Need for Speed – Most Wanted

Actually this is the reason I never got round to writing anything yesterday. I borrowed the XBOX version off a friend and I’ve spent most of the evening playing it. Why I don’t know because its piss poor in comparison to Burnout Revenge.

It doesn’t start well. A new game commences about 10 minutes of yawntastic back story fmv which add nothing. Then you finally take control of a car and it handles like a bus. You’re driving a BMW M3 for christs sake! Its like moving through treacle! The controls feel so clunky and vague.

Graphically its not bad, but its hardly stunning. I can’t fault the presentation either, all very slick, its just the game seems very old school. There are some interesting twists but it doesn’t seem to have progressed much from the original game. Burnout however, whilst admittedly not that different, seems to do a much better job all round. Its far more entertaining and gripping to play.

Thing is, I’m a sucker for racing games. I love them. I can play them for hours and hours and hours. Perhaps it’ll get better? Hmmm… only one way to find out I suppose, if you’ll excuse me I have a race to finish…

Edit: Vondur seemed to like it.

WikiPedia and the route to Middle-Earth

There is an interesting article in the this weeks Economist about Open Source business (well worth reading) where it shows that WikiPedia now has over 2.5 million articles. It made me wonder what kind of stuff they have on there to make up that amount.

Well I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was browsing WikiPedia whilst writing my last entry on V for Vendetta that someone had taken the time to draw out the route taken by Frodo and Sam in The Fellowship of the Ring. Not just a random scribbling, oh no, a proper map with locations, mountain ranges, rivers and everything.

I’m sure you’ll be glad to know as I was that they haven’t forgotten to do maps for The Two Towers or The Return of the King either.

V for Vendetta

Vendetta_maskWent to see V for Vendetta on last Friday. I throughly enjoyed it. Its meant to have a political bent to it, but I think it was late enough for my brain to have fallen asleep and not picked up on it. The story is pretty simple (synopsis from

Set against the backdrop of a totalitarian Britain of the near future, ‘V For Vendetta’ tells the story of a masked freedom fighter called ‘V’ – a literate, radical and violent revolutionary who aims to galvanise the people into overthrowing their government. Inspired by the actions of Guy Fawkes, he carries out a series of terrorist attacks on the state, with the ultimate intention of succeeding where Fawkes failed and blowing up Parliament.

*Spoilers Ahead* V is played by Hugo Weaving, which pretty much everyone knows as either Agent Smith from the Matrix Trilogy or Elrond from Lord of the Onion Rings. V is particularly interesting and intriguing character. He’s not your usual brooding hero (or anti-hero depending on how you look at it). I would have liked to have seen more of him but unfortunately there can’t really be another film.

At the start of the film, V saves the life of Evey (played by Natalie Portman, Léon, Episodes 1 to 3 of Star Yawn Wars) who watches V destroy the Old Bailey. In time she comes round to V’s vision. The story unfolds fairly slowly (its just over 2 hours long) and does drag a little in the middle, but in the main, its good stuff. V’s motives and past are explained, although you never see him unmasked or find out his true identity. Eventually he succeeds and blows up Parliament (I’m not giving anything away here, its in all the trailers!).


I tend to pick up on the most stupid of things in films and what made be chuckle to myself this time was the use of a Rover 75 / MG ZS as Finch’s police car of choice. Given the film is set in the future and Rover / MG went bankrupt last year I hardly see them driving a shiny new one then…

Anyway, it ties in to the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel I read recently, since V for Vendetta was originally a series of comics (later combined into a graphic novel) created by the eccentrically English Alan Moore. There is an excellent interview from the BBC where he talks about his writing and his thoughts on the films of his work (he doesn’t hold back!).

The film isn’t strictly based on the book but apparently it isn’t too far off. Hopefully I’ll be getting the graphic novel for my birthday soon so I’m looking forward to reading it. There is a ton of stuff on the subject so instead of waffling, I’ll just list ’em. I highly recommend V for Vendetta. Makes a nice chance from the usual brain dead nonsense at the cinema.

Random Phone Pics

I was going through the pictures I’d copied off my phone a while back and noticed a couple that amused me. I have a habit of taking pictures of awful looking cars, or Chavmobiles as they’re lovingly called.

OnceItWasACorsa AaarrghVan

The first one was a Vauxhall (Opel) Corsa where as the second one I’m not sure. It looks like a converted American van to me. Its an odd looking beast for thats for sure. I’ve seen it a few times around town.

