It was the first time I’d felt compelled to see the same band twice. It was the first time I’d needed to see a band twice. It was the first time I was willing to pay a ridiculous amount to see the same band twice.
The gigs were eight days apart; one in Sheffield, one in London. It was obviously the same tour, and largely the same set-list for both dates. I waited for hours, first outside in the cold November air, then in the arenas, with every minute dragging out and feeling like a year.
In Sheffield I was five rows back, but that wasn’t close enough. In London I was in the third row. It still wasn’t close enough.
I remember the background music ending. It was close, very close. The crowd hummed around me.
Cheers went up, and I joined them. Ronnie, Mark, Dave. My crazy fangirl scream went up in pitch. It didn’t feel real, but it was, and then the slightly shy showman from Las Vegas leapt into view. Read the rest of this entry »
Many people have called me ‘opinionated’, a word which I often think implies complete blindness towards viewpoints that differ to our own. I never thought I was that stubborn, and now I have evidence to suggest I’m right about that. A quick glance at a previous post will tell you that I’m pro-nuclear, pro-environment (yes, those two match perfectly) and anti-fossil fuels (and CCS).
Now, none of those things have changed – but today’s university field trip to Drax power station has certainly made me more willing to accept some forms of fossil fuel based electricity production in the UK’s future energy mix.
Drax power station generates anywhere between 7-10% of the UK’s electricity (Wikipedia disagrees with what we were told on site by a very friendly Geordie tour guide who I’m inclined to believe over an online encyclopedia). Unsurprisingly, Drax power station is the UK’s largest source of CO2 emissions. 90% of the fuel is coal, with around 10% consisting of different biomass products such as straw, peanut husks, hardwood, willow and elephant grass.
Here’s a few of the more interesting things I discovered during the field trip:
- Drax uses more than 160 million litres of water daily (for cooling purposes). I found this figure to be astonishing, and impossible to get my head around.
- 50% of the coal used for electricity generation is sourced from outside the UK. Now, I don’t know much about how easy the UK’s coal reserves are to get to, but I know that we have plenty of the stuff. It seems sad that so much of this fuel is imported from elsewhere.
- The EU threshold for acceptable sulphur dioxide emissions is set to half by 2016. Space at Drax is limited, so they will struggle to meet these new regulations easily. Is the threshold cut necessary? Is it right that the costs for power stations like Drax will be so high? I’d be inclined to disagree entirely with the former, and mutter a vague answer to the second.
- Drax are definitely trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Several turbines are being replaced which will increase the station’s efficiency from 38% to 40%. A huge new biomass plant is also opening soon. (Whether biomass is worth the effort is another issue entirely). The staff we met on site seemed very keen to stress the environmental and efficiency advances of the power station over the last few years and into the future. Although the current political focus is far away from environmental issues, Drax wants to be seen as doing all they can to reduce their emissions.
- The Drax site is huge. Really huge. I felt like I was walking around a giant’s world. Our coach drove under a pipe that was wider than the channel tunnel.
- There was not a single mention of CCS. I had expected at least a passing mention of the lack of viability of CCS for Drax as it’s so far from the sea, but to not mention it at all suggests that it is not yet taken seriously within the industry.
I left the site having thoroughly enjoyed our tour around the power station. It was impossible not to admire the scale and complexity of the operations that take place at Drax.
But as our tour guide said, generating electricity is the easy part. It’s the environmental efforts that are difficult.
That is precisely why I found myself rooting for a coal-fired power station. At Drax they were open; transparent. They wanted to change. Yes, one might say that the changes will only dress coal power in a slightly smarter coat, but the thirst for innovation and efficiency – which I admit is largely driven by the need to be competitive – is encouraging to see. Even when the public and government eye is not focused on our highest emitters due to distractions elsewhere, Drax continue to invest in research and development, and however much you hate the fossil-fuel industry, as I do, that is something that we should grudgingly respect.
And by the way, someone really should find a way to capture the potential energy from water as it cascades down to the bases of cooling towers.
