Monthly Archives: August 2010

City Link are worse than super-cancer-AIDS

I’d written a fun little blog earlier today about the trials and tribulations of sitting in all day, waiting for a package to arrive. It was whimsical, humorous and finished with said package arriving. If I’d have remembered while writing that it was City Link delivering the package, I would not have bothered writing that pre-emptive blog.

No, City Link is a stain on humanity; a company that fails to do the one thing they actually set out to do. And when they fail to do that thing – “that thing” being delivering things – they make it as hard as possible to get them to re-do it, and re-do it right.

Amazon unexpectedly sent the new TV I ordered out early, as well as via next day delivery. What this meant was it was going to arrive when I wasn’t in, and would then be taken back to a depot I couldn’t get to very easily to wait for me to collect it. Did I mention it’s a TV? A fucking big one?

As such, I begged a little to be allowed to stay at home and wait for the package, and was allowed. Unfortunately this is still unauthorised absence and it doesn’t exactly reflect well on me. Taking a day off at short notice because your house has exploded/dad has set on fire: fine. Doing the same because you’re getting a telly delivered: not so fine.

The City Link delivery status was updated at 10:23pm last night saying the package had been collected and was on its way to my local depot. It was an eight hour drive from the collection to delivery depots, and they had all night to do it in. They then had ten whole cocking hours – from 7:30am to 5:30pm – to get the telly from the Bournemouth depot to my house. My house is a 15 minute drive from the depot, apparently.

Obviously by 5pm it hadn’t turned up and the status still hadn’t been updated from 10:23pm last night. So I gave them a ring (via No To 0870, of course).

“No, you’re not going to get that today.”

“For fu… why wasn’t I told?”

“It hasn’t been scanned here yet. We’ll deliver it tomorrow.”

“I’m not in tomorrow. Can I have it delivered Friday afternoon?”

“We don’t do afternoon deliveries.”

“I’m not in in the morning, you don’t guarantee delivery times, I need it in the afternoon. Sigh. Can you deliver it on Saturday then?”

“Umm… that’s an extra charge.”

“I’ve taken a day off work to sit refreshing a web page it turns out was lying to me all day. You’ve not provided a service you’re supposed to provide. AND I’ve been on hold for about half an hour.”

“I… umm…”

“I would like it delivered on Saturday. If you could, that would be GREAT.”

“I’ll put a note on your account to arrange Saturday delivery.”

“There we go.”

“If anything goes wrong, I’ll ring you. Bye.”

Why does that last line fill me with dread? He agreed to my demands a little too easily, then gave himself the easy get-out clause of ‘if anything goes wrong’. I don’t expect the TV to be delivered on Saturday.

City Link have messed up, as far as I remember, every single time I’ve had something delivered from them*. No other delivery company springs to mind when I think of inept, pointless companies that need to be burned. And Amazon needs to stop using them.

*Oddly, apart from the dozen or so times I’ve ordered from thedrinkshop.com. They never failed to get it right then. COLOUR ME CONFUSED. Maybe they only get booze orders right.

(NOTE: Searching ‘city link’ on Google image search is quite funny, as it returns lots of images of big-name footballers. Obviously ones linked to Man City. END NOTE.)

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My PS2 is dead, long live my PS2

This is a late entry today for one very good reason. Well, not actually a very good reason. In fact, it’s a bit of a shit reason. But it is undeniably a reason, so that’s something at least. See, I rooted out my PS2 and, on trying to play a few games, found that the always-dicky disc drive – bane of my existence since November of 2000* had gone and rather selfishly died on its arse.

And so I spent Sunday and most of this evening messing about with the little bugger, trying to install and get working HD Loader – the program that allows you to rip your games to the hard drive and play them from there. It’s not illegal, though it is a bit of a grey area – just to clear that up.