It reminded me of an episode of Fifth Gear where one chap had bought a £10k Saxo and then spent close to £20k upgrading it. Ouch! I know its great to have a hobby and everything, but thats a large wad of cash to blow. For £30k you could get a Subaru Impreza or an Audi A6 or a BMW 5 Series or an Audi TT or a Jaguar S-Type or a Toyota Landcruiser… erm yeah. Well anyway, if I was going to spend that amount on a car, I wouldn’t do what he did!

Noise in the Workplace

I stumbled across this interesting blog post about coping with noise in the workplace. I can totally relate to what’s it says. I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to background noise and tend to program with headphones on and music blaring.

One comment in particular stood out, #44 by Alex Leonard (emphasis mine):

Take for example street level noise. Cars and buses driving by – general city noise – this comes out averaging 80-85dbA, which you can listen to continuously for about 8 hours without incurring any hearing damage. <snip>

The thing that really scared me was finding out that club music levels frequently reach 105-120dbA. You can listen to 120dbA for a maximum of about 15 mins before you start to incur hearing damage. Repeated exposure is a problem too. The hairs in your ears that vibrate back and forth in sympathy with the sound waves actually get knocked over with loud level exposure.

Thats a scary thought. I’ve read various articles of late saying my generation and younger are likely to suffer from hearing loss early due to listening to our MP3’s too loud. Although as this BBC article points out, they’ve been saying that since the Walkman came out in the early 1980’s!

Getting back to the original link, there are a ton of useful comments and the authors comment, highlighted in yellow half way down, gives a nice summary. The majority suggest using active noise reduction headphones. Up until a couple of weeks ago I was reluctant to even think about getting a pair. However a chap at work brought in his portable Sennheiser’s, which I believe were PXC300’s

They’re meant for use on planes but I tried them in our office. I had a small fan heater going and my laptop fan had kicked in and it all but cancelled the noise out. Its quite surreal. I know it sounds odd, but you hear it being quiet.

I also tried them in our server room and it was noticeably quieter. It managed to cut out all low frequency PSU fan hums and whirls. Some high pitched noises were still there, but they were subdued. The neat side effect is that it means you can hear the music clearer and don’t need the volume as high.

They work by having a microphone that records the incoming sound which then inverts it and sends that signal to the headphones. It does mean the mic part needs a couple of batteries, but thats not a big deal. The noise also needs to be repetitive, it doesn’t work for people talking.

A bit of reading up seems to show that Sennheiser’s are the best to go for. I don’t think I’d get the PXC250’s, which were very popular in the blog comments, or the PXC300’s since I prefer proper closed ear headphones. I’ve yet to settle on anything since Amazon’s range is a bit limited. A bit more searching is required me thinks!

Malaysian Grand Prix

I didn’t manage to get myself out of bed at 6am to watch it live so had to wait for the replay in the afternoon. I’m glad I didn’t because I found it a particularly frustrating race. The race was pretty repetitive after the start. Fishyfella (Fisichella) always looked like he was going to win. The cock up in qualifying with refuelling limited Alonso’s chances. The final result was Fishyfella, Alonso and Button. 

I’m not a fan of Fishyfella. He’s a bit too wishy washy and inconsistent for my liking, lacking in character. I’ll give him his due though, he didn’t really put a foot wrong the entire weekend. Alonso got off to a cracking start to go from 7th to 3rd. Kimi was tagged by the incompetent Klien before the end of the first lap. The result of which caused Kimi’s rear suspension to fail and he flew off the track backwards. Montoya just didn’t have the pace for various reasons and ended up nearly 40 seconds adrift of Fishyfella.

Rosberg’s initial promise from qualifying 3rd was unfortunately short lived. He hesitated at the start and lost several places. Then the Cosworth engine in his Williams let go just 6 laps later. Webber met the same fate on lap 15. Button had a lacklustre race with his Honda just not up to the pace of the Renaults. I think he was lucky to finish 3rd. I was impressed though with Massa finishing 5th after starting 21st. He even did a good job at keeping Michael at bay on the closing laps.

I did however, find Saturday qualifying entertaining. I managed to watch it properly this time. Overall conclusion, I like it, the new format works for the most part. What I felt didn’t work was the final 20 minute session. Filling the cars up with race fuel and then watching them drive round for 15 minutes before putting in fast laps seemed a little pointless. As was suggested in the commentary it would be better as another 15 minute shoot out. 

