Thursday, 25 December 2008

Joy To The World!

Ah, how can one remain grumpy when confronted with a picture of such pure bliss? Nothing like the euphoric effects of hard drugs to lift the spirits - and this with just a quarter of the suggested amount of catnip added to a certain Christmas toy.

Alien Wally and Mags would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas, and hope that it rivals the MacNoodle's for sheer tongue-lolling contentment. Just remember to tuck yours back in.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Game Review: Hunt The Hot Water Valve

A fun game to play, particularly in the Winter when the stakes are higher, however having not yet completed it, this reviewer is forced to give it a low 3/10.

The story begins with the player performing what should be a relatively straightforward task - removing a radiator from the wall in order to redecorate. Things get complicated however when this causes a leak in the central heating system. Having drained the central heating system, repaired the leak and restarted the system with the help of a future contractor, things seem to be back to normal. However, this wouldn't be much of a plot if this was the case, so the player awakes the next day with a raging hangover from an office end of year function only to discover that while the central heating works, there is no hot water in the house. Cue more assistance from the future contractor, who sends the player on a hunt for motorised valves that should control hot water to the hot water cylinder.

Most of the gameplay involves wielding a crowbar or similar tool of mass destruction, ripping open floors and tearing down walls looking for the elusive motorised valves. Things are made more interesting by the player not actually knowing exactly what these valves look like, beyond the fact that they must be located on one of the central heating pipes.

The only saving grace to this game, and the reason why it scores 3 instead of 0 out of 10, is its realism. Aside from superb graphics and realistic sound effects, the in-game characters really bring things to life. From nagging wife complaining about cold baths to spooked cat getting underfoot while crowbars are swinging, it's all been included. Here are some screenshots highlighting the level of detail:

The utility room: oh well, the floor needed to come up anyway.

The bathroom: located an access hatch that was covered over by a layer of tongue-and-groove panelling, but no valves.

In summary, an entertaining game involving much destruction, however little satisfaction is gained, and this reviewer has yet to complete it. He predicts the forums to be buzzing with gamers trying to find out how to complete it, that's if anyone else actually buys it since he definitely cannot recommend it.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

A Month in Retrospect

After taking time off posting, Alien Wally has decided to upload a few pictures taken over the last month in an attempt to appease the masses of readers clamouring for updates.

It seems Alien Wally and Mags took a walk up the River Esk, which winds through Musselburgh. This is all news to Alien Wally, who is gradually developing the memory of a goldfish.

He does remember the hedgehog coming to visit though. Striding across the lawn in the middle of the day (aren't they supposed to be nocturnal?), the hog came face to face with the lens of Alien Wally's camera. In a cunning move, the hog sneakily shut its eyes and hunched down, thus making it entirely invisible to its foe.

It remained in this position until it detected that the predator had given up all hope of finding it again, whereupon it turned around and made a hasty escape.

After a couple of snowflakes descended upon the garden, Alien Wally and Mags thought they would find loads of snow on higher ground, and headed up to the Hopetoun Monument just outside Haddington. Alas, apart from this pocket of snow, there was none to be seen even from the vantage point afforded by the top of the monument.

Christmas snuck into Edinburgh while no-one was watching. Alien Wally and Mags headed into town on the train last weekend to see the lights, and sample the yuletide ale offered from an authentic mock-up of a German Christmas market that seems to spring up every year on Princes Street.

And then came the real snow. Last Tuesday the skies opened and deposited a full 1 centimetre of snow on the ground. Alright, not all that impressive, however it has to be said that snow rarely sits on the ground in Edinburgh, so it was quite a novelty for Alien Wally to have to scrape snow off the car the next morning before driving up to the station. It was slightly less novel when he got back from work and had to scrape more ice off the car before heading home, and possibly even less novel when he couldn't open the door the morning after because it had been frozen shut.

Friday, 5 December 2008

A Typical Day At The Office

09:30... Rub head repeatedly against corner of monitor while purring loudly. Try to get Mags to stare into my eyes rather than the computer screen. Paaayy meeee atttennntionnnnn! Want second breakfast!

11:00... Cat onnahead onnamat onnadesk innaoffice. Is winter. Is cold.

14:00... Pour heaps of scorn on impertinent birdies in tree outside office window.