One thing I’ve found, though, is that reading these dozen or so hacking sites is like having to learn a new fucking language every time you go to a different one. I’m glad these kids (and they are likely to be kids) go out of their way to try and help us newbies get involved, but dear god someone needs to tell them to take a fucking breath. As well as to learn to write. More the second one really, if I’m pushed into picking one.

But you wade through the unintelligible instructions, you fight with archaic technology (the PS2 only supports USB 1.1 and the FAT file system? What a loser!), you wonder why the hell your hard drive won’t register with your PC, you rip games, you realise the disc is too scratched to rip them, you find other games you forgot you had, you find Twisted Metal Black (the sole reason you started this whole merry dance), you use ‘exploits’ and ‘independence’ things and you dick about with poorly-made GUIs. Then you repeat about four times.

Then – finally – you have a hard drive full of your PS2 games. And they work. And you’ve saved them. And your launch day PS2 retains its usefulness. You can carry on playing.

But then you try Shadow of the Colossus, and all you get is a black screen.

I don’t know whether to cry or just give up.

*Alright, so it wasn’t actually dodgy from the very beginning, but hush down.

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Sometimes nostalgia works

Nostalgia is a powerful tool, and is something I have a great love for – and affinity with – as well as a great distaste for. At least for those who wield it incorrectly, for the purposes of seeming wacky with past-o-knowledge or… *shudder* for marketing.

Nostalgia has its issues though – and while you can’t really blame them on the beast itself, it is still fair to highlight that it can be an utter bastard when wielded alongside the human brain. You will remember something, and you will consider it a grand thing, a wonderful thing from the past, when things were cheaper, and you didn’t feel you were going to be mugged at the drop of a hat, and there were less Tories in power.

A better time, so surely a better thing.

And then you go back to whatever it is: you re-visit the town you holidayed in with your family; you listen to that album again; you mix up your accidental cocktail concoction, only this time on purpose.

What happens? The town is testament to the death of small businesses and the rise in crackheaddom; that album is unlistenable shit and one of the instruments is a fucking piccolo; your cocktail tastes like beans mixed with toothpaste (because it is).

You realise your brain has made you seem quite the fool with a bit of help from that utter bastard that is nostalgia. They’re both laughing at you, mocking your stupid face for thinking any of this stuff was ever going to be as good as you remember it.

But then, sometimes, when nostalgia is feeling in a good way and your brain isn’t quite awake enough to play tricks on you (like the shit it is), sometimes things are just like you remember them. And you are happy. And you feel warm. And you blow cars up with rockets and machine guns.

Today I played Twisted Metal 2 again. And it was good.

(I am aware this entry is painfully similar to a couple of others I’ve done (search ‘nostalgia’), but shut up. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for it. Oh, and I’m not defiling that image with my face. Go to XKCD and look at more.)

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Length = value? Huh huh.

I have completed two games in the last 24 hours. One – Final Fantasy XIII – I started a few months ago and have been playing on and off since then, chipping away at it. It took me 51 hours in total. The other – Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days – I started last night and finished three and a half hours later. Both cost £50 new (though obviously I didn’t pay that). Both are marketed as story-driven single-player experiences (try and spot the blurb for Kane & Lynch where it says ‘SP won’t last long, but MP can go on forever!’ Can’t find it? Thought not.), yet both have a vast difference in their length and – I’d guess – their perceived value.

But this is something that’s always hard to judge with the old games-writing malarkey, as so many people are vehemently against thrusting their value judgements on others. How can you quantify value solely through how long something lasts? FFXIII is a fuckton of padding – probably 60-70 per cent of it could be cut very, very easily. So is it really ‘worth’ more because you get 40, 50, 60+ hours out of it?

I honestly don’t know. This isn’t me making a point or having an argument either way – I’m really just thinking out loud. Or at least, on this page.

