of November 2012, the day Obama won the U.S. presidential election. I watched the results being called on the BBC website, immediately after a 4:30am nappy change for Noah. The relief was huge, not for Noah it seems, although he handles changes with nonchalance instead of the previous scream-fits. A good change! He get's weighed tomorrow, we're hoping he is growing at a suitable rate - he's still a teeny tot.

It was a day in which we released an uberSVN mini-update, a hotfix for LDAP. I was rushing to sort out some LDAP tweaks to the uberSVN documentation.

It was also the day that Clara's Clio went in for its M.O.T and failed dismally. Repair costs and retest somewhere in the order of 700 pounds. Toy budget, obliterated!

It was another day in which I managed to survive with about three and a half hours of sleep. I'm surviving a lot of those, but each day I feel physically and mentally diminished. The solution is evident - I need to start going to bed at 9:30pm, sleep when Noah sleeps.

Clara's got it worse, although at least she can sit at home feeling exhausted. Maybe by the time I have my third coffee reality will seem less clogged up with mind treacle.

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Seen by someone on Facebook [06 Nov 2012|09:38am]
I recently visited my friend who is a director of a mental hospital. I asked what test is used to determine who needs to be committed. "Simple", he said, "We fill a bath then ask the patient to empty the bath, offering them a tea spoon, a cup or a bucket".

I said, "Well of course, a normal person will obviously choose the bucket, it having the largest capacity".

The director smiled, "No,my friend. A normal person will pull the plug out of the bath. Now would you like a bed near a window?"
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Two and a half ounzes [05 Nov 2012|10:52pm]
Yesterday's important daddyhood milestone: I fed Noah! Milk expressed from the womanly front aspect of my dear wife, Clara, delivered to the tiny boy by bottle. He drunk good. More than half the bottle. It felt great, this was the missing piece to my fatherly contributions. At some point I'll be able to take up a regular feeding spot, probably like a late-night disc jockey, playing the same milky record over and over again to a single, sleepy listener.

U.S. Presidential Elections
Tomorrow the world sees if America elects Barack Hussein Obama, or a guy who looks like someone who'd play the President in an 80s TV movie.
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A long time again (Yesterday) In a Galaxy Far Far Away (San Fransisco) [01 Nov 2012|12:54pm]
I had intended to write about Noah's arrival, well that's still coming but instead I'm going to report on yesterday's shock news that Star Wars creator, controller and some would say destroyer, George Lucas, has sold Lucasfilm to Disney.

I've been surprised by broadly negative reaction from the fan base. Now Disney has a ropey reputation from a lawyers and ruthless studio bosses perspective - but what Hollywood Studio doesn't. However, looking at their brand management skills they're second to none. Pixar hasn't withered under their management. Marvel's film output was never so sure-footed as when it fell under Disney's guidance. Because Disney doesn't buy cash cows in order to make burgers, it milks them, and it milks good.

So we'll be seeing Episode VII in 2015. Don't bank on that. That's probably a commitment that will steady Disney's shareholders. I'd expect a new film to take 3 FULL years, so 2016 is more likely. Modern production methods for an effects-driven movie require tens of thousands of man-hours by a highly skilled specialists and can only really get done in post production, after you have captured whatever incidental live footage you might need, of things like actors. By comparison Avatar 2 has been in pre-production for two years. James Cameron is still tweaking the script and lensing is due to start in about 6 months. He's also penciled in Avatar 2 for Summer of 2015, and even though he's had a two year head start on Star Wars, I'd also expect Avatar 2 to slip another year.

New and Improved
I can't imagine the next Star Wars movie not being filmed in 3D, and I also expect it to follow on from The Hobbit 'trilogy', being shot at 48fps, a move that greatly improves 3D action, but forces a new level of production quality. Apparently the shift to higher frame rates means that old school film tricks, like running through polystyrene caves with rubber swords and trusting motion blur to mask all the fakeness simply doesn't work.

Setting and story
The mostly likely setting will be a generation after the fall of the Empire, and will feature the the Offspring of Leia and Han. This is based only on the fact that in an Interview in 1979, George Lucas said that the saga would consist of three trilogies that would follow the fortunes of the Skywalkers. This next generation Skywalkers were sort of the basis of Timothy Zhan's Thrawn trilogy books although the films will not follow those books. The films have always been treated as their own canon, tie-in books and comics are a separate stream. For the record, while I didn't think the Thrawn trilogy was especially badly written, for me it just didn't have any ring of authenticity.
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June?!! [30 Oct 2012|12:51pm]
I've always said I write them for me and have been shocked when seemingly responsible members of the community have admitted to reading them. Ha ha, not you. I'd have completely forgotten about the journal if it wasn't for the very thoughtful efforts of spam bots who occasionally leave flattering comments on my posts - forcing me to dip back to days-long-past, reintroducing me the surface detail of my life which I'd otherwise have completely forgotten. Thank you spam bots!

