Thursday, 30 January 2014

Photography: Birmingham 3-2 Leeds Met

Wet conditions made for an entertaining encounter with goals flying in at both ends. Birmingham opened the scoring when no. 8 broke down the right wing and rifled the ball across, ricocheting off 11's knee and, somehow, finding its way past Leeds' goalkeeper - who rather pathetically flapped at the ball. 11 was in again soon after, another ricochet taking the ball past the keeper and, just, managing to beat the defender to poke the ball over the line, however it was rightly ruled out for offside.

Leeds didn't lie down, however. A beautifully flighted corner landed on the head of the attacker, who directed the ball to the keeper's left to level.  Birmingham kept control of the game, and pressed on. A couple of shots from outside the box, one just missing the bottom corner, kept the pressure on the visitors. Just before half-time, though, a shot from 20 yards riggled under the home keeper to give them the lead against the run of play.

Birmingham regrouped at half-time, and it didn't take long before they themselves managed to peg the scoreline back. 11 once again managed to get the wrong-side of the defence, and the goalkeeper was once again at fault as she clipped the heels of the attacker as she was pushed wide. The resulting penalty rocketed to the keeper's right, whose half-hearted attempt to stop it saw her go the wrong way anyway.

The game looked to be heading toward a draw as time ticked away before another ricochet seemed to take the ball in slow motion past the Leeds goalkeeper and into the net. Cue mad celebrations. The remaining few minutes saw the ball well kept in the corner as Leeds could find no way to get out of their own half. A good result, and a good performance!

P.S. I got a little bored during the C/C++ lecture so I decided to give it a little write up and everything...

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Life: This'll be a long one.

So my life has been actually pretty damn busy in the last week or so. Which is such a change from the normal. In the last two days alone I've been in uni for 16 hours trying to finish all the work that seems to have creeped out of nowhere. On the plus side Security is still looking interesting (although on the downside not much else is).

The amount of stuff that I've installed on my machine recently is ridiculous, and the amount of time taken! A day trying to set up Python and praw so I can access the reddit API, before I realised I have absolutely no idea what to do or even any ideas about what to make. It's a common theme, I get something in my head and then a third of the way through realise I have no clue about anything. Then, in no particular order, there's Virtual DJ, John The Ripper, my Virtual Machine for Sec, QtSpim, Thunderbird, Enigmail, GoogleDrive, and Subversive. My hard drive is rapidly being filled. In more computer misery my Counter Strike also broke for an entire day. Which may sound like nothing until you realise I've played 553 hours in less than a year (which apparently works out to 23 days). Oh it was the worst.

In better things! Went to see some ice hockey on Saturday. Thankfully Milton Keynes have moved their games up to the beautiful Coventry SkyDome while their rink is being refurbished, which means that every time Bees face the Lightening it's only £3.75 away. Last time Bees recovered from 4-0 down at the end of the second to take the game to OT, before MKL scored with 37 seconds left to clinch it 5-4. This time there was no such drama, and even with Pav spending - what felt like - half the game in the box, they managed to ease to a 3-1 victory. Only the second time this season I've actually seen us win which is always nice. On Saturday they're at Telford, which I think requires a trip over!

On Sunday I took a trip to Triple X wrestling's Clusterfuck III event. Last year I went with my boy Edward and it turned out to be a pretty decent show. Not really the same this time though. Apart from a couple of key moments it was all fairly lacklustre and dull and everything took too long to get there. Which is a shame, especially as Lauren came all the way over from Peterborough for it. Fingers crossed that TNA on Sunday turns out to be better. In other wrestling news the reaction that the WWE got to snubbing Daniel Bryan in the Rumble has been ridiculous. I haven't even bothered watching the rest of it yet because there's been no point. It's all about DBry. Mick Foley even smashed his TV in protest - as you do.

The last couple of days I've really wanted to take up portrait photography; an urge I get every month or so. I'd love to be able to capture the emotion of the average human but alas I fear I am neither skilled enough or brave enough to do such a thing. It probably doesn't help that I scrolled quite a long way back in the amazing Humans of New York project. A picture of somebody with a caption. They're insightful, and many heartbreaking. I probably should've stopped scrolling as they legitimately made me rather sad. At least tomorrow is the start of photography again with Redbrick, going off to Munroe Track for the women's football. Therefore I'm a little disappointed that the rain - which starts any time now - doesn't finish until 9pm. Oh well.

