Review: Head Games

Motorsport has long had signs encircling tracks pointing out to spectators that motorsport is dangerous. From the biggest Formula One circuit to the lowliest kart track that message is loud and clear. Is it time for other sports to begin proclaiming the same thing? That is the question that Head Games deals with.

While the risk of injury in motorsport comes from the vehicles themselves, in other sports it comes from the act of playing the game itself. If you don’t stop the opposition in their tracks in American Football they will just keep running past you, in ice hockey it is also part of the game. This leads to hard blows to players’ heads. A blow to the head is never good news though and the NFL has been forced to come to terms with this. The movie primarily focusses on American Football but points out that concussions can come from practically any sport (the film dwells on women’s soccer for a while). Head Games is detailing the work done by Chris Nowinski and his team at the Sports Legacy Institute in Boston as they continue their research into how to find signs of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) – which can lead to symptoms of dementia – in people still living. Previously it has only been possible to have access to, and find signs in, the brains of the deceased. The film points out that unsurprisingly getting repetitive blows to the head is bad for you and the fact is brought home by showing us a former NFL player who can no longer recite the months of the year between January and June in order or remember a six digit sequence of numbers. The film also shows a study that NFL retirees have 19 times the risk of dementia of a normal member of the public.

The movie stops short of telling people not to play these violent sports but does suggest that perhaps parents should think twice before letting their children play, or keep playing after having a concussion. Head Games makes its points well and there is still a lot of research to be done by this relatively young team. If the movie is able to get a debate going and help make these sports safer then it has done its job.

It is obvious that after spending the nineties denying the effects of head shots, the NFL can no longer ignore the facts regarding concussions. For the past couple of seasons the rules have begun changing to start to minimize the risks and stop potential damage to the league’s reputation. As younger players start seeing the men they idolize clashing heads less often the hope is these changes will filter down. One thing to note is that concussions take a long time to heal, the NFL currently takes players out of the game but more often than not they are back the following week. The league perhaps needs to look into increasing the time that these players sit out before returning.

It may look like the league has been neutering the show but if it means one fewer suicide and more players retiring in decent health then it is surely worth it. What does this mean for us in the British leagues? We need to acknowledge that the problem is out there. Make sure no player enters the game with a concussion. If we see a player take a blow to the head then make sure he is fit to re-enter. While I have seen few, if any such hits in the British game it should still be a point of emphasis for coaches that players should not go in with, or aim for, the head.

As the movie points out one concussion is really too many.

Trailer for Head Games:

Microsoft Surface Impressions

I had the chance to play with Microsoft’s new Surface RT yesterday so I thought I would give a few impressions. I will preface them by saying that I don’t currently have a horse in the tablet race. The iPad has done a fantastic job in popularizing the concept (as apple products tend to do) but I am not a huge fan of the iOS interface with its grid system. On mobile I prefer android and have a fondness for Asus’s Eeepad Transformer range of tablets. I was eager to see what Microsoft would bring to the table.

The tablet itself is a nice piece of kit. The hardware seems sturdy and the stand does not feel like it will snap off easily, I also love how easy it is to connect and disconnect the keyboard from the device. Surface is well featured with usb, microsd and a port that will allow you to connect it to monitors and televisions. There are two downers though, the first for me is that the device is too heavy. I disconnected it from its keyboard and played with it off the desk for a while and it was giving me a bit of an arm ache. It was noticeable that the device was heavier than an iPad and less comfortable to hold. The other downside comes from the keyboards. The first major issue is that to use the keyboard functionally you need the device on a table. If you place it on your lap the stand will not be stable and it will be a poor experience. The second issue is that the colourful surface touch covers are horrible to use. They are pretty much flat and there is no movement or feedback when you press a key. It makes it very difficult to discover if the keys you are pressing are actually registering and it was not enjoyable. Fortunately Microsoft also offer a black keyboard cover that has a much nicer keyboard and although the level of travel is still small you have a much better idea of what you are doing. I could get on with the black keyboard, I couldn’t with the coloured ones. Spend the extra money… The final thing I will say on hardware is that Apple have gotten me used to the dimensions of the iPad which made the RT feel very wide and thin, this made it feel strange in the hand. The advantage of this is that it means that video tends to fill the screen.

