In Which I Post Snow Pictures

I got one of those little handheld video cameras for Christmas, and I’m happy to report that even its still pictures are better than the rubbish that my phone tries to fob me off with. So, now we’ve had the first proper snow of the year, I could hardly resist taking a few pics. As a Brit, the weather is one of my favourite topics at any time, but when it snows it becomes the only subject to talk about.

A Winter Wonderland in my back yard.

A Winter Wonderland in my back yard.

Arms Race Escalation : It’d be a Crimea to miss it!

My friends at “It’s a Trap!”, here in Norwich, made a rather jolly steampunk film a couple of years ago, involving steam-powered weaponry, and a terribly menacing Bolt-filled exosuit.

Such was the response that they decided to push half a league, half a league, half a league onwards, and have been working on turning the concept into a web series. If this trailer is anything to go by, it should be quite a romp!

Episode 1 will be coming on the 10th of November.

In Which I See The Light : My Laser Eye Surgery Consultation

I have been rather short-sighted for most of my life. It hasn’t really bothered me all that much, but still, it’s a bit inconvenient, and I’ve always had a hankering to get my eyes fixed. Back when I first looked at it, it was a rather new thing in the UK, and I decided that I’d pass, with it not being worth that chance of something going wrong.

A few weeks ago I was wandering through Norwich when I saw a sign outside Optical Express offering laser eye surgery at a vaguely affordable price, and on the spur of the moment I popped in to get some written information. Having talked it over with my friends and family, I finally decided to book a consultation, which I’ve just returned from.

It was all fairly painless. A bit of form-filling, and a lot of staring into various machines for a couple of hours. Also much chatting with the absolutely gorgeous and intelligent optical technician doing the scanning, who did a great job of putting my mind at ease (though the same could not be said for my pulse).

I was given some eye drops to dilate my pupils, and wow, I have had awesome bedroom eyes ever since. The drawback is that everything is far too bright, and my close up vision became terrible, with or without glasses. That seems to be wearing off now, but it made for a slightly squinty walk home.

After all the scans, I was reluctantly passed on to another optician who explained all the various laser surgery options to me. The actual procedure will be done by a laser-surgeon, whom I’ll meet on the day.

I’m going for the Advanced CustomVue Wavefront option. They do a basic laser surgery option that’s a lot cheaper, but I am deeply reluctant to skimp on something like my eyes. The Wavefront system not only deals with your short-sightedness, but also fixes up all sorts of other little defects in your eye. As it turned out that I have a fair few of those, it seems worthwhile, especially as most people who use Wavefront end up with better than 20/20 vision. As everyone’s eyes deteriorate with age anyway, having that extra wiggle-room seems like a good idea.

The part of the operation that scared me is the very beginning, where they have to cut your cornea to lift a flap, making the hole through which to shoot the lasers. I’d imagined that this was going to involve a doctor poking my eye with a knife. As you might know, I’m massively phobic of knives and blood, so I was very worried I might not be able to keep my eye still. Actually, I was also slightly concerned I might freak out, dive out of the chair, knock the doctor to the floor, and run screaming down the corridor. That would be an extreme panic response, but well within the realms of possibility for me and pointy objects.

Turns out, it doesn’t involve anything obviously knife shaped. A little circular suction device goes on the eye, it whirs a bit, and you’re done. I should be OK with that.

There is actually a more advanced option where they make the flap using another laser instead, but that costs an extra £300 an eye, which seems utterly unreasonable to me. It obviously would not cost them anything like that to use their laser rather than the mechanical thing, and I do get a bit annoyed when things are given a premium price for no good reason, especially where improved clinical outcomes are concerned.

In a similar vein, even though the laser part of the operation is going to take about 20 seconds per eye, if that, it turns out that my left eye is going to cost £200 more than my right, because it’s weaker. I am deeply doubtful that there is any good reason why my left eye should cost more to do.

Anyhows, it’s going to cost me a fair bit more than I expected. The costs quoted in the prospectus seem to be a very best case scenario, so you should expect to end up paying over that. I decided to go ahead with it anyway. I’m worth it! If I take into account all the glasses and contact lenses I won’t need to buy, maybe it’ll actually save me money in the long run. I keep telling myself that! The price includes a lot of after-care, so I guess it’s not too bad.

I saw no point in not having it done as soon as possible, so at 12:30 pm on the 7th of June, I’ll be getting my eyes zapped by Optical Express. I’ll let you know how I get on. I’m terribly nervous, but also rather excited. The last year has been full of life-changes for me, and this will be yet another positive step, I hope.

In some ways I’m going to rather miss wearing glasses. They’ve been a part of me for so long, and are kind of part of the geek uniform. I might pick up some nice sunglasses in a similar style, of the sort that adjust to light levels. That’ll give me something to hide behind when I feel the need!

EQ2: From Norwich to Norrath, it’s a Brief Maltheas Update!

I’m not very good at staying mad at EQ2. I *am* still rather bothered about the ProSiebenSat business, particularly the complete radio silence we’ve had from SOE since their statement a month ago. Their reluctance to post has been only matched by my own, for which I beg your indulgence.