None of us like to be seen as stereotypes – or as a member of any ‘standard’ group, in fact. Mosaic UK puts the entire UK population into 15 different demographic groups – a difficult and perhaps impossible task. Nevertheless, it throws up some rather humorous results. The groups include “Alpha Territory”, “Suburban Mindsets” and “Small Town Diversity”, and are split into types (67 in total) – within “Small Town Diversity”, for example, reside “Side Street Singles” and “Innate Conservatives”.
If those group names weren’t patronising enough, Mosaic UK gives each of the 15 groups typical names – for “Small Town Diversity”, you’re likely to find a greater proportion of Dennises and Sheilas, apparently. The “Small Town Diversity” (please, don’t make me write it as STD) group makes up 8.75% of the total number of UK households. Their housing is usually older, and they have good links to their local communities. It then goes onto describe the usual income and property situations of Dennis and Sheila and their friendly community.
So the idea of Mosaic UK is to create these archetypal neighbourhoods that each of us can fit into, and then to use these demographic groups to carry out business and government iniatives most effectively.
Take a look at the groups yourself – which do you fit into? We might not like being crowbarred into them, but it is interesting, at the very least, to see where we fit in.
Can these groups be applied to the population of an online game such as Guild Wars 2? Perhaps the distinctions are less clear. The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology splits online gamers into four broad groups – Killers, Achievers, Explorers and Socialisers. Most of us know which of these categories we fit into. Mosaic, however, is more specific, slightly humourous and its groups aren’t immediately identifiable.
I want to make note of a grouping system for future Guild Wars 2 players with the clarity of the Bartle Test and the humour and grouping structure of Mosaic UK, just for laughs. I might even throw in a colourful chart somewhere if the uploader decides to work
Group 1: Guild Wars 1 Players
(50% of the initial population)
Guild Wars 1 players range from extremely nice and helpful to completely smug that they joined the world of Tyria 7 years before everyone else. Most of these players are permanent residents of Lion’s Arch, some continuously shouting, “I LOVE YOU COLIN!”, “I REMEMBER WHEN UTOPIA/2008 BETA/DUAL CLASSES/DWARFS/GWEN…” or, “It’s just not the same :'(“.
GW1 players will flaunt their Hall of Monuments (HoM) rewards so much that you’ll begin to wish you could strangle that adorable ginger cat minipet; whilst others will say “Norn have no need of HoM points” as an explanation for their lack of bling, whereas actually they only played about five hours of GW to begin with, and are now playing catch up.
Characters played: Mesmers, particularly human mesmers. A lower proportion of charr for this group, because they’re all evil, clearly.
- Arenanet Fanboys and Fangirls (G1)
- Lore Bores (G2)
- HoM Grinders (G3)
- Retired Pros (G4)
- One-time Player, One-time Hater (G5)
Typical character names: _________ Thackeray, I Swung a Sword, It is ready, Primeval King etc.
Group 2: MMO Players
(40% of the initial population)
Assumed by group G1 to be no-lifers who enjoy nothing more than a nice healthy 3 hour raid every night. It is true that a significant proportion of this group will be scared by the lack of gear-based combat, and endgame, but another part of this group are just completely fed up with MMOs and GW2 is their final hope.
The trolls will tend to lurk amongst this group, crawling up from under the paving slabs of Divinity’s Reach from post-tutorial onwards.
This group is the most varied of all – some will just dip their toe into the lakes of Queensdale, others will attempt to grind their way to victory, and more will get their bearings and play GW2 as it was designed to be.
Characters played: Charr warriors, Human paladin – no, Guardians; sylvari rangers.
- Innovation Seekers (M1)
- Trolls (M2)
- Rushers (M3)
- Last Hopers (M4)
Typical character names: SWTOR Rulez, This Better Be Good, No Sub Fee Yay etc.
Group 3: Others
(10% of the initial population)
This group contains non gamers and gamers from other genres, particularly RPG players who’ve been put off MMOs by the negativity surrounding the genre.
Expect to see these players asking all sorts of innocent questions in chat, such as: “How do I save?” and “What, so I can play with all of you?” before getting ROFLed at by more seasoned MMO players. Their naivety will be crushed within their first month of playing.