The tablet I played with did have some videos preloaded and they predictably worked well, the store on the device also seemed to be offering movie rentals at very decent prices as well. The music player didn’t seem overly well laid out and it was hard to hear the sound quality in the store, even with sound all the way up I could hear nothing. The supplied apps were generally pleasing, calendar, contacts and mail all have a nice clean feel and I would be happy using those. The image features were pretty standard and the inbuilt cameras seemed ok for what they are. The sample pictures and general colour display on the device did not seem as vibrant or enticing as on the iPad though. In terms of the general Windows 8 interface, it is starting to win me over as a tablet and phone layout. It has the ability to display information easily and once you get used to where things are I would rate it as better than the iOS grid. It took me a while but I also worked out some of the gesture controls that are not standard on other devices, for example swiping from off screen to bring up the open/recent apps on the left or the search/settings on the right. It took me a while to work out how to control IE but swiping from the top/bottom does the trick. These gestures work well once you know them and it made the experience easy to control. What was less impressive was the responsiveness of the tablet. Sure it runs apps and all of that fine, my problem was a more base issue of the device not picking up what I was tapping on. It occasionally took me two or three attempts to open an app, the worst was trying to play music which took me a while to get working. A delay and a lack of feedback to tell me if something was in the process of opening did not help.

So overall I enjoyed playing with the surface. Would I buy one? No, but the interface is up there with android as my favourite. I am sure that Microsoft will fix (or already has fixed) the responsiveness problems I faced but there is a more general issue of the device being too heavy and being impractical for lap usage. I guess that means that I am giving the interface and OS a plus mark for use on tablets, especially given the bonus of the integrated windows desktop experience and office suite, but I am not sold on the surface hardware. Time will tell on how the competition stacks up in the RT marketplace but if I had to buy a tablet today I would be going android.

Image from the Microsoft Surface website

Living Below the Line – Day 4

Somehow we both ended up beginning the first day of our four day weekend waking at 7am. We therefore had our porridge at a fairly normal time and then went to the morning Good Friday service at the Salvation Army chapel. I had trouble concentrating, possibly for food reasons, possibly non-related ones. Beth then went on to the town centre service and I toddled off home to play some games and work on websites.

We met for lunch in the park with some of Beth's student friends. Beth then went off to messy church with the youth group in the afternoon while I stayed around to throw any American football around with Aric and a Romanian called Johnny. Which was good fun but I dehydrated myself so Tamara was nice enough to give me a bottle of water which I chugged in about three gulps.

I went home for half a slice of bread with peanut butter on and then settled in front of the computer to get some coding done. When Beth got home we had pearl barley again for dinner. We are beginning to run out, good thing tomorrow is the last day. Tomorrow evening will be leftovers night, we will just pour everything in and make the most of it.

Bring on Sunday dinner.

Living Below the Line – Day 3

Day three saw us passing halfway. We had porridge for breakfast and it was fine and dandy. Then again I am happy with familiarity at breakfast. I tend to pick a cereal and stick with it for as long as I can.

I didn't have much trouble getting to lunchtime but felt hungry at about midday when my colleagues started eating. 

I managed to hold off till half one. Usually I go for a walk after eating but it was too darned cold. Instead went back and tried to get on with work in the knowledge that we had a four day weekend just around the corner.

When I got home dinner was almost ready and we saw some variation with jacket potatoes, baked beans and the usual veg. The variation here was appreciated. I am certainly starting to miss meat though.

After eating we went to church for the Maundy Thursday service. It was a good if long service but by the end I was hungry and feeling a bit cranky. I was glad when I was able to go home, eat the second half of the apple I started yesterday and slump in from of the TV.