There is something now that I'm compelled to write about -- it's that tiny 8lb elephant in the room, called Noah, who represents the biggest change in my life since ever. I get the feeling that most of the experiences and life lessons of these first few weeks and months will be burned away by accumulative and acute sleep deprivation.

I'll post tonight or tomorrow with something about my experiences of the BIG DAY(tm).
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Mid Week Mid June [13 Jun 2012|09:07am]
Something is wrong with my neck - the nobbly bit that runs up my spine, not the squishy bit at the front - what, you want correct anatomical names for this stuff? Damn it Jim, I'm not a Doctor!

This pain came on suddenly, from what I assumed was a bad sleeping position - although I'm thinking that I've had some clicking in the neck for a while. Yesterday I woke in agony at about 4am - the pain wears down to a tolerable soreness, but it was a pretty horrid day.

This morning? Moderate improvement. Began at 5, not 4, with soreness instead of agonising shooting pains. It's cheered me up a bit. I've always had an irrational fear of injuries and pains - the sense that they're the imminent sign that my body is about to crumble like some dilapidated ancient ruin. Maybe not this time. Maybe.

Lets be very British and talk about the weather. June is proving to be something of a washout. The late-May heatwave is a distant, slightly rusted memory. I'm not walking home often enough - maybe a couple of times per week. The weight has piled on - it's out of control. Must stop eating like a food obsessed maniac, before my trousers no longer fit.

Continues to enjoy her pregnancy. The-thing-inside continues to kick wildly, possibly an attempt at communication, a rudimentary attempt at telling us to keep the noise down, or to eat less curry. I've made a request for Maternity leave - only on the next morning did it dawn of me that even though I'd attached Clara's Mat Leave form, I should have requested paternity leave.

I'm lost in a dark pit. I've not got such a backlog of documenation to complete that I should take a month off to catch up - only I'd then be a month behind. Clone myself? Too unethical. I think I need to start working earlier - If I can start coming in from 7am and get 2 extra hours per day, I should be back to where I need to be in a matter of months.

Tonight! Expectations now rock-bottomed by a slew of "meh" reviews from people whose opinions I respect. I'll go and see it for the mindblowing visuals and make a wish for a future where Science Fiction at least dons its cap to actual science - and that storytellers work harder on the foundations. Ridley Scott, in his early years, was frequently dismissed by serious film critics as a 'visualist' film maker, obsessed with getting the look but lacking the broader skills of a writer/storyteller.

I'll try and record my thoughts on the morrow.
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Exercise in sedentary [06 Jun 2012|07:15am]
Update long overdue. Weekend, mostly wasted. Playing through world history about five times, getting beaten each time. Civilization V is a slow game, which I have grown to love, but turn based games are ill-fitted to my impatient mind. For some reason I can't win as Russia. Give me India or Greece and I'm away. Giving the game up for a while, need to up my productivity in the all-things-creative dept.

Diablo 3: like someone dipped Diablo 2 in liquid WOW, then polished the hell out of it for a hundred years. Which maybe indicates that while Blizzard are the kings of gaming refinement, they just dont have the chops for gaming revolutions - the but again, who does? Indie developers, that's who!

Games have become films. There, I said it.

Pain in the neck
This is real pain.
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[31 May 2012|05:16pm]
On Monday I plodded my way to work along the usual route, passing the overlook of a large concrete platter that sits between two houses on Walkely Bank Road. This platter gives the impression that someone just moved away, taking the house with them.

Well this morning I was shocked to see that the platter now has a full timber frame built on it - in the shape of a house. Now I've seen enough episodes of Grand Designs to know that framework can be erected very quickly, but to actually see a big gap turn into a house sized and shaped thing in just a couple of days is quite a shock. I'll enjoy seeing the rest of the construction.

Lunchtime Chips
Twice in a week. This is a diet-failing outrage, one I could easily become accustomed.

It's back, like the bad penny. It only took a week of constant blue skies and sunshine to convince me that I lived in a wonderful paradise. When the weather is so nice the 3 and a half mile walk home is a real pleasure. Today, Sheffield is a drizzle soaked landscape that kills my walking enthusiasm, although the fact that I had pie and chips for lunch, instead of a Muller rice and banana pretty much obligates me to do the walk.

