Another adventure with “That’s Entertainment”. And crisps

Long suffering viewers will know I collect CDs, to the point of hoarding, so I’m always on the lookout for a bargain or seven.

I attended work (for only three times this week, thank you peepers), and a colleague, who is also into music informed me that the “That’s Entertainment” store at Dalton Park was closing down. This was good news to me. It meant that they’ll be having a “clearance event”, and getting shot of a load of old stock that they can’t be bothered to ship off to other stores, or back to the magical warehouse, full of whimsy and music.

Saturday came around all too quickly, and off I jolly well popped. Usual route to Peterlee, and then I’d get the 22 bus from there to Dalton Park. No dramas. Excfept I found that a rival company had started running a service that goes pretty much directly to Dalton Park, and it stops at the bottom of Mercuryvapour Towers’ leafy driveway, give or take a few hundred metres. So, I could have saved myself the hassle of waiting half an hour for a bus. Anyway, I rattle on enough about buses on Facebook, I’m sure you don’t care on this.

Aaaaanyway. Two bus journeys, and I find myself outside of Dalton Park. It’s a weird shaped shopping complex, rather like half a horseshoe, with strange plastic sheeting covering the aisles. You know, the stuff that’s permanent, but goes mouldy really quickly, so looks rotten after a couple of years. I didn’t come here for any other shop other than “That’s Entertainment”, and I skipped on merrily by, as I ignored the rest of the shops..

In the window, there was a sign that said “75% off all replay stock”. Those are the second hand CDs which I was looking for! This could be interesting. A quick glance around the shop showed that most of the things worth anything (for me, CDs) had already disappeared – either been sold, or sent back to the warehouse. Not sure, but my heart sank a little when I noticed *the* little blue table. This was where the 49p CDs were housed. It was completely empty. Not a disc in sight. Couldn’t help but think my journey was completely wasted. That was, until I took 5 steps forwards, and noticed an almost entire wall, crammed full of 49p CDs.

And, not only were there thousands of them, but it turns out they were actually giving them away at 12p each, and multi-disc sets actually counted as one disc. Sometimes, they’re a bit picky about that, but the deal of the collection was 5 Simon + Garfunkel CDs and a DVD for that very price. 2p a disc. Thank you to the totally random guy who tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d be interested in it. Yes, sir. Yes, I would.

At some point, I’d ventured the shop looking for a shopping basket, as the pile of loose discs I’d picked out was looking pretty precarious. This also meant selecting discs was a lot easier. they’d just get thrown in, and I could sort them out later.

After about 2 hours, I gave in. I was in pain from repetitiveness, standing with my head slumped, looking down as my halds flipped quickly through the CDs was starting to give me neck ache. I don’t think I touched half of the stock. Nothing more that could have been done. I did end up with a couple of duffers, namely 2 pirated Now 74 discs, and a Now 31 disk, professionally pirated. Both of which I had anyway, but if I had checked the discs before I took them to the counter, they’d be in a skip right now.

The day wasn’t over. [Person who doesn’t like to be named in public] picked me up, and we went through to Newcastle. A walk-around the usual shops, including a check in PC World to see if the hard drive prices had gotten any lower (they hadn’t), and a quick perv in All Saints because some of the ladies in there have really nice bottoms. (Careful, Jamie, some of the girls might be offended by that – Ed). Oh, OK, They ALL have lovely bottoms.

The day was nearing an end, and I had one last stop to make. A chain store named “Bargain Buys” sell these really nice crisps.

Daddykins also likes these particular crisps, and a multipack of 6 different types are £1, so I thought I’d stock up, and get 4 packs. I get to the till, and the guy offers me a 50-pack box of Golden Wonder “snacks” (Cheesy balls, Onion Rings, and Salt ‘n’ Vinegar Sticks) for £1 because the expiry date was the day after. Personally, I think they had a little competition between the staff members, as when I agreed to purchase, he seemed overly enthusiastic. Still, crisps don’t go poisonous overnight, and almost a week later, they’re still perfectly edible.

This was where I originally was going to conclude the blog, as the bargain hunting was over for the day. I never fully finished writing it, as I got sidetracked by Pinball, or something. 2 sleeps later, Monday arrived. It was an uneventful day at work at Employment Palace. I finished, headed for the bus, and missed it by about a minute. Oh well. Thankfully, this job, unkile my last one, means that if I miss a bus, I can just cut through the shopping centre, and get all number of buses (Three, actually) close to Mercuryvapour Towers.

So, I begin to cut through the shopping centre. One of my new haunts is a shop called “ReNew”, which is a bit like “That’s Entertainment”, albeit with less organisation. CDs are placed on the shelf by letter, but it’s a gamble whether the letter is the artist, or the album title. The are also large wooden bins where CDs are just thrown in without order. Everything is £2 per disc, or 3 for £5.

Anyhooooo, this particular Monday, I walked past, and there were balloons outside, and staff holding charity donation buckets. Normally, I’d go in the opposite direction at the site of such a contraption, but I was curious. It turns out they were laving a literal stock clearance, and giving everybody who went in there 10 CDs / DVDs (in total), as long as you put a donation in the bucket.

I donated every penny I had on me at the time, and I hope my 65p helps!

My first few days with the QPAD MK-80

… and this, I promise, will be my last post on the matter. It’s been several days since I brought home my latest toy, the afore-mentioned mechanical keyboard, and I have to say I’m really liking it. It’s supposed to be a gaming keyboard, but that’s not really the reason I bought it. I just wanted something that actually felt decent when I typed.

Admittedly, this isn’t the first mechanical keyboard I’ve used or owned. Back in the late 90s, I was given an old PC that came with some bits and bobs, including possiblt the oldest keyboard