Friday, August 24, 2012

War Horse, The Play - Review

War Horse advert courtesy of
whatdidshesay.ca
In a word:  beautiful.

War Horse is a play based on the eponymous novel by Michael Morpurgo and performed at the New London Theatre in London.

The story tells of a boy, Albert, who looks after a foul, Joey, his father bid for whilst drunk and how he grows to love the horse. The foul grows into a stunning and powerful horse that is meant for riding after Albert trains it up.

Albert's drunken father, in a bid for more money, sells the horse to the army who will send it to the WW1 battlefields.

Eventually Albert gets into the army too and the story is of him trying to find Joey. Along side Albert's story there is Joey's tale of what he does during the war.

All the animals in the play are puppets associated with the Handspring Puppet Company. This premise concerned me before I went to the play. I thought the puppets would be off-putting. I couldn't have been more wrong! The puppetry was brilliant, elegant, and masterful. Joey was played by three people:  One for the head and two under the torso controlling the legs.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Review of: The Final Empire (Mistborn book 1) by Brandon Sanderson


The best book I have ever read. That is no exaggeration. The book is a polished, intense masterpiece of epic fantasy.

The characters are fantastic. The plot is intricate. The world is suitably epic.


The premise of the book is simple:  'What if the Dark Lord won?' From that Sanderson has crafted a unique, engaging story full of intrigue, treachery, deception, and politics.

This book is my first in the Epic Fantasy genre. I have read a lot of fantasy but none in the Epic sub-genre. If you can't tell already, I am thrilled to have entered the sub-genre with this book.

Sanderson is perhaps best known for is complex magic systems with rules that determine how the whole thing works. The magic system used is known as Allomancy; users burn metals, and their alloys, to produce different affects.

For example burning Iron allows one to Pull on nearby metals. Burning Steel, an alloy of Iron, allows one to Push on nearby metals. The affect of this pushing and pulling allows them to send metal flying around the room making for the best fight sequence I have ever seen. I say 'seen' intentionally - the fight sequences are so well written it feels like you have just watched it live with the addition of feeling the emotion of the character.

Every metal either pushes or pulls on something and is either internal or external. A pure metal (Iron, Tin, Zinc, or Copper) Pulls and the metal's alloy Pushes. An internal metal affects the user and an external metal affects something outside of the user. In the example above Iron Pulls, Steel pushes and they are both external metals.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

AS results

Hi,

I've just collected my AS results. I was hoping for all A's.

I took my ICT a year early so have actually picked up my final result for A2 ICT. I got an A*! Obviously very pleased with that.

In Physics and Biology I got A's. An A is the highest possible in AS level, so am again thrilled with these results.

As you may know, I am hoping to take Chemistry at university and so Chemistry is really the most important result. I got a B. I'm disappointed with this as I thought the exam went ok, but I got a c in the exam, luckily I got an a in January, so it is possible to still get an A overall. I will be resitting the exam and ordering to get my paper sent to me so I can see where I went wrong.

Overall they are fantastic results, but it is marred somewhat by. The subject I'm wanting to take in university being the one I did worst in. I still want to do Chemsitry, and will just have to put more effort into it. Perhaps I was complacent after the success in my January exams and didn't put the needed effort into the exam. Needless to say I will be revising a lot more now. In fact I plan to start revision for the resit  during the holidays.

It might be that I need a new revision technique. Does anyone have any?

Thanks,
Matt B

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ted

Ted poster1
This film is rude, disgusting, vile, inappropriate, taboo.......
And that is why I loved it so much!

Essentially the film is about a teddy bear, Teddy, that can talk after a child made a Christmas wish. A child's Christmas wish is the powerful thing, but as the narrator correctly points out it isn't:
Now if there's one thing you can be sure of, it's that nothing is more powerful than a young boy's wish. Except an Apache helicopter. An Apache helicopter has machine guns AND missiles. It is an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine.
The bear grows up, with its owner, into an offensive bear (now called Ted).

The two of them take drugs together, drink far too much and take the piss out of each other pretty much all day. But, they love each other which is one of the less comedic themes that runs throughout the film. The film is obviously a comedy, but in many ways could be construed as a weird romance involving 3 characters.