Finally my friend Mickey was talking about going over to America and it's ignited my want to travel more with my camera. I'm not great at anything other than gig photography, and passion may not make up for that, but I want to so much. Italic and bold much. I want to travel the world and take photographs for a living. Document beautiful things and I want to change the world with a photograph. Alas that doesn't happen any more due to a whole number of things, and I wouldn't be skilled enough anyway, but I'd love to. So where to start? Telford, on Saturday. I think.

Friday, 24 January 2014

LIVE: Defeater

The Fleece seems a lot bigger than it actually is. Situated down some slightly dingy Bristol backstreet there already seems to be hundreds of people occupying the floor for the opening act, Goodtime Boys. The only other time I've seen them before was when they supported Pianos Become The Teeth at Reading Facebar. They got pretty pissy because I was using flash - I admit it can be annoying but there are better ways of going about asking people not to use it - and they were angry at the only guy moving during their set. They basically came across as some pretentious morons, and luckily they don't have time to talk this time, so they just seem to be a poor-man's Touché Amoré - which isn't entirely bad.

Next up was More Than Life playing a hometown show, and the crowd are definitely up for it. Clambering up the poles that that hold up the roof, throwing themselves into the crowd off the barrier - with only half-hearted attempts to catch them. Alas, I left my earplugs at university and the ones I had to buy (£1 for some disposable foam ones!) were awful, so I spent most of the time browsing my phone rather than properly listening. They're not actually meant to block all the noise.

My brother has been raving about Caspian for weeks, although I did try to put it in his head that they may not be the same Caspian due to the fact they seem a bit of an odd choice for a line-up like this. However, they were, and they were fantastic. I'm not sure what it is about post-rock bands but they know how to put on a show; there's something about energetic headbanging which doubles your performance.

Finally Defeater arrive with Derek Archambault's declaration to please not touch him, down to his necrosis within his hip. Even that can't kill the energy within the room though, right from the first frantic seconds of 'Bastards' the room is absolutely mental. The only slight respite is a couple of songs solo from Derek. However what 'I Don't Mind' lacks in aggression it certainly makes up for in emotion. Finishing off with 'Cowardice', screaming "I am no-one, and I am nothing" is heart wrenching.

The passion from the record translates into the live environment as well as you would expect any hardcore band to, but the lyrics and the connection that they manage to explicit from people really does make going to a Defeater show something special.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Film: The Wolf of Wall Street

I'm not sure I've stepped foot in a cinema since Skyfall, and - despite all the incredible films that have been released in that time - I've always been content with catching them when they inevitably make their way onto Netflix, Lovefilm, or - more likely - Sky. Partly due to money, partly due to the (often perceived) lack of company.

Finally money and companions collided perfectly to form a Wednesday trip to 'The Wolf of Wall Street'. A film infamously based off (former) Wall Street Stockbroker Jordan Belfort's life. That of drugs, money, and sex; although apparently he intends it as a 'cautionary tale'. It's up for 5 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), and Best Adapted Screenplay) so I was expecting pretty big things from Scorsese's 180 minute epic. Incidentally Jonah Hill was apparently paid less than £35,000 for his 7 months filming, just for the chance to work with the director - shock horror, an actor paid a still-over-the-average-but-actually-reasonable wage.

Going into the screening with a rumbling stomach and a headache, and only armed with Pepsi and a bag of Lime Doritos, I was sceptical as to whether I would make it through. Not to worry, those three hours flew by. DiCaprio gives the performance that we've come to expect, which is absolutely flawless. He has an incredible ability to morph into pretty much anything. Allegedly he gave a similar performance in 'Catch Me If You Can' but I confess to never having seen it. A good portion of the film is taken up with Leonardo's motivational speeches to his troops, which are mesmerising - the change of pace from the onslaught of aforementioned sins definitely helps. Maybe, just maybe, this'll be the performance that gets him that ever elusive Oscar, although considering some of the competition maybe not.

Then there's Jonah Hill and his set of pearly white teeth. His drug fuelled performance isn't that far away from his some of his others, but this is a somewhat higher class piece of work - even if that higher class is probably thanks to Scorsese's hand. It's odd, because I'm not sure it's an Oscar-winning performance but it's certainly a good one. Possibly a chance of right place right time, and the film's overall quality helps him to shine.