Two days to go… Glad we rationed properly and have a fair amount left.

Living Below the Line – Day 2

Wednesday was largely the same as Tuesday. It turned out our porridge measurements were off on Tuesday though. The portion this time seemed about twice the size.

At work I found it hard to concentrate when I started to get hungry. I got the work done, perhaps a little slower though. Along with my sandwich this time I also had some carrot sticks which I rationed through the day. By the time I got home though I was very hungry.

In the evening I had the dinner I photographed yesterday which was as enjoyable as it had been the day before. We then went to the cinema to see Pirates in an adventure with scientists. The film was very good and very funny but I came out hungry. Walking down a high street full of restaurants was fairly tough. When we got home I had a half of one of our spare apples and that settled my stomach and let me sleep.

So while I don't mind the food we are eating and don't mind the portions that we are having for breakfast and lunch I am having trouble dealing with a smaller and less flavourful dinner. Good time to make a change for dinner then…

Living Below the Line – Day 1

So the first day is over. I started out disappointed with the portion sizes and ended the day disappointed that we had miscalculated.


As you saw yesterday our plan was to have porridge for breakfast. Apparently to make the porridge spread across ten meals (two of us for five days) we would be having a quarter of a cup of porridge. This turned out not to be very much at all. After adding milk and a little sugar mine was gone in about four spoonfuls. Either we got the measurements wrong or I need to stop wolfing my food down.

I then toddled off to work and got on fairly well for the rest of the morning. I had my allowance of a cup of tea at 11am and then started to feel hungry at midday. I managed to hold off almost two hours before giving in and eating my peanut butter and jam sandwich (slower than breakfast) and then waited another half hour before eating my banana. I went for my usual walk and then went back to work.

By about 4:30 I was starting to get hungry, which actually isn't that unusual. In fact when I got home I still wasn't much hungrier and we ended up not eating until 7:15 which is late for us. I was glad of eating later as I do not want to have to go to bed hungry. Above is a picture of our dinner (actually its Wednesday's). It is comprised of half a tin of tomato (not pictured), pearl barley, brocolli, carrot, kidney beans and gravy. Fortunately it all tastes quite good. The problem was I finished and was still hungry, I settled my stomach with a quarter of a slice of bread (we had two spare slices). The rest of the evening I had a headache.

The headache was enhanced when I created yesterday's post, I put all of the stuff we had spent money on into excel and came up with the total of £9.85. Going in we had assume that we would each be able to get a cup of tea a day at a rate of 2.3p per teabag. Unfortunately in getting as close to our £10 total as possible, we came up short and could only afford six tea bags. I volunteered to be the one to give up tea for the rest of the challenge but I was disappointed.

The first day went fine, I suspect that the coming days will be harder as our stomachs realise that they are going to have to make do with under 1000 calories a day (see Beth's comment on the initial post).

Living Below the Line – Prep

Yesterday evening after a lovely and filling pasta night we headed off to Asda. Usually I avoid Asda like the plague when not buying thanksgiving turkeys but one cannot deny that they are amongst the cheaper supermarkets.

We entered with our £10 figuratively in hand and came out having spent £9.85

 

Breakfast amount price
Porridge 500g 0.62
Milk 4 pints 1.18
tea 6 tea bags 0.14
     
Lunch    
Bread one loaf 0.47
Peanut Butter one pot 0.62
Jam one jar 0.35
apples seven 0.85
bananas five 0.59
     
Dinner    
Pearl Barley 500g 0.58
Kidney Beans 500g 0.98
Carrots eight 0.94
Gravy one pot 0.2
tomato sauce one tin 0.31
baked beans one tin 0.42
baked potatoes four 0.7
brocolli bag of frozen 0.75
Squash small bottle 0.29

 

We did our first round of shopping and had about £1 left and so got the beans and potatoes to give us some variety (jacket potatoes) one day. We then paid and found that actually we had another fifty pence. With that we picked up the squash and two additional carrots to reach the amount above.

