Sunday, 27 March 2011


I got a 3DS on Friday, thereby satiating my primal, consumerist needs and jumping on a bandwagon even before my friend G-dog, who owns every console under the sun. The damned Home Delivery Network decided to bring it round at 5.30pm, however, which I was not happy about, having seen via tracking that it was 'out for delivery' at 9.20am. Anyways, I am thus far besotted with the shiny blue thing.

It features something called Streetpass, which is a way for 3DSes to communicate with each other while in sleep mode (if you wish - it's optional). Basically, if you walk within a few feet of someone else with a 3DS in sleep mode, your 'Mii', a CG representation of yourself, will join their system, and theirs will join yours. You can see their character's name, favourite things and you can personalise a greeting as well.

There are two other features in the 3DS's 'Mii Plaza', which is the meeting area for all the Miis you've collected. There's a picture puzzle, where you start with one piece, but must acquire new ones from the Miis you meet. There's also Streetpass Quest, where your collected Miis must go on an adventure to fight ghosts and rescue you, who are the king and has been captured. Each character can only do a limited number of actions before having to give up, and once you've used one once, it can't be used again. This means you have to keep collecting new Miis to continue the quest, or else hire strange cat-people by spending game coins. The game coins are collected through the 3DS's pedometer while in sleep mode, so even if you don't pick up new Miis, the exercise you're doing will allow you to play anyway.

I headed into the city centre yesterday to do some writing, and take the opportunity to see if I'd pick anyone up on my 3DS. I wasn't sure how much of a response there would be the day after release, and after getting off the bus and walking the short way to the book shop coffee shop, I went into the Mii Plaza to check. Zilch so far, but that wasn't surprising. However, when I was done with my work, I walked a bit along Princes Street, into two game/media stores and even into a clothing sale where I picked up some shoes. When I made it onto the bus for home (made troublesome by the Edinburgh tram roadworks starting up again, I took another look. And behold! I had three new Mii friends. It told me I had picked them up 26 minutes before (two of them) and 30 minutes before. I'm not sure where I was at that time, but I found it exciting nonetheless. I promptly sent my adventurers on a quest and they managed to retrieve a Mario hat before becoming fatigued and having to go home. But now my Mii is wearing the Mario hat and will appear in it to everyone who collects him through Streetpass from now until I change it.

Makes me wish I was in Japan. One trip through Akihabara and I'm sure I'd pick up a few hundred Miis.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Sanity Check

I keep finding myself on websites that have video ads on the sidebar, which is annoying enough because the sound isn't muted like these things used to be, but also because of the kind of ads that appear.

Here's one - Dettol motion sensing hand soap dispenser. "Never touch a germy soap pump again!" they proudly declare. Now, call me old-fashioned, but when I touch a soap pump, usually it's to get some soap. And, slave to tradition that I am, I generally proceed to wash my hands with it. Am I an idiot to believe that any harm that may befall me from touchy a dirty soap pump would be mitigated by my subsequent hand-washing? Are Dettol saying that their soap isn't good enough to properly clean your hands?


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Due hesitancy

I'm always suspsicious of nouns that end in 'y' that mean the same as another noun with the same root - hesitance and hesitancy. Hesitancy sounds like something George W would say.

Anyway, I've delayed my driving test again. My lesson was a bit of a nightmare today. I pretty much hate everything.

Fortunately, it turned out that I didn't get charged for rebooking my test, as I was before. I thought they charged you for canceling to offset their losses if your date wasn't picked up by someone else. It turns out they don't do that, but in fact some test dates/times are more expensive than others. I got charged extra the last time because I switched to a Saturday. This time I switched to a Thursday and I actually got the fee discounted. So there was an upside there.

Awkwardly, at the end of the lesson when we were talking things over, my instructor took a phone call from his car's manufacturer about a fault with his car that they're not acknowledging, and he got pretty testy with the girl on the other end. I could hear both sides of the conversation and could understand why he might be upset, but I think he went a bit overboard in venting his frustrations. And I was trapped in the driver's seat not knowing where to look.

It's not the first time I've considered getting another instructor, but it's so close to the end now there's not really much point. I just want to get the whole messy mess over with as soon as possible and never drive again.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Contemplating Disaster

I think the world is looking at the devastation in Japan in horror, and I'm with them. I couldn't quite connect to the tragedy at first (the BBC reported an awful lot from Tokyo, which was barely affected by the quake) but then I imagined what it would be like to be engulfed by water, losing any sense of where you are, and seeing your life flash before you in that instant. It's horrible to think about.

The quake and tsunami didn't affect the area around where I was living in Japan, and everyone I know over there is fine. Still, there are a few who have had trouble getting in contact with friends and family in the affected areas. I'm sure the country will be shaken up for a while.

But the Japanese spirit is a resilient one. They'll get through this, and the rest of the world is mobilising to help. It's good to see the international community rallying after a crisis.

And still, I want to go back.

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Persistence of Memory

When Jurassic Park came out, I'm sure it must have been some kind of a phenomenon. It certainly felt that way to my 7-year-old self. We had this thing...not sure where it was from, but it was a leaflet for ordering merchandise. My mum got me and my brother a baseball cap and a t-shirt each. The smallest size was for age 12. When mine arrived, the fact that it was like a marquee on me didn't stop me from wearing it most of that summer. When I grew into it (which didn't seem to take that long) I was sure it must have shrunk. I must have been at one of those growth spurty stages.

Anyway, before we went to see Jurassic Park in the cinema, my mum read us one of those simplified book-of-the-film things. One moment that stuck in my mind was the scene where Dennis Nedry crashes his car trying to escape off the island, and is spat at by a dilophosaurus, who goes on to kill him. When we finally saw it on the big screen, that was the one scene I couldn't watch. I hid my head in my hands until Sam Neill came back.

The stupid thing is, we got the film on video as well, and I did the same thing whenever we watched it again. Ten years later I'd still never watched the scene in its entirety. I suppose in the same way as with the t-shirt, where I didn't trust that I was getting bigger year on year, I never stopped to consider I might be brave enough to deal with a dilophosaur attack. Maybe it was habit more than anything else.

I bring it up because Jurassic Park was on TV last weekend and for the first time in years, I sat down to watch it. And still, when that scene came, I found myself not wanting to look at the screen. Worse than that, I made excuses in my head about why I was too busy to look at the screen at that point, that I didn't have anything to prove. Eventually I decided enough was enough, and I watched it. It was nothing really, of course, though it still creeped me out as I looked. Remnants of emotions from childhood. Weird things.

Incidentally, I caught a bit of the end of King Solomon's Mines last night. This was another film that delighted my brother and I when we were little, though we can only have seen it once or twice. I think it must have been about 18 years since I last saw it, and could barely even remember what it was about, but when I saw John Rhys-Davies' character (basically an evil version of his Indiana Jones character) enter a room of diamonds with a gun pointed at the other, German villain, I suddenly remembered what was going to happen. He was going to make the other guy eat the diamonds. The memory traveled from childhood like a bullet. I astounded myself.

I wonder if there are any things that have happened since childhood that I'll still remember as vividly in ten or twenty years. Somehow I doubt it.