However, I have a rather Celtic temper, in spite of living here in the fine city of Norwich, and while I’m quite good at getting annoyed, I tend to cool down just as fast. Not to mention that I’ve had a rather beastly time in Wurm recently, as Stargrace has written about, and being angry at two completely different games at the same time is exhausting. I kind of needed a safe haven away from all that unpleasantness, where I could be sure my home would still be in the same state it was when I logged out.

So, aye, Maltheas has been out and about, doing what he does best!

Maltheas and Fippy enjoy a quick sparring session before tea and cheesecake.

The Chronoportals are back, and I managed to catch the end of the Brewday festival, snagging the content added for this year. I rather liked the new Brewday game where you ride arounds like a mad thing on a carpet, attempting to run over as many goblins as possible. Joyously chaotic.

The new EQ2players site does not allow questing leaderboards, and none of the 3rd party sites are doing a suitable one to work with yet either. I’ll do an Extreme Questing leaderboard update when the data becomes available to me, for I think Malth is doing quite well at the moment!

He’s in a bit of an odd patch at the moment. At level 48, with most of the level-equivalent stuff done, an awful lot of quests have level requirements that prevent an attempt, even though the little chap could probably handle them, or at least have a splendid time dying gloriously. I know minimum level requirements are there to protect players from biting off more than they can chew, but the only thing being protected right now is evil-doers, from a sound drubbing at the hands of Ratonga Justice.

At any rate, it means I have to grit my teeth and let him level to 50 pretty soon. That’ll open up the end game of the original content, and much else besides. I pottered through the only available quest-chain in Lesser Faydark this evening, and I guess the rest of them will open up at 50 too.

The most annoying time of the year, Bristlebane Day, approaches, and Maltheas must prepare for the indignities that that rascal of a god will heap upon adventurers of all stripes. Be sure to log in on the 1st of April, when particularly pesky things will be afoot. Maybe we’ll get to expand our polyhedral dice pet collections!!

In Which I Get Some Feathery New Neighbours

I’m really excited. I’ve been living here three years, and for the first time, it looks like I have some birds nesting in the nesting box at the bottom of my garden. I only have one decent tree, and it is the same one I had the flock of Bohemian Waxwings in in January.

I think it’s a pair of blue tits. They spent a few days in March clearing out what was probably a bit of a mess in there, but seem to have settled down now. They probably don’t have chicks on their wings yet, or I’d expect there to be a lot more activity, but I suspect the big day won’t be too far off!

It’s a cloudy day here, and it was tricky to persuade my camera to focus properly with all the twigs between me and the box, but here are the best pictures I managed to get of my uncooperative new friends!

Blue Tits In Norwich Nestbox 600x414

It’s been slow posting here of late. I’ve not been feeling too well to be honest, but being able to watch these little chaps from my desk is cheering me right up!

A Strange Flock

I had some interesting visitors in my back garden for a little while this morning.

I have no idea what these birds are. They were around the size of a starling. Notably, many of them seemed to have a head-crest.

Strange Flock Of Bird In UK Small 550x371

You can click the picture for a rather larger version. As usual, my cheap camera utterly failed to get a decent picture.

Update: After a little research, it looks as if they were Bohemian Waxwings, not commonly found in the UK, though plentiful over in Northern Europe. Perhaps they came over for the winter. If so, I hope they weren’t too put out by the awful weather of the last few weeks. It has warmed up a little now, at least. I don’t think I’ve ever seen waxwings before. I hope they come back.

Update: They came back :) Only about ten of them this time. I guess that means they must be living locally. Neat!

Bohemian Waxwing 550x439

A far better picture of a Bohemian Waxwing I nicked off Wikipedia.

In which I go Christmas shopping and meet Santa!

Originally posted December 19th, 2007.

So, I head into Norwich to do some Christmas shopping, and who should I meet?

Santa at Jarrolds

It’s Santa! Not just any Santa, but Playmobil’s Santa! Doesn’t he look cheery as he shills for some other Santa’s grotto? To be honest, I think he looks a bit uncomfortable, but I suppose he has to pay for all those holidays in Tahiti somehow. Luckily I met him again after his shift.

Santa is free!

There now, he’s much happier! Not only has he shed that horrible tinsel sandwich board, but he has spotted an advert for a new Scalextric set. Perhaps he’s going to put one of them in my stocking this year! Anyway, we chatted for a little while, to the disconcert of passers-by, then he gave me a cheery wave, and we parted company.

Santa was not the only Playmobil representative at large.

Mr Owl and friends

It’s that regular X-Entertainment calendar fixture, Mr Owl! I asked him for some news of our friends, but he just muttered something about not getting any lines this year, and scowled at me. I tried to have a word with his park ranger friend, but unfortunately my French isn’t terribly good, so we didn’t get very far.

Playmobil spy

Ostensibly, this chap seems to be some sort of pilot. But what is this? He is standing by the lego section, with a briefcase. That is no pilot, but a playmobil spy! I had caught him in the act, and he stood frozen in fear until I got bored and wandered off. I hold him personally responsible for what seems to be a Norwich-wide Lego shortage. All I could find were large sets, with little variety. I was looking for some small ones to use as stocking-stuffers for the non-existent nephews and nieces I use to explain to cute shop assistants why I’m buying toys.

I did buy one small thing for myself in the end. I imagine it’ll make an appearance on these pages before too long at all. Little Al has been quite quiet and thoughtful the past few days, which usually means something fell is afoot!