Characters played: Mainly humanoid races, and standard RPG class combos like sylvari(“These are elves, right?”) rangers.
- Curious Parents (O1)
- RPG fans (O2)
- “My Friend Said…” (O3)
Typical character names: [Standard fantasy first name] [Standard fantasy surname], Test Character, What Is This I Don’t Even etc.
Where do you fit?
In a year that has been distinctly average, this last month has been almost exciting.
First, the bad things about December 2011:
- My failure to write more than two paragraphs in our collab project
- Having to get back into the essay, revision, essay, revision, essay, revision routine
- Spending time with several people who really aren’t worth the effort
- Not getting into the Guild Wars 2 closed beta.
I’m not really upset about not getting into the beta – after all, it came as no surprise, particularly after ArenaNet re-clarified their selection process. It’s a true closed beta – no applications and strict NDAs (at least to begin with).
The start of the closed beta is bittersweet for me, and I suspect other GW2 fanatics feel the same way. It’s absolutely great that they’re being so careful to allow the right people in to test and/or break the game; and the fact that people outside of ArenaNet’s family and friends are being given beta invites is significant in itself when the game feels like it’s been in development for centuries (it’s actually been less than 5 years). However, I want to get my hands on GW2 so badly. I can’t get to any of the conventions easily, so beta might well be my first chance to play the game I’ve obsessed over for so long. Occasionally I picture myself stepping in Tyria v.2.0 for the very first time: the glee at seeing the GW2 logo next to a little box that says username and password; being overwhelmed at the character selection screen; squeeing a little as the starting cinematic begins; and pressing the W key to set my sylvari ranger off into the depths of the Grove.
What other moments would be special? The first dynamic event, post-tutorial, perhaps. The sight of dozens of players uniting towards a common goal.What else? The first time I successfully dodge an attack. My first PvP victory. Heck, I’m such a fangirl I’d probably get excited when I got around to remembering I could shoot my bow whilst moving.
This is the point where I realise that beta testing is testing. I would have to play a certain portion of the game and attempt to break it, not stand there and spend hours dyeing my armor or admiring Lion’s Arch. Perhaps it’s better that I’ll probably have to wait until release before I get to play.
But what would I do, in the extremely unlikely event that the email turned up in my inbox?
I would test GW2 to the best of my ability.
That doesn’t mean I would number crunch or try and find the most overpowered build. Instead, I would play to my strengths: explore every little nook and cranny and search for grammar and spelling mistakes.
Yeah, I’m one of those irritating people that corrects you when you say compare to instead of compare with.
Anyway, I’m not ashamed to say that the above section was an advert for my *cough* considerable beta testing talents.
What d’you mean, spellcheck exists now?
(Miraculously, this will be my first rant post in over 6 months of blogging.)
Climate Change – Political Inaction
Yep, this is a big one. I’m not going to reference anything here – I’ve been doing enough of that in university essays and know that it’s no fun, especially when it interrupts the flow of a good ol’ moan.
The evidence for human-enhanced climate change is undeniable. Anyway who says otherwise is either stupid, ignorant, or has their head stuck in a barrel of oil.
I am not going to go through the impacts that climate change is having/will have on us. You can read that elsewhere.
But let me say this:
I would love for the deniers to be right.
The UN climate change talks sum up everything that frustrates me about politics. Paperwork, negotiations (read: squabbling), and massive conferences that serve no purpose other than to reinforce the impression that politicians only care about their term of office.
Do they not understand the scale of the problem facing us? Do they not get that the potential costs associated with climate change are practically infinite? Every generation from now on will be severely affected – that’s your children, your children’s children, their children….and so on. We are knowingly harming those generations and the planet for thousands of years, just so that those numbers stay black rather than red.
I don’t give a stuff about your country being less well off than another; I don’t care if mitigation measures will be tough – they will be a mere twinge of pain – not comparable with the incalculable effects on our planet for millenia.
Some politicians are somehow under the impression that we will be able to control the climate like we can turn the dial on a thermostat. But natural systems cannot be messed with. We are entering unknown territory, with temperature increasing faster than many climate models have predicted. We are hurtling towards disaster even though we could’ve put the brakes on at any time in the past 30 years.