We had planned for the majority of the items but when we got to the store we found the prices different to online, peanut butter and jam cost us about 30p but we also over estimated on fruit by 55p so that more than made up for it.

You will notice that we have used the remaining 14p on tea bags. This is the cost of six tea bags from our box of 80 that we already owned (in line with the rules). This allows one cup for me and one per day for Beth. Going in I am apprehensive as I do live my food. It will be an interesting experience though. I am already looking forward to my roast on Sunday lunchtime.

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We will be doing daily updates about the previous day all this week.

Wii Frustrations

The Nintendo Wii in March became just the second system ever to die on me. The first death was entirely my fault as I tried to escape GCSE revision to play PS2 games. Having had the power lead confiscated I decided to plug the power lead from my printer into it. It fitted, what could possibly go wrong? Well it fried the PS2 and surprisingly I still passed my science GCSE despite forgetting about amps, volts and wattage.

The Wii, however, died likely from age. It suffered from a problem faced by many a disc spinner with either its laser giving out or it losing the will to spin wii discs. It still played gamecube games just fine but thats not helpful when you are enjoying De Blob 2. I was annoyed but the Xbox gets most of the play time these days and it was after all a launch console. A replacement was needed though.

Having decided that the prices for a new console were just too high I started looking at the used ones available. Of course if the price cut by Nintendo dropping the price to £100 had happened a couple of weeks earlier I may have thought differently. Game had a pretty good deal whereby you get a used wii for £70 with a controller. With this as my benchmark I hit avforums and ebay to see if I could better that. After a couple of days searching I bid on an ebay Wii which came with the console, two wiimotes and two nunchuks along with two games in Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles (going for £10 on amazon used) and New Super Mario Bros. I
figured that this at marginally less price than the game offer was a great deal and so bid on it and managed to pick it up.

On the payment screen I noticed that the address was wrong (ie old address) and so I clicked change and gave my new address. I then repeated the payment process with the new address and thought nothing of it. 5 days later I was getting a little worried as there was still no sign of my lovely new console. I emailed the seller and he quickly got back to me with a tracking number. Turns out the package spent three days in Cornwall where he is before heading north and eventually finding its way to Kent on Wednesday night.

On Thursday afternoon I checked the site again and found that delivery had allegedly been refused. I then went, checked again and saw that Ebay had given the old address despite my changing it. I called Interparcel who were handling the delivery and changed the address. They said I would get it tomorrow. Friday came around and again I had a negative answer "courier could not gain access to property". I figured fair enough as Beth was out. I called the Interparcel who told me that HDNL were delivering my parcel for me. I asked them to tell them I wanted to collect the parcel from their depot. Interparcel then told me that HDNL do not allow pickups.

Deciding that this was a load of rubbish I told the lady that they did and it was mentioned when I phoned yesterday that it was possible to do so. The lady changed her mind and said it was fine and HDNL would call me. I have had experiences with HDNL before and none of them have been positive. Amazingly though HDNL did actually call me that evening and gave me their address and opening hours.

The next day (Saturday) I headed off to pick up my parcel at 9am. On receiving it I found that the request for a change of address had not been done on my Thursday afternoon call so the Friday attempt had gone back to my old address again. This led to more cursing about HDNL and now Interparcel. Still at least I had it now and it only took 6 days for it to get from Cornwall into my arms… or 10 since my original order.

On getting home I was eager to open the box and get set up. I did not realise that I was about to get my second round of frustrations. These I shall number:

1) You cannot copy Wiiware or Virtual Console games between consoles. This to me is maddening. I have spent at least £60 on game purchases from the Wii shop channel and now they are not allowing me to move them. Sure DRM makes sense on consoles but this is ridiculous. On my Xbox360 my purchases are tied to my online account so if I move my profile I get access to my games. Why is this so hard for Nintendo? Now I have to keep my old wii around and plug it in every time I fancy playing one of my downloaded games.

