Anyone who follows this site will know that I am generally left-leaning when it comes to societal/political matters. I am in favour of gay marriage and I abhor discriminatory and bigoted behaviour. I have no patience for creationists and their pseudoscience. I find myself more drawn to left-wing political parties (such as Labour) than I do the Tories or right-wing parties. This is not to say that I feel every idea to come from the right of politics is bad (I most certainly don’t disagree with every right-wing view, I even hold a few), but I am centre-left of the political spectrum.

So when I learned earlier on of a site devoted not simply to conservative ideals, but extremely conservative ideals, I felt compelled to take a look to see if it was as bad as one commentator on Facebook suggested. The Daily Kos ran an article talking about Conservapedia’s denial of E=mc², and all I could think as I read it was that my eyes hurt.

The site promotes things such as religious-based conversion theory (turning homosexuals into hetrosexuals via Biblical and religious teachings), Young Earth Creationism, and a lot of anti-Obama rhetoric. I have never seen a greater hole of ignorance on the web in all my days.

I’m not going to post a direct link to the site, for that would be to grant them too much attention. Suffice to say, if you want to see it, google conservapedia. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

wpid-1280px-circuit_yas-island.svg_.pngThe final round of my second full season of F1 2009 Wii Edition was, to be honest, an anti-climax. I dare say this is the easiest race of the season, with a track that isn’t especially tricky and an AI that is overly cautious. I qualified on pole without breaking a sweat, and would not only win this race comfortably, but I would in fact lap everyone at least once. It was nice to win, but it was a sedate race, with nothing of note happening.

Perhaps far more interesting is that, having spent two years with BMW Sauber, I have decided for season three to move on. Ferrari offered me a chance to test with them, and I successfully passed, so I race for them next season, partnered by Massa.

Whether a different car will impact upon performances, time will tell.

reply_card [Converted]The most recent title I’ve reviewed so far, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was the last Zelda game to be released before the Wii U was launched, and it incorporated Motion Plus features of the Wii Remote, enabling the actions of Link to mimic the actions you took with the remote – a key point.

I enjoyed this game, which had several new elements to it (such as  the aforementioned mimicking), such as better sword-fights, a whip (most useful!), and other bits and pieces. However, like its predecessor Twilight Princess, there were also elements to Skyward Sword that made for a frustrating experience at times.

Skyward1(A gorgeous game to look at, but not the most wieldy)

Sometimes the controls felt a little off. You would be trying to side-swipe with the sword, but even if you moved the remote in that fashion, you ended up stabbing or slicing vertically – not a problem usually, except some enemies required a certain approach – at best, you’d be wasting time getting it wrong, at worst, dying, and having to replay a chunk of a level.

The sections set in the sky, where you have to ride your flying beast (an enormous bird) could be tedious at times, whilst there are also sections that require you to repeat yourself a few times over hunting for parts to keys, or collecting magical essence (you wind up going back over certain regions more than once, and fighting the same enemies, quite a few times). You have to repeatedly fight a huge whale-like monstrosity, each time with slightly different elements to the battle, but these fights were, in my view, frustrating and repetitive.

Skyward2(Echos of the Wind Waker!)

I guess, being a child of the 90s and therefore the earlier, less linear Zelda games, I found Skyward Sword to be overly structured. Still, it is a good game. The Motion Plus, when executed properly, gives you the feeling that you really are wielding a sword and shield, swashbuckling with weird monsters. Some of the bosses are fun to fight (there’s a huge golden station with massive swords that’s great fun to deal with), and the dungeons are reasonably good (such as the Temple of Time), but as mentioned before, there are too many repetitive elements. I don’t want to be treading old ground over and over. I want to be exploring, and facing imaginative enemies and puzzles that make me think. Skyward Sword doesn’t have as many elements of this as other Zelda games, and thus falls down a little.

I wish I could rate this game higher, but 7/10 is the best it gets from me.

Back to Reviews

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The penultimate round of season two of this little F1 project brings us back to Brazil, and Interlagos. This track has borne witness to late drama in F1 – the title was decided here in 2007, 2008 and 2012.

For me, in this fictional career, the title was already mine, so there was no pressure, other than a desire to have a better race here than I had last time. I was lucky that qualifying was held in dry conditions – I took pole once again (though only by a few tenths of a second from ButtontimeUnfortunately the race was a damp affair! I slipped down to fourth at the start, and struggled to keep pace with the leaders, falling to around four seconds back. On lap three, my front right tyre failed, and though I was able to keep ahead of everyone else as I limped back to the pits, I wound up some 18 seconds behind the 19th placed man.

So began my charge back up the field. I would gradually catch and pass one car after another, worming my way through the pack. I had to be brave on occasion – a few late braking moments into turn 1 (and also turns 4 and 13) paid off here and there, but a few moments of haste saw me slide wide here and there, costing me time.

Throughout the pit stops (and thereafter) I found myself catching and passing the pack, finding myself in fourth once more. I was aided by back markers holding up people here and there, allowing me to catch and pass Barichello (despite sliding wide at turn 4 on one occasion), so with 10 laps remaining I was around 10 seconds behind Vettel in second.