The film itself is a whirl. The amount of onscreen nudity is actually rather astounding, coupled with the cussing. THE CUSSING! It's really rather magnificent. Short of warning people against the lifestyle I do agree with those who say it glamorises it. After all, it looks awesome. That said, the film's (quite obviously) got an 18 rating, and, after all, it's a movie - not a how-to guide. It's a pretty damn good movie at that, and it uses the word 'fuck' more than any film (that's not a documentary on the word) in cinematic history. Who doesn't want to see history? Plus it's the first film to be distributed entirely digitally. Welcome to the 21st century, cinema!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Wordsearch I


Friday, 17 January 2014

Life: Semester 2

So my first week back at uni has actually gone alright. Year 2 Semester 2. I am now officially past the half-way mark of my university course, at least in terms of teaching. Things are starting to heat up with some pretty cool topics this term, it's always nice to be excited about learning.Here's some casual notes about the modules I have to do this term:
  • Models of Computation The name sends shivers down my spine. It sounds like it might be a little difficult to keep up with when it starts to snowball – kinda like the maths module from last term. So far, so good though; considering that the initial exercises almost totally overlap with last semester's Natural Language Processing module.
  • Computer Systems & Architecture Oh good, lots of low level stuff. Programming's always been my main interest with other things taking a back seat and I'm really quite terrified of the architecture of a PC. Most of it was covered during my A-Level Computing course with Lalin – who pretty much single-handedly got me into uni with his help on my personal statement – so hopefully I'll be able to call back that knowledge. Somehow.
  • Team Project The last of the compulsory modules. It is terrifying. In teams we have to build some sort of game from scratch in what is meant to mimic a work environment. I'm buzzing about it because it's pretty much the first time I'm gonna get to test out my programming ability – not really stretching myself outside of the course (something I should really do) – but also terrified with how wrong it could go. Pretty stoked on my group, and initial impressions are that everyone gets on rather well – negating up to half of the 5 hours of teamwork lectures we've had – so hopefully we'll be able to implement the ideas we've got. That said, if the lectures don't get any more interesting soon then I'm not sure I'll have the mental capacity to do anything.
  • C/C++ Seems like a fairly fundamental programming language to know, y'know unlike Haskell, so I'm looking forward to getting to grips with it. That said the lecturer could make things several times more concise, and not go on about pointers and stacks for two lectures. If you're glad that you don't have to teach the basics of programming don't then waste the time you've gained with monotony.
  • Introduction to Computer Security Possibly the most interesting module on first impressions. The way it's been sold so far seems as much an ethical hacking course as much as computer sec. That said he did introduce it as the hardest module we'll have to take this year – as much down to the fact that it's not been run before and so the difficulty level won't be properly set. I couldn't even get my Truecrypt set-up to run, so maybe I'm not taking the right course...

Overall I'm really stoked on pretty much every topic this semester, and that's something that's been missing after Foundations of Computer Science (or OCaml Lite) alienated me pretty much right off the bat, combined with Functional Programming from last semester. To make this semester worthwhile though I'm unfortunately actually gonna have to revise Functional to make sure I get into next year. Still have no idea why it's compulsory. ARGH FUNCTIONAL.

Music: Childish Gambino - because the internet

Childish Gambino's 'because the internet' didn't appear in my top 10 albums of the year quite simply because I didn't think it would be that great, and therefore I didn't bother listening to it. The artist also known as Donald Glover - best known for playing Troy Barnes in Community - released his debut commercial album 'Camp' to mixed reviews. Alternative Press giving it 4 1/2 stars, and Allmusic, The Independent, and Mojo all giving 4 stars but on the other hand The Guardian handed out only 2, and Pitchfork's measly 1.6/10 - something he somehow referenced ahead of time, "Pitchfork only likes rappers who are crazy or hood, man."

'because the internet' is pretty much nothing like that. One of the deepest concept albums I've ever heard of. So the world is set up at the end of 'Camp'

Then he releases a half-hour film named 'Clapping for the Wrong Reasons'

It's a tie-in to the screenplay that accompanies the album. (There's a lot to this album). Then he starts posting deep messages on instagram:

There's references to criticisms from camp, that he's misogynistic and that he hates his own race. Alongside the fact that he worries that people will find 'because the internet' pretentious - something he's referenced in interviews. It helps set-up the mindset Gambino was in with this album.

And then we get to the actual music! I've spent quite a lot of space talking about other things so I'll try to keep this brief. My favourite track is 'Telegraph Ave.' where he drives to his ex-girlfriend's house - who he was planning on having a baby with - to see her as he was feeling down. The final verse just sounds perfect. 100% how it should. One review said the last five tracks are were it starts to become a great rap album, but where it also gets really weird. There's no doubt that 'Urn', the story of pouring his Dad's ashes into a river in Stockholm, is pretty damn strange. I mean this is without referencing the easy-to-listen to '3005' or 'Earth: The Oldest Computer' which features Azelia Banks.