2) Copying game saves to an SD card takes time and is a pain in the backside. It needs to be done one by one and then even more annoyingly Super Smash Bros Brawl saves cannot be copied. No reason is displayed it just saves 'save cannot be copied'. FU Nintendo I want my Smash Bros save. The reason apparently is because it has online functionality. I think anyone who has tried the Smash Bros online functionality would dispute that and why should that make a difference (except Nintendo have screwed everything up with friend codes).

3) Copying games from an SD card is even more time consuming and tedious. To copy a game from an SD card the console needs to have seen the game before. This meant a process of putting game disc in, entering the menu, going to the sd card, copying, restarting the wii, removing the disc, repeat 15 times till all games are done. Is save game piracy really something Nintendo needed to plan against?

This all smacks of a company either thinking their hardware is unbreakable or sticking two fingers up to their customers. The experience will certainly make me think twice before even considering a future purchase of a nintendo system, though the 6 month periods with no games and poor online functionality had already made me wonder.

Other companies that don't come out blameless then are ebay for letting me change the address and then not bothering to recognise it (though I accept I should have checked the receipt after the payment went through). Interparcel and HDNL also get the naughty stick for conspiring to make sure I didn't get my package in a timely fashion by ignoring the change of address request I put through and then also lying to me about the possibility of my collecting the package from the depot.

Now that this rant is off my chest I can look at the positives, the wii is here, I have put the wii shop out of view and am not hooking the wii up to my network. I have my save games and miis and I can now play wii games. Overall I still think I got a better deal than if I had gone through game but it came with a lot of frustration.

It also leaves me with the following controversial statement – man I wish Royal Mail handled all deliveries in this country (and never striked)…

Karting Rankings

As I mentioned in my previous post I decided it might be fun to do some karting rankings based on those who have ever come to one of my events. It is not likely to be entirely accurate but can be used for a vague comparison/argument… In some places where ability is close I will put side by side. Number in brackets is times seen.

So anyway here is the top 15:

Matt Teager (2)
Jonathan Little (10) / Craig King (4)
Helen Little (6) / Felicity Kensett (4)
Patrick Hill (6) / Steve Franklin (2)
Trefor Little (6)
Ceri Almrott (2)
Seok Jun Park (1)
David Witt (1)
Catherine Leopold (3)
Beth Little (7)
Thomas McCorkell (4)
Beverley Little (5)

We have seen in every case that people are a lot more competitive in their second events so a lot of those at the bottom could likely gain some places by coming again. The more you give it a go the better you get.

What do you think of the rankings? agree? disagree? Think you should be higher? Want to take part in future? let me know.

F1 Rankings – after 5 in 2011

The last time I did one of these with three to go in 2010 Vettel looked out of it. Since that time he has been absolutely dominant. It is only fitting therefore for him to go top of the leaderboard.

1 Sebastien Vettel +2
2 Lewis Hamilton +3
3 Fernando Alonso -1
4 Jenson Button +4
5 Nico Rosberg +2
6 Kamui Kobayashi /
7 Heikki Kovaleinen +9
8 Mark Webber -4
9 Vitaly Petrov +5
10 Nick Heidfeld +10
11 Sergio Perez NE
12 Felipe Massa -3
13 Paul Di Resta NE
14 Michael Schumacher +7
15 Sebastien Buemi +4
16 Adrian Sutil -4
17 Timo Glock /
18 Rubens Barrichello -8
19 Jaime Alguersuari -6
20 Jarno Trulli -5
21 Tonio Liuzzi +4
22 Jerome D’Ambrosio NE
23 Pastor Maldonado NE
24 Narain Kathikeyan NE

Down the bottom Maldonado and Karthikeyan are to me wastes of space. D’Ambrosio hasn’t really made an impression so far. Elsewhere I think Barrichello is now over the hill and it will be his last season and Schumacher gained a few places solely based on last weekend’s Spanish GP.

Heres to the death of DRS (please)