I managed to close to within 1.5 seconds of him with a few laps to go, then yet again ran wide at turn 4. With my tyres becoming worn, Vettel was starting to pull away again.

I then had a massive slice of luck. On the final stretch of the last lap, Vettel got caught in a train of back markers. I was able to swoop by them and Vettel, taking an unlikely 2nd place!

All in all, considering the wet track, the puncture and having to make a lot of moves stick as I pushed, I dare say this was my best race of this career. Interlagos is not one of my favourite tracks, I don’t like wet races and I had to fight my way back up the field. To finish 2nd in those circumstances is a great result!

We are less than 200 days from the new Star Wars film, and whereas at one stage I was cautiously optimistic (but also quite wary) of the new film (in fact, when first announced, I was highly dubious), but now I find myself wondering if the film might actually surpass all expectations.

The prequel trilogy was largely derided as a FX-laden, wooden set of films, marked with the occasional burst of excellence. What the new trilogy appears to be attempting is to recapture the spirit of the original trilogy, regarded as great pieces of film-making and full of heart.

The imagery is certainly evocative.

My desire to see this film is growing – by Christmas I suspect I’ll be boiling over!

It’s the classic stuff that is great to see – TIE fighters, X-Wings, the Falcon, Storm Troopers and Darth Vader’s burnt out helmet are all evocative images – the trailers have done a good job of whetting the appetite without revealing any details of the plot – a rare thing these days.

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The Japanese Grand Prix was the latest race run, as Season Two of this little adventure enters its twilight phase. Coming to this race, I was 29 points clear of Jensen Button, with only 30 points available. Owing to being guaranteed a better record on count-back (thanks to more wins), Button needed me to score no points in the final three races, and he had to win them all.

Suzuka is a track that is deceptive. It looks fast, and certainly has fast sections, but grip is more important, especially through the high-speed sequence of corners that are turns 1 to 8. The aerodynamic properties of the car need to be set for downforce, to keep the car on the road through this sequence.

In practice I did simulation runs on hard tyres, trying to see if I could get through the race on two stops rather than the three stops that I usually favour. Japan is a 53-lap race, and I determined that I could stretch the hard tyres to 20 laps. Two stints on the hard compound and one on the soft would see me cut a stop out, thus saving time.

Normally in qualifying I end up not being especially quick in Q1, but I do enough to get through to Q2. This time around, I topped the time sheets in each session, so it was yet another pole.

Confession time. When I ran the race, on lap three I ran wide at turn 1 and lost my front wing. I was prepared to accept this – it was my error (I carried too much speed into the corner). However, upon rejoining the track a driver ahead went wide and triggered yellow flags (meaning no overtaking). I couldn’t control my car (an F1 car without a front wing is a very different beast to one with a front wing), and accidentally slid past another car – for which I earned a drive-thru penalty.

Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared to accept this – I felt it was overly harsh.

Upon restarting the race, things went smoothly. I lost out to Button at the start of the race but after a couple of laps was back in front and was able to build up a decent lead, so much so that I pitted on lap 21 and out back out in the lead (albeit narrowly). By the time I had pitted again on lap 41, I was very in the clear, and on the soft tyres I was able to pump in some quick laps. In fact, my advantage was so much that I lapped the entire field – passing Webber and Trulli on the final lap!

I don’t think I’ve managed to do anything like that on this game before. Regardless, it was merely icing on the cake. I had my second championship, this time with two races to spare!

wpid-wp-1421593036040.pngArriving (metaphorically of course) to the Singapore Grand Prix, I was 27 points clear in the title race with a maximum of 40 points available. If I took 3 or more points than Jensen Button, the championship would be mine for the second year running, with three races to spare (whereas in my first season, it went down to the final race).

Singapore is a very different track to the previous race at Monza. Whereas Monza is all about speed (you want the car’s aerodynamic properties set for max speed and max acceleration), Singapore is a street circuit with plenty of tight corners and chicanes, so here it’s all about grip.

I wouldn’t describe any particular part of this track as being challenging – but you need to keep up the concentration here, for the race is long and one lapse of focus could see you hit a barrier. Backmarkers present a problem on certain parts of the track, where the circuit narrows and you can’t squeeze by.

The worst section of track is turn 10. In real F1 this bit has been modified to smooth out the bumps, but here this little chicane is very bumpy, and attacking it at full speed can easily lead to losing control of the car. Hence, I did not hit this at speed (which also made my arrival to turns 11 and 12 easier).

As ever, I secured pole position without fuss, and though I lost out briefly at the start, regained the lead quickly, seeing out another somewhat uneventful race. Behind me, the positions kept chopping and changing (the Brawns and the Red Bulls doing battle), and I hoped that Button would be bumped down to third or lower, thus giving the title to me with room to spare. Alas, it was not to be, with Button taking second, meaning we go to Japan with a 29-point gap between us. I need only finish ahead of him to secure the title – in fact, he must win, and have me take no points, to remain with a chance.

So we are now seven rounds in to the F1 calendar this season, and round 7 brought an almost routine one-two finish for Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton taking his fourth win of the year.