To me, FFXIII isn’t something I would consider as having value for how long it lasts, for the paddy-reason I mentioned just then. Compare it to something like Oblivion or Fallout 3 though, and you have me spouting some other opininonsense about how I feel they’re the two games I’ve got the most out of – ever. Well, aside from Football Manager, but that both transcends any attempt at reasoning and falls foul in that it’s a yearly purchase.

But a game marketed as triple-A, pushed as a gritty, hard-hitting story-led experience and as something that will change the face of gaming forever (through its camera angles/looks, at least) to offer three-and-a-bit hours of entertainment isn’t something I would call good value. And it is something that needs to be highlighted in reviews, not overlooked because it’s hard to quantify value.

It’s like mentioning the price in a review. But then, that’s a whole new can of beany worms.

I said I didn’t really have a point here. Just thinking aloud.

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Rumble Road: Untold Stories From Outside The Ring book review (7/10)

As I visited the US over the weekend to attend a couple of things for a new WWE game, we were given a goody bag of branded nonsense to take home with us. Aside from the Rey Mysterio mask(s, actually, as I nabbed two), the weird flask thing and the hoody (which I’m sure Anna will claim) there was an interesting looking book – Rumble Road: Untold Stories From Outside The Ring.

Now I have read my fair share of wrassler books, and they all have road stories in them. It’s just such an intrinsic part of the business that everyone has them – and they tend to be quite funny. So I was looking forward to this as a good old fashioned bog-read.

I’m trying to think of another way to write “sigh”.

I’m not sure what contractual obligations by the WWE were placed on Jon Robinson, the collector of these tales, but it looks very much like one of the clauses read ‘do not put anything entertaining in the book whatsoever, in case you run the risk of offending someone or making out that these wrestlers are real people who have real problems/mess up/get into fights’.

Or maybe the clause was just ‘don’t go into any detail – wrestling fans can’t read anyway so it’s a waste of ink’. Either way it makes sense, as this is a book full of half-baked, half-told stories that – in the majority – go nowhere, say nothing and rarely make you smile, let alone laugh. It’s like if this blog were in paperback form.

This is taken verbatim from the introduction to one chapter:

“Think spiders crawling in your bed, rental cars spinning into ditches and hotel keys hitting you in the eye are bad?”

That’s three examples of actual stories in these things. You know they type – complete non-stories that any numpty who has had any interaction with the world has probably had at one point. Where are the stories like in Mick Foley’s book about the unknown gay beach abandonment? Like in Bret Hart’s with the knife-threatening bus “joke”? The one’s like in Bobby Heenan’s that I’ve completely forgotten?

No, instead it’s clearly heavily vetted corporate bullshit. There’s the mention of a stripclub at one point and a clear allusion to someone having themselves some sex in another. But there’s no mention of actual violence, no talk of people being busted for drugs, going mental, having accidents or anything else that would make it interesting in the insider/tabloidy fashion the wrassler books get it right with.

Basically it’s just not honest enough. Insert your own hilarity about it being as fake as wrestling.

Oh, and the categories make no sense, in that the stories contained within each sometimes don’t apply to what the category is actually about.

7/10

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Working in CEX was the best/worst time of my life… ish

I worked in CEX for 364 days of my life, and in that time I realised they were the best and worst days of my life. Well, maybe not that far. It was the best and worst job of my life. Well, maybe not best. And it’s bound to be at least pushing for worst because I’ve had so few jobs.

Right, try again: I worked in CEX. I disliked the job, I hated the scum we had to deal with but I liked the people I worked with. We had a lot of fun taking the piss, getting drunk, planning to form socially-aware punk rock bands that also sing about dragons, accidentally going on strike after falling asleep upstairs, being threatened by morons, getting drunk, being unable to open phones and getting drunk.

It’s just a shame the bad points were so massively bad. Not only was it standard shop lore of working menial tasks for low pay (as opposed to now, where it’s slightly-more-than menial tasks for slightly-more-than low pay) and putting up with crap from the public. But CEX is a shop that buys things from the public, meaning this wasn’t the normal ‘crap’ you have to put up with. Oh no. This was a different breed of crap. Spectaculcrap. Some of the most idiotic, moronic, brain-meltingly infuriating dillweeds would come through those doors and stand in that long, long queue.