Ted loves John. John loves Ted back. But, John loves Lori. Lori doesn't love Ted (as much as John does anyway). She wants Ted out so John can finally grow up. He doesn't want Ted to go. Ted doesn't want to go. I mean it is a story as old as time itself.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pay for Privacy

I read an article today about how a man's entire digital life was ruined in the space of an hour. He was hacked by some so called 'ethical' hackers who were making a point about different companies lax security procedures, namely apple and amazon. After reading it I went to my most important and connected online accounts and went direct to their security pages. There I was looking for security and privacy options that I could turn on.

First I enabled two-step verification for my email account. This means when I log on to a computer I have not used before I must type in a 6 digit code that is sent to my mobile before I can log in. The same procedure is also used when I forget my password. Extra hassle, yes. Peace of mind, more so.

However, certain companies only offered the best privacy and security settings for premium members.

Why should I have to pay for security? Surely it is in the companies' best interest to offer me their most secure of security features and their most powerful privacy tools for free? The paid extras should be things like more space, or the ability to upload lager files. I should not have to pay to stop hackers from accessing my files.

On Box.com, for example, if I wish to have encrypted storage I need to pay for an enterprise account. Why? Why should I have to pay for my files which I upload to their servers to be encrypted? Why should I have to pay for them to be encrypted if I transfer them to another person?

I just received an email from Prezi - a service I haven't used in years. It was advertising their premium account. Their biggest feature was the ability to make Prezis private. I should have that feature for free. I should not have to pay for it.

Sure, companies have more at stake if you are paying for their services, so perhaps they feel the security of paying customers is more important. Bull-shit!

I wouldn't expect NatWest to say to me, "Good afternoon, sir. Did you know for only £20 a month NatWest won't put a poster up with your bank account details? For an extra £5 a week you also have the option of having a PIN. Even better if you pay us just £2 a day we will let you have a strong password on your online banking account."

It just wouldn't happen. But, a service I use to store backups of my school work and writing wants me to pay for security. I know that a hacker isn't going to personally target my school work, but that doesn't mean I won't be collateral damage to one of these 'ethical' hackers. What if I needed the backup of my work, but Box was targeted by LulzSec (I think they have disbanded, though) or Anonymous? What if my account was chosen at random to be the the account they decided to showcase the security holes with? Am I expected to sit back and think, 'if only I'd paid premium prices'?

It is utter stupidity that companies would even consider charging for security. In a world that is ever more online it is damn time that company execs got their heads out of the clouds and into cloud security ... for free.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Commitment

Writing is hard.

It just is.

That is why commitment is so important. If you start something, I think it is important that you try your hardest to finish it. I have been writing as a hobby for 6 years. In that time I have written some good stuff … and some not so good stuff. Despite the bad stuff, I pride myself on one particular statistic:  I have only ever stopped writing two pieces before they were finished.

For me this is important. The satisfaction of completing a piece of writing is one of the greatest feelings one can feel. The knowledge that you have crafted characters, worlds, civilisations, emotion, and more with just words. Since I joined writing.com, I have uploaded all but one of my stories. The reason is I get a thrill from knowing that someone, somewhere, has read those words and been transported to a world of my creation. What more could a writer wish for … apart from publication? However, if you don’t finish you leave yourself with half a world; a character left in endless turmoil; a civilisation, yet to defeat the evil wizard.

The decision to stop writing the two pieces was a tough one to make. The first one I stopped was a Christmas story that would be a sequel to one of my short stories. I stopped because I never really started. The feel was too different from the first story and my ability as a writer was not up to the level it needed to be to do the story justice. I wrote a different Christmas story that year that was, in my opinion, very good.
The second was more recently. I was entering a short story contest, but realised the story I was writing required me to write in early modern English for much of the dialogue. Without extensive support, I would not have been able to write it. Instead, I wrote a different story with a completely different plot and cast.
Both times, I stopped writing because I didn’t have the skills to do the story justice. I also kept copies of the stories I stopped; one day I may restart them with new skills and a fresh mind.

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