The UNFCCC conferences will come to nothing until it is too late.
“Why would we want to burden our economies with green taxes, emissions trading schemes and renewables if means our growth will decrease?” GDP is a false measure of our wellbeing, yet we live by it. Why have we allowed this measure to become enshrined in our political systems? Should we not measure happiness, wellbeing, or development?
All countries want to do is beat everyone else. Who cares if your GDP growth is 1% up on last year’s?
And if you care so much about your precious figures, then why are you decreasing the GDP of the future?
“Discounting”. Yeah, it makes sense in theory. But why are people in the future any less important than we are? Discounting seems to be another excuse for politicians/economists to focus only on the present.
We will not keep below the 2 degrees C threshold. Whatever that means, anyway. It seems like we’re already past many tipping points already.
Since 1990, annual global emissions have increased by 49%. Kyoto what?
If we’re lucky, I reckon we’ll peak global emissions by 2030, but more realistically by 2050. This will be too late. We will never tear ourselves away from this comfortable oil-based way of living in time for the worst to be avoided.
But that does not mean we should give up. There are so many uncertainties remaining in climate modelling (the effects of clouds, especially) that we might just get lucky. I doubt that’ll happen.
Adaptation seems to be the main subject of the Durban conference, mainly ‘cos everyone’s given up on a global deal. Adaptation may save lives in the short term, but what happens if the climate spirals out of control? Ever bigger coastal defences, less and less fertile land, more extreme weather…we won’t be able to shield ourselves from everything. Throwing money at such projects in developing and island countries is a poor kind of compensation. Oh sorry, your country just drowned; but don’t worry, we can relocate you to this polluted strip of land that will flood in another twenty years or so.
The recent investment in tar sands is an act of such huge stupidity it makes me feel ashamed to part of the human race. At what would’ve been the perfect moment to invest in renewables, we take what the Canadians have seen as the easy option. Let’s dig up whole hillsides just to get to a few more drops of extra-dirty oil. Turning to tar sands is short-sighted, stupid, irresponsible and….oh, it just makes me incredibly angry. I can deal with gas power stations; and even (misguided) investment into CCS merely makes me a tad irritated. By turning to tar sands we’ve lost all hope in mitigating climate change to less dangerous levels.
We need more nuclear power, but after Fukushima that seems like it’s the last thing we’re going to get. Politicians are much more open to nuclear than renewables (or at least they were) – large power plants are something they understand and are used to.
I always thought that Germany had decent energy policy until they said they were going to phase out nuclear because of what happened in Fukushima. Fukushima happened because Japan is on a plate boundary. Germany is not on a plate boundary, nor is it anywhere remotely close to one.
Another point of stupidity are the politicians (*cough* Gideon *cough*) who blame green regulations/renewables subsidies on rising energy prices. Hello? Fossil fuel subsidies are six times greater than renewable subsidies. Why the hell are we still subsidising fossil fuels? Let me rephrase that. Why are oil companies still allowed to influence our governments?
Okay, that’s the end of the rant for now. My opinion is my opinion, and this might read like a long joke to some, but the issue is a serious one. Our inaction makes me despair.
This past month has been frustrating for me on several fronts. University is drifting by, some of my friends are acting like complete idiots and even the mighty Leicester Tigers have been playing like cubs.
About a month ago, I blogged about my intention to pay more attention to my dreams. Up until the past week or so, I had forgotten about that promise. Then, one night I had a series of particularly vivid dreams – not unusual, but extremely memorable. I woke afterwards at about 4am, and scribbled them down straight away.
My dream recall had deteriorated so much that by the next day I had completely forgotten I even wrote the dreams down, let alone remembering the dreams themselves. When I looked over my notes, I was astonished: how could I possibly forget all these details? How many other wonderful dreams were allowed to rot away in the back of my mind, just because I was too lazy to spend 30 seconds writing a few words down?