HamiltonCanada(Hamilton led Rosberg for the entire race)

Hamilton had qualified on pole, once again out-qualifying Rosberg, and at the start he got away cleanly enough to keep his teammate at bay, whilst the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen nearly squeezed by, but had nowhere to go but the outside of turn 2.

From then on it was tyre, brake and fuel management for a lot of drivers, which led to frustration flaring for some.

Alonso blows a Fuse

AlonsoCanada(McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was passionate on the radio, likening the team’s performance to that of ‘amateurs’)

It was a sorry race for McLaren, with both cars retiring due to exhaust problems, and Alonso getting worked up over a request to save fuel. The team once again did not have the power to remotely challenge for points, with Alonso battling it out with Saubers and Toro Rossos – a far cry from where he wants to be. Button meanwhile, didn’t even make it to qualifying, having to start at the back of the grid and taking a penalty for replacing parts to the car.

Red Bull Obscurity

Yet again Red Bull accomplished nothing of note. Daniil Kvyat took 9th place, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who won here last year, was a measly 13th, outperformed by the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz. Things however, did take a turn for the better for Lotus.

GrosjeanCanada(Grosjean had a bump with Manor’s Will Stevens)

Pastor Maldonaldo picked up his first points of the year with a credible 7th place, and Romain Grosjean finished 10th (though he might have been higher up the field, but not for an ill-timed lapping of Will Stevens – he cut across the Manor driver as they approached the final chicane, doing so too quickly and running over Stevens’ front wing in the process. He punctured a tyre in doing so and was forced to pit).

Vettel shows Class

A combination of car trouble and a grid penalty put Vettel back to 16th on the grid for the race – but he was the man of the race, making move after move to climb up the order and eventually finish 5th. His Ferrari teammate missed out on third after spinning at the tight hairpin toward the end of the lap, handing the initiative to Williams’ Bottas (his and the team’s first podium of the year). Massa, who started 9th, was able to finish 6th, meaning Williams have consolidated 3rd place in the constructor’s championship.

All in all, it was not the most exciting race, with the two Mercedes both being told to manage different issues, and therefore not really getting to fight it out. Rosberg would sometimes get to around 1.1 seconds of Hamilton – nearly in DRS range – but Hamilton would always manage to keep ahead, ultimately seeing out his fourth Canadian GP win. He now leads Rosberg by 17 points in the championship standings.

Back to F1 2015

Recently my wife, daughter, step-daughter and her daughter spent a week in Great Yarmouth. It was nice to get away from all the stresses and strains for a short while, and we crammed quite a lot into that week, including swimming, a trip to the Sea Life centre, bouncy castles and a whole lot more!

Of course, it’s always nice to come home to your own bed, and as we settled into bed on Friday, I was pretty sure I’d close my eyes and be out like a light.

Unfortunately, there was someone outside with other ideas.

At around 1am, both my wife and I were awoken by the sound of our front door rattling. Someone was shaking the door handle, but unluckily for them, our front door is pretty noisy at the best of times, let alone when someone is aggressively shaking it.

I leapt out of bed and used the torch on my phone to shine a light down stairs, turning on lights as I passed them, and checked the house over to be sure no one had gotten in. I phoned the police, who sent someone around pretty quickly, and they advised us it was probably someone drunkenly trying to get into the wrong house (a genuine attempt to break in wouldn’t take place so noisily, and if they were that determined to get in, they’d break a window. By now paranoid, we tried to get back to sleep, and eventually did, but I dare say it was a fitful sleep, with every little noise disturbing us.

It would have been bad enough if just my wife and I lived here, but we have a five year old daughter too, and when you’re a parent, even the remote prospect of anything happening to your child will bring you in a cold sweat.

The audacity of thieves is astounding. These days they are getting more brazen, and I am giving serious thought to investing in a burglar alarm as soon as I can afford one. It shouldn’t be a necessity, but I fear it is.

wpid-wp-1421397685770.pngSo the European leg of the season came to a close with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. This track has the highest average speed of any track in Formula 1, with only a few chicanes and moderately tight corners to break up fast curves and straights. It has not been a circuit I’ve traditionally enjoyed, but I did win here in the 2009 season, and I was confident of doing so once again here.

Yet again I was out-qualified, this time by Button, having assumed I’d secured pole. As the race started I slipped down to third at the first corner then, as I zipped by Button and Webber in the run to turn 7, I hit the brakes too late and slipped down to 4th. That mistake would thankfully not prove too costly, and I was able to fight my way back up and into the lead.

I also discovered I made life hard for myself with my pit stop strategy. A 53 lap race, I did 20 laps on hard tyres at the start, pitted again on lap 33, and again on lap 46. In hindsight, I could have pitted again for hard tyres on lap 20, and gone on to lap 40, before closing off with a 13 lap run on soft tyres. I did three stops when I might have gotten away with two, but in the end, I still came out of my third stop narrowly ahead of Button (but I let him get a lot closer than I should have).

Another win has seen my lead grow to 27 points. With only four races remaining, I could win the title at the next race in Singapore. I need to take 3 or more points than Button to ensure the title with three races to spare. It may yet happen!