My brief addiction to playing Civilisation V was broken by spending two nights trying to get the Aztecs to launch a space exploration mission to Alpha Centuri - it didn't ruddy happen because some other obscure historical leader got there first. It's a great game.
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Weekend [28 May 2012|10:02am]
Seems so long ago. What I remember of it was lovely, although far too much of it was spent playing Civilization V. Just two games in 2 days, but if you know Civ 5, you'll know that can translate into two full days of play.

I've been playing as France since I got the game - I finally decided to try some of the other countries. I won in each game - although the second game only by a couple of very anxious turns.

Diablo 3 - damned impressive, it is, everything you expect from Blizzard, infused with black humour and showing all the trademark super-levels of refinement.

In fact I did do some scribbling - a golden era style travel poster for 2300AD.

I did a barbecue on Saturday evening - with lager. REAL LAGER. I can't remember if its traditionally drunk chilled, but it sure was lovely that way.

Since Clara found out she was preganent we've been living in a dry house. I've been getting the odd beer out with friends/work colleagues, but only about once or twice per month. Clara got some Alcho-free Becks, the first alcohol free drink that she's found to be more than just barely drinkable.

On Sunday we had dinner at Tyme Cafe. Quite wonderful food, and I do admire it's laid back pubfood chic and lack of foody pretensions. For the record we had Morrocan-style Lamb shanks with cous cous.
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[26 May 2012|08:18am]
Apologies to myself for missing yesterday's journal entry - though, to be fair, you brought it on yourself, mate. I better start with a recap, then.

I got my eyes tested. Not good. Having explained how well my lenses where - too good as I'm leaving them in for longer than 12 hours, she immediately pledged to find me some better contacts. Well, I could see the dollar signs in her eyes so protested that I saw no reason to rock the boat. On came extra tests, which involved rolling my eyelids completely up - causing much wincing and discomform. Suprise, suprise, there are problems. Apparently there are "signs of bloodvessel changes near my cornea", these changes are suggesting that not enough oxygen is getting get my eyes. If these changes continue then "at some point" I won't be able to wear contacts. She played the "eye health card", there's no getting round that - so it looks like I'm going to be paying another £7 per month for my plan - taking it back to what I was paying with Scrivens, some thirty quid each month. Boo!

Clara is currently doing night shifts - beyond her normal allocation because she's keen to do more unsociable hours before she begins her maternity leave. Which reminds me, I need to register for my own baby-related time-out paternity-whatsit. I spent the night sketching, playing Battlefield 3 and then at the time when I should have gone to bed, I put Civilization V on and spent 2 hours as an Egyptian Pharaoh, dutifully building great wonders.

Helping mum get her luggage to the car, more scribbles, more games, more sun - oh boy this hot AND sunny weather is a most welcome change. Given the weather I'm going to make some MAN FOOD for dinner - cooked on MAN FIRE. There will be smoke! Hopefully some nice cucumber salad and some cous cous too.

My geek t-shirts arrived! How geeky? D20 SAN roll for anyone who suffers a full-on view of the Great Old One himself Cthulhu "Flatagan Flatagan Ga-hummer-hummer what-ya-call-it R'lyeh" - come on, it's been 25 years since read this stuff!
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[24 May 2012|04:28pm]
[ mood | mellow ]

Iron Sky
The crowdsourced SF Comedy featuring Moon-based Nazis attacking Earth in flying sausers received its one-time showing last night, and thanks to Haydn's forsight - and maybe his girlfriend, Kate's need to be an a different city on the day, I got to attend the screening.

Was it great? Yes and no. This is good, broad satire wrapped around a wonderfully steam-punky premise, executed with what I have to describe as eye-poppingly good effects (considering this is Independent cinema). If that's what low budget cinema looks like these days we should be asking more from our blockbusters. Although, maybe the fact that that film looked so good unfairly raised my expectations - although the film does have some marvellous gags it never escaped that feel you nearly always get with International productions, where the humour feel horribly forced and unsubtle. But laugh we did, and quite often - there was this wonderful scene that parodies the "Hitler in a rage" scene from Downfall delivered universal belly laughs accompanied by a round of cheering - cheering in a UK cinema is a rare thing, I'm guessing they're a something you only really see at these sorts of special showings where there's a critical mass of fanboy enthusiasm. Good knock-about fun SF comedy fun.

Wasp Chase
I thought I was going to be late today because Clara insisted that I eject a wasp from the bedroom while I was busy getting ready. The wasp was going to "mess with her calm" - presumably they can do that even if you are asleep. It has to be said that Clara's starting her night shifts today, so she was up till about 3/4am building an integrated transport system - in Minecraft, of course. This seems to be Clara's favoured approach to starting nights - not so much developing minecart systems, rather the staying up very late the night before so that she can sleep till late.

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