After recalling the dreams of that night, it was as if a switch had been flicked. The wonders of dreaming overwhelmed me again – and I redoubled my efforts. It had been weeks since I’d experienced even the slightest lucidity in my dreams – now I realised what I had been missing.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite that simple. I’ve only managed to control a dream for more than a moment once since then. The tiniest things seem to get in the way. On one occasion, I eased out of a lucid dream and straight into a few seconds of sleep paralysis – an experience I had grown used to before, but during my dream ‘drought’ I had not suffered. I panicked, and the dream nearly slipped from my grasp (I had forgotten the ‘spinning’ trick too). I closed my eyes, hoping to jump straight back into the dream, but then I realised how much of an uncomfortable position I was sleeping in. But I was still paralysed. There was no chance of me getting back to sleep with one arm crushed under my body, so I had to wake up. By the time I got back to sleep, the dream was long gone.
More recently, I was ‘watching’ one of my dreams unfold when my phone vibrated. Vodafone! Only the other night I was just beginning to control a dream when an ambulance screeched down the street.
But the factor that has most contributed to my loss of dream control is my laziness. It is so often my downfall. When a dream becomes lucid, it is very rare that I choose to seize control – I am much happier to let the dream follow its natural course than to interfere with it. I find it too much effort to try to control my dreams. I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong, or if I just need practice – but it’s very frustrating when I wake up and realise the rare opportunity that I’ve lost.
Not since my childhood have I experienced true recurring dreams, but recently I have noticed disturbing similarities between many of mine. We all have themes that seem to dominate our dreams – that’s how many of us learn to realise when we are dreaming – in my case, it’s dreams where I’m being chased.
I don’t know whether I either believe or care about all that dream interpretation stuff, but I guess it makes sense that these dreams are due to stress, anxiety and fear. Anyway, I often don’t mind chase dreams. Sometimes I get a weird thrill from them (this probably means I’m some sick-minded psychopath). Usually I’m running from the bad guy in a TV programme or film I’ve just watched – Robert Knepper’s character from the last series of Heroes wormed his way into my dreams quite frequently when the show was being aired in the UK.
In the past few months, however, my ‘chase’ dreams have been dominated by one character. It’s embarrassing to even type this, but give me a chance to at least try to explain the oddities of my mind.
Yep, Harry Potter’s noseless nemesis.
Now, I’m a super-duper Harry Potter fan – not quite a nerd, but close – so perhaps it shouldn’t really surprise me that he features in a lot of my dreams. There is but one problem – I have never been scared by him, or his character. Voldemort doesn’t even rank in my top 10 villains – he’s too one-dimensional. Yes, he’s good at what he does, but it was obvious from the first chapters of the Philosopher’s Stone that he would be defeated by Harry in some grand, epic showdown. Voldemort was never going to win.
So if I’m not scared of the character, then why the heck am I running from him? I can only conclude that some part of me is attracted to Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Voldemort, a thought that is too hideous to imagine. He has no nose. This is the kind of thing that disturbs me about my dreams. Maybe I’m too disgusted by my subconscious to allow myself to throw myself headfirst into the world of lucid dreaming.
Anyway, I can’t get hold of a psychologist right now, so I’ll continue.
I’ve had at least a dozen dreams in the past few months where Voldemort has been chasing me, but not one of them has been lucid. Yes, they haven’t been identical, but you would think that by now I would be able to recognise the patterns that these dreams take. It frustrates me that I have these dreams so frequently, but still feel fearful within them. But as well as the fear, I admit that these dreams can be exhilarating. My dream self is agile and elusive, and soars as she runs. When she allows herself to be caught, she escapes with ease. She likes to play with the powerful, which is completely irrational. Maybe I am lucid within these dreams, but I don’t allow myself to realise it. Maybe I am influencing, even controlling my dream character to a tiny degree, but nothing that gets in the way of a normal, thrilling, chase dream.
And now I’ve confused myself even more.
On your way to work, school or university; instead of avoiding eye contact with the people you walk past, do something revolutionary. Say “good morning”.
You don’t have to say it to everyone – just say it to one person. The elderly seem most grateful. A friendly greeting from a young person might come as an unexpected surprise to them.
Good morning might just put a smile on someone’s face. It’s not hard, in fact; you might even enjoy it.