I’m also not keen on the engine penalties. I can understand the idea of making an engine last so many races but I think it would be better to fine the teams instead. Putting drivers back 10 places makes it confusing and difficult to work out the final grid.

I read quite a few blogs last week and talk of Toyota seemed popular. At first I couldn’t see why, but I suspect its down to their popularity in Champ Cars. They have the biggest budget in F1 but they’re just no where (well ok, 8th and 9th isn’t too shabby but 8 cars retired!). The two drivers they have are a yawn fest. I don’t much like Ralph Schumacher. I feel it got into F1 because of his brother and Trulli isn’t worth his salt either. As Martin Brundle aptly pointed out Michael Schumacher, Villeneuve and Massa overtook him easily. Quite what he’s up to, I don’t know.

So whilst it wasn’t that entertaining, the end result was good for Honda and Renault. Onwards and upwards to the next race in Australia in two weeks time.

Bahrain Coverage here.

Mr. Akismet Celebrates

Hello again, its me, Mr. Akismet. Today is a joyous day! Why you ask? Well in less than 2 months we have recieved 100 spam comments, today marking our one hundreth! I would just like thank Mr Lorenzo Jorden of for pointing me to his super online casino. Me and Party Cat have been celebrating:


Hopefully we’ll not get too drunk! I just wish Party Cat would cheer up.

Book Review – Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Since I’m a nice chap I’m going to save you the trouble of reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Its key points are:

  1. Make money work for you, instead of working for money (easier said than done)
  2. Invest your money in assets (stocks, shares, property)
  3. Once you’ve put money into an asset, never take it out
  4. Take calculated risks
  5. Your home is never an asset

Thats it. Thats all you need to know! The rest is common sense. What got me really thinking though was the last point. Common consensus is that you that your home is an asset, but if you think about it logically, and as the book points out, it isn’t and never will be.

Essentially the mortgage for your home is a liability and even when you pay it off, you still have expenses on your home to pay. Such as council tax, general maintenance etc. At no point does it make you any money which is what an asset should do.

If you rented out part of your home to bring in income it could be partly counted as an asset, but thats not something I’d like to do! Also if you decide to buy a new house, more than likely it’ll be bigger, so will cost more. All you’re doing is making your mortgage liability larger. Pretty obvious stuff when you think about it!

So the basic idea is you invest money in assets that make a return that covers its costs, your expenses and liabilities and hopefully make you some extra income. 

The whole rich dad, poor dad concept was interesting. His rich dad was actually a friend’s dad who taught him the techniques to become rich. His poor dad was his real dad who was a highly educated man who worked hard all his life but always seemed to have no money. The story of the two are intertwined throughout the book which helps to make an otherwise slow read interesting.

The more I read it, the more I wanted to know and it was at this point the book fell over in a heap. I wanted more detail and information but it was sadly lacking. A lot of the content is heavily, and I really mean heavily repeated! I know repetition is a good way of enforcing an idea but I think I got it after the first five times.

But what annoyed me most was that after finishing the main book there was a short 3 page advert about CASHFLOW the board game (a related product by the same chap). In the description were mentions of different types of stocks and purchase methods, something not mentioned anyway in the book. Further explanation of that would have been great!

The book seems to be done in such a way to lead you onto other books in the series (and there are more). In parts its not particularly well written and some of later sections read as if they’ve been tacked on in newer editions. Amusingly the author, Robert Kiyosaki, points out he is a terrible writer but a good salesman (page 156 if you’re wondering). I’ll not disagree!

Overall though it has some interesting points and it really got me thinking, which is always a good thing. Plus I’m motivated to find out more but I’m in two minds as to whether to get the next book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad 2: Cash Flow Quadrant. I think I’ll make a note of other books noted in the text and look them up instead.

Don’t apply for a Passport in Congo

So there I was having a good whinge about the cost of renewing my passport back in January and I noticed this piece in this weeks Economist.


Makes me glad I don’t live in The Republic of Congo. It would take 15 months wages, based on pay there, to save up the $150 needed to get a passport! By comparison it cost me £51, which is about $90, to renew mine (same cost for a new one) which is less than 0.2% of my annual income. How humbling is that?