14:05... Pour heaps of scorn on Mags for not doing something about the impertinent birdies.

15:00... Have forgiven Mags. Now is cuddletime on Mags' lap. Warm here. Big purr.


Saturday, 8 November 2008

More HDR

Another HDR experiment, based on five pictures taken on Friday at lunchtime. Deadlines at work and DIY around the house has taken precedence over pic of the day, which is likely to be slightly sporadic over the next few weeks unfortunately.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Proof That Our Parents Don’t Really Read Our Blog?

Alien Wally and Mags are convinced that their parents don’t really read this blog. After all, if they did, surely they would have commented on this series of pictures?

By “commented”, Mags doesn’t mean write a comment on this actual blog, although that would have been an option. After expecting some sort of reaction – emails full of exclamation marks, phone calls full of verbal exclamation marks, heck, even a carrier pigeon come to poop on their heads – Alien Wally and Mags feel rather disappointed.

It can’t be them, of course. Oblique? Never. Nevaaah. Those pics-of-the-day were as clear as, well, day.

But, just in case this is one of those “it’s not you, it’s us” moments, here’s a more obvious picture.

If this doesn’t elicit any kind of appropriate parental response, well, then… consider that proof of parental neglect, and the appropriate authorities will be informed. Don’t y’all know that children need some discipline and boundaries? Otherwise they go out and do things like buy motorbikes. Oh. Wait… too late.

This, by the way, is Charlie. Alien Wally didn’t want to name his bike, but Mags insisted that Ruby’s new brother be called something. Why Charlie? Well, he’s a Honda CBF600… in phonetic terms, that’s Mr Charlie “Bravo” Foxtrot to y’all. Well, except to Alien Wally, that is. He still refers to Charlie as simply “the bike”. How boring. But, not oblique. Nevaaah.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Down (And Up!) In Durham

Not so bright, but definitely early on Saturday morning, Alien Wally and Mags left Scotland to once again do some raiding across the border in England. Their destination this time: Hogwarts!

Oh, no, wait… that’s just one of the bridges used for the Hogwarts Express. In. The. Movie. In reality, Alien Wally and Mags went to Durham, which turned out to be a surprising and magical place after all.

Although Durham is just south-west of Newcastle, Alien Wally and Mags decided to take a different route to the one they had previously used to go down south so that they could drive through and experience the Northumberland National Park.

And what an experience that was! Mags is sure the Park is beautiful at all times of the year, but it was certainly breath-taking at sunrise on a clear Autumn day, with snow on the mountain peaks (um, large hill tops?).

Snow? Yes, folks, it’s been cold and icy here in these climes, and both England and Scotland have had some snow. In addition to the snow on the hill tops, the ground was also covered in frost.

And then they hit the ice on the roads. Mags means that literally, as Ruby skidded around a corner, her wheels losing grip on the icy surface. For the sake of mommies everywhere, and particularly those belonging to Mags and Alien Wally, Mags would like to state that the previous sentence has been slightly exaggerated for dramatic effect. Alien Wally and Mags were driving cautiously to begin with, which (together with Alien Wally’s skillful handling of the car) resulted in a fairly sedate and controlled slide around the icy corner. Other mommies’ children, however, were not so cautious it seems – upon sliding around the corner, Alien Wally and Mags were faced with not one, not even two, but three cars that had slid off the road and plowed into the embankments at various points.

This trail of carnage continued for the next thirty or so miles. Throughout this section of the journey, Alien Wally and Mags joined a queue of cars driving in a slow-moving and reverent line behind the almighty Gritting Machine, as it made the roads safe for all drivers ever more and amen. The procession paid their respects along the way to the many cars that had gone before The Coming Of The Gritter, cars strewn across the landscape without bumpers, owners standing forlornly next to them awaiting rescue from the many police cars and tow trucks busy mopping up the mess and escorting folks through the treacherous countryside.

Finally Durham was reached, and our conquering heroes made their way through the pretty city, across the bridge and up the hill to Durham Cathedral.

If any cathedral deserves top marks for presentation and style, this is it – from the moment you spot it from down below, to the sight of this large structure sitting pretty across the green before it, Durham Cathedral makes a statement. Unfortunately, no pictures could be taken inside, so you’ll have to take Alien Wally and Mags’ word for it that the inside of the cathedral is even more impressive than the outside.