I'm no expert in this particular genre of music so I'm gonna try not to make myself look like a fool, but the concept on this album is incredible and if you've got the time and the will then I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Best album of 2013? Just maybe.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Life: bcs th ntrnt

The Christmas break is, effectively, over. Today I head home to Birmingham via Vicarage Road and my Grandparents. It's been pretty nice to have a break from everything, I tend to find university pretty stressful for one reason or another and last semester was no different - and I was pretty much on top of everything! It tends not to just be the work but my inability to properly communicate feelings, and my unwillingness to be away from my computer for any period of time longer than necessary which probably isn't the best way to live away from home. Maybe I'll change that this term, but I somehow doubt it!

Anyway, for New Year's I went out in Wokingham with Ed, Peter, and Natalie to 'Spoons (where else), but I went down to Devon the very next day - y'know, where there are severe flood warnings all day every day, but managed to sneak onto the beach the one day it wasn't raining, hence why there's a picture of Muggles looking majestic. I love Modbury, the isolation of it; and the fact that the world's best coffee shop resides there. Alas I can't stay there forever, not least because the internet is patchy at best. It can just about handle one PC, but not the five or six that are generally connected.

Back at home I learnt of Donald Glover's 'other life' as Childish Gambino. Now I haven't really started digging into this yet but his album 'because the internet' is pretty great, but the concept behind it is incredible. I'm not gonna explain it all because I haven't got a clue but huge amounts of things he's been doing for the past year links into his album, you can read an overview here. I do understand that nobody's gonna read it - and to be frank I doubt many people care - but it's really cool to find an artist that's done something completely out of the box that hasn't really ever been done before. I'll probably do a review after I've got around to reading the screenplay that goes along with it.

Alas I couldn't listen to any of his stuff for almost 17 hours yesterday as our router malfunctioned - and that's really not a great thing to happen to somebody who lives on the internet. I had to resort to saved episodes of 'Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated'. I say resort, they're pretty great and I've been meaning to finish them for a couple of years but never really got round to it. Silver linings, eh?

Thankfully the only work I've had in for the start of this semester is a position paper in Professional Computing. A subject about the law, ethics, and how to not get fired from a job. Having taken Government and Politics, and Computing at A-Level, combined with a hunger for current affairs, meant that I'm hoping it's gone pretty well. I ended up learning LaTeX and Biblatex to program my essay and, despite having problems with both, I'm really happy with the way it's come out. I can definitely see why people use them, and I thought I better get to grips with them before having to do anything more substantial with them next year!

Anyway, as I said, off to Vicarage Road to watch a Watford side who have 1 win the last 13 games play Reading, who are 20th in Championship form table. I'm praying for a win. Please pray for us. We need it. Watford's always a big game personally as my cousins have the unfortunate affliction of supporting the Hornets, and it's always nice to get one over on them. I also get to see my Nan and Grandad for a bit today as well, so that's always a plus!

The plan after that is to nap on the train before meeting up with my mum in Birmingham - who's been to see her parents in Nottingham. Then I can unpack everything, get something to eat, and sleep on my horrific uni bed for however long the mattress allows me. At which point I can get up and sit on my uncomfortable, fold-up plastic chair before blasting some Childish Gambino loud enough to annoy all the flatmates that are already there. Hooray!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Television: Binging Is The Right Word

It'd be a bit misleading to say that I've spent the Christmas break holed up watching television series, and more accurate to suggest that I've been watching television series to procrastinate from doing the essay that's in for Monday evening. It's probably also why I'm choosing to write a blog about said television series, but that's alright. I just have to learn LaTeX and Harvard Referencing before actually writing the essay and we'll be all good.

First off there was the 'Netflix Original' 'Orange Is The New Black'. I wasn't entirely sure what it was about but there were some good things said around the interweb, and it has Laura Prepon in the cast so it can only be good, right? (Right). I heard somebody describe it as one of the most solid first series they've ever seen and they're right because it's damn good. Basically, a rather middle-class woman committed a crime earlier in her life which they eventually caught her for and it's the story of how she copes in an all-women prison. I like the way it deals with subjects such as how people perceive her to be above the other inmates because of her status within society. It gives a really interesting view of the world outside the jail as well as within it. The only thing that nags me is that one of the guards seems to be a cartoon character, but I think they've just pushed a 'worst case scenario' which is probably quite plausible.