People – and I use the term loosely – subjected us all to myriad complaints, like the man who (three weeks after I started) hurled abuse at me and threatened to deck me (in front of his kids) because I wouldn’t buy a DVD burner off him for about £2. Oh, and it didn’t work.

Or the guy who tried to sell a game without a cover, which I told him we wouldn’t buy. He responded “oh, I’ll go nab one from Zavvi then”. Minutes later he returned, triumphantly brandishing the stolen game box from across the street and actually expecting me to still buy it off him.

Or the women who tried to sell a phone that looked like it had been gone at with a set of bolt cutters. And, of course, they kicked up a huge fuss when we turned them down.

The man in Hull who accused me of changing his password on his phone as a part of some kind of conspiracy so we didn’t have to buy the phone off him. He failed to understand the concept that I didn’t know his original password so couldn’t have changed it to a new one.

Hull in general. One week of my life I’ll never see again.

That massive guy who would come in 10 minutes before we closed every day with a scratched to balls game that clearly didn’t work to trade in for another. Problem was he was about seven feet tall and absolutely, completely and totally stank – I mean he smelled like he had died or something – to the point that we just wanted him out as fast as possible. He never got any trouble from staff. At least, the ones who stayed downstairs when he entered the shop.

The scrots who would use the front of their trackie bottoms as game/DVD-storing pouches, and would be surprised – shocked, even – if anyone ever questioned why the fuck they used their balls as a carry case.

The multiple idiots who were relying on selling something in order to fund their bus ride home, then had a go at us like it was our fault they hadn’t got ID, or the DVD didn’t work or whatever. Sigh.

The people who just didn’t understand the rules, even though they were printed all over the shop. Though I suppose reading isn’t a strong point.

I could go on much, much more but this will just turn into 3,000 words of bile.

I see CEX staff get a lot of stick on the internet and yes, I agree they can be dismissive, seem arrogant and work in a badly-organised shop that always smells of BO. But the utter dickheads – and these are a brand of dickhead you do not get working in any other shop, unless it’s a pawn shop – the idiots they have to deal with gives me nothing but sympathy for the chaps and chapettes who put up with this gutterscum.

CEX: you were the best of times, you were the worst of times. Well, actually you were just a bit shit. Without the workmates (and the booze) I would have been out of the door in a matter of weeks.

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Schleepy bear

I’m not sure which one I dislike more – being super tired or being super anything else. Oh, no, wait – I’ve figured it out straight away. I hate being super tired more than almost any other feeling, inkling, emotion, hunger pang or whatever else my body can do to me. I hate it for many reasons, but I do indeed hate it.

I hate the heaviness of your eyelids – how they lie in wait for you to blink before launching Operation Don’topen. I hate how you get a headache, or how bright light becomes more of a bastard than normal. I hate how not everyone in the world feels the same as you, so you know they’re not talking to you on a level playing field. I hate how it makes your brain simply stop… working, that’s the one. And most of all I hate being really tired because that tends to mean I’m not in bed, attempting to sleep.

I do actually like being super tired for a couple of reasons, surprising as that may be with all the hate I’ve been throwing atcha. See, for one, being so tired it feels like your head is about to just fall off means that you’re guaranteed to at least fall asleep quickly. With my brain being as much of a thinking twat as it is, this is a very good thing.

Secondly, I feel kind of comfortable when I’m tired. I’m cranky, sure, but I also lose a great deal of inhibitions and can end up saying what I actually think for once*. Also it’s like a mind-blanket, keeping you feeling strangely warm and dream-like. That’s a comfort you don’t get many – or any – other places.

I literally just nodded off halfway through that sentence.

*No idea why I said ‘for once’ there, as I tend to say what I think.

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