Like Yorkminster, Durham Cathedral allows visitors to climb to the top of its tower for a bird’s eye view of the city. Had to be done of course, although Mags had a moment of panic when she read the official blurb promising narrow spiral staircases and more steps than the Scott Monument (325 versus 287 to be exact!). Luckily, claims of narrowness were exaggerated much to Mags’ relief – claustrophobia in addition to fear of heights is not a good combination! They weren’t kidding on the 325 steps though, and it was a long way to the top. As always, though, the views were worth it. This is why Mags does this to herself.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Edinburgh in HDR

Alien Wally's first attempt at HDR photography. Since he's not yet prepared to lay out cash for professional software, he's using a free basic version of FDRTools. Depending on his future successes, you may or may not see a few more of these.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Morning Mags

Ah, the golden rays of morning touching the radiant features of Mags. Note the return of the beanie; with the dusting of snow that was covering the hilltops on the way down to Durham, this was more necessity than luxury. And yes, Alien Wally is shamelessly recycling pics taken over the weekend.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

End Of The Weekend

A superb day to end the weekend on, although the MacNoodle household didn't get much chance to make good with the weather what with all the DIY needing to take place. That said, the puddles of water on the kayak outside never truly defrosted, so staying indoors mostly was probably not a bad idea.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

On Top

Alien Wally will leave the extended blurb to Mags, however here they are on top of Durham Cathedral, after a day's raiding South of the border.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Halloween Costume

Oh wait, he always looks like that.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Cube

"So, we're developing a new office block. It will be big and square. What shall we call it? Anyone? Hey, how about... The Cube!"
Creativity must have been at an all time low at that meeting. Maybe it was inspired by the monstrosity that is the St James Centre which is directly across the road. Alien Wally is taking what could be his last chance to get a picture of the monuments on Calton Hill from this position. No doubt one day he'll end up working in a cubicle inside The Cube for his sins.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Broughton St Mary's

Just down the road from work, Alien Wally stopped to take this picture while on an emergency run to Tesco for more coffee.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Autumn Garden

Possibly the last day of Autumn depending on how one measures these things. The clocks in the UK revert back to GMT from tomorrow, certainly an indication that Winter is bearing down on the MacNoodle household.

Friday, 24 October 2008

4 Seasons

Sun, wind, rain, it was all happening today. Shortly after taking this picture of the sun catching the trees along Queen Street, Alien Wally was doused in damp when the dark clouds caught up with him.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Wallyford Station, 07:06

When Alien Wally gets it together enough to be on the platform in time for the early train, the East Coast Express blasts through on its way to London at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Two minutes later, Alien Wally's train rolls sedately into the station offering a far less exhilirating trip in to the city centre.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

More Bridges, More Trains

Some might say Alien Wally has an unhealthy obsession with trains and bridges. They might be right. Here we have Warriston Viaduct, made slightly more interesting by the stonework under the arches being cut to cater for the angle that the river makes with the bridge. Trains emerging from the Scotland Street Tunnel would cross this bridge heading for Granton Harbour, however nowadays only pedestrians and bicycles have access to it.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Gold In Them Hills

Looking back as Alien Wally got off the train and crossed the line this evening.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Arthur's View

A couple of weeks back, Mags and Alien Wally tried to find their sea view. Unfortunately, even from the upstairs window, the Forth could not be seen. They therefore walked north to find Arthur's View, a break in the woods that provides a view from Arthur's seat round to North Berwick Law.

Sunday, 19 October 2008


Some ruralness from Alien Wally's ride yesterday.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Pencaitland Railway

In times gone by, there were many coal mines dotting the East Lothian landscape. The Pencaitland Railway served these mines, linking villages such as Pencaitland and Ormiston. The line was closed in 1965, and has now been developed as a walk and cycle way. Alien Wally took his trusty bike out along the route, taking this picture of the bridge just outside Ormiston, a bridge that Maw & Paw Wally would definitely have driven over on their last visit.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Tyne River Walk

Mags and Alien Wally would dearly love to be able to claim this as their driveway, but for now they'll have to settle for at least being able to walk down to this gate from their house. Winton House lurks behind the trees, with the River Tyne flowing just out of shot to the left.