The other series that I got through in a day was Sky/Canal+ 'The Tunnel'. The idea comes out of Crime Fiction's epicenter in Scandinavia where 'The Bridge' told a similar story set on - get this - the bridge from Sweden to Denmark. The story weaves between so many different sub-plots that it can often become quite confusing but the concept itself - a body is found exactly on the midpoint between France and England within the Eurotunnel, the legs on the English side with the torso on the French - already makes for gripping viewing. The acting of the main cast is top class, especially the two in the middle of the investigation with a handful of others around the side.

I'm a massive fan of the Kevin Spacey line of thinking to allow audiences to binge, as seen with Netflix and Lovefilm's own series especially; Spacey's own House of Cards being one of the major attractions to the former. However sometimes you just don't have that luxury and so week-by-week you sit down in front of the television (the only time as a family) and ready yourselves for the latest installment of the most recent hit-show. This, at the moment, is of course 'Sherlock'. The third season started on New Year's Day and it's already quite a hit, although I don't think it quite lives up to the previous series. I thought that the first episode was a great follow-up to the end of last season but the filling of this series took a step backward.

I think that 'Sherlock' benefits from shorter series in a similar way to shows like 'Luther' in that it allows for short bursts of very high output - which in turn leaves the watcher wanting more, rather than overloading them with 25 episodes like some of the shows from our cousins across the pond - so I was fairly disappointed with 'The Sign of Three' but I do hope that the final episode will make up for it.

Well, that was it for my Christmas break. Did you happen to watch anything good? I have accumulated a rather large amount of series to watch, including all of The Wire which both me and my father received for Christmas - but hey, you can never have enough Idris Elba!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Life: 2013

So 2012 had a lot of things. My trip to Europe, starting university, getting to travel round the country seeing Brand New a ridiculous amount of times. It had a trip to see Bloc Party, and a trip to Glasgow, promotion for Reading and the start of another season in the Premier League. I mean, it also had the beginning of panic attacks and a few weird freak outs but c'est la vie.

Down to all of this 2013 had a lot to live up to, and in many ways it did! I finished my first year of university with over 70% (woo for firsts), showing Dan Ghica that I can actually do his module despite the constant criticism. It's a pretty big thing to be able to do that and I'm really quite proud of myself for managing it, even with the constant panic attacks during the exams. I remember Easty asking why I left an hour early in the FOCS exam, and it was because even if I had the answers wrong I'd have no idea about them - so luckily my revision paid off!

As well as first year I've also got 90% in my Functional Programming assignments and over 100% in SSC, which is a nice start! Should probably practice my types for the former, though. Even though I've already got 45% of the module I still have to pass the exam - which I wasn't remotely close to doing in the mock!

I got to photograph some of my favourite bands, including both 2000 Trees and ArcTanGent Festivals. I got a load of good feedback from people and bands - which is always nice! My photographs of The 1975 from September are probably the best set of images I've ever taken, and one found its way into December's issue of Stache Magazine. Even if I wasn't credited properly. (May have been slightly my fault leaving it so long to send my bio)

I also started photographing for the University newspaper, Redbrick, doing sports stuff. Which is all well and good in the daylight but it's also led me to find the limitations of the camera I have at the moment. I knew it doesn't deal with low light well but at least at gigs the people on stage are (generally) well lit. Not so on the football field. The results in the daylight were okay though!

I only managed ~27 gigs this year, and all in the same places. Birmingham, London, Nottingham. Oh the monotony! Seriously though, there were some great ones in there. Frightened Rabbit at Brixton, Keaton Henson in The History of Science Museum - even if I did have a panic attack for most of it, and the last ever Burn The Fleet show. Then there were the tv shows I got into - Castle, the new Unforgettable series, The Newsroom, Orange Is The New Black. So much good tv, and I wish to thank Lauren for her Netflix subscription.

Then there was all the new music! I'll just link to my top albums of the year but there was so much good, after I thought 2012 was a bit lacklustre in that sense.

Finally toward the end of the year I think I started to realise how much friends mean to me, and especially ones that tend not to judge me for what I do and how I do it. I'm lucky to have some of the best people around me, and I'm lucky to have a girlfriend who cares a great deal about me (I guess she's one of the good thing on 2013 too?).

If I had a regret from 2013 it's the lack of travelling, and the waste of my summer. I did nothing. Hey, it's something to work on for 2014 though, and what with all that Brand New during April I think that should cover it quite well. Plus there's a lot of photographing of bands that needs to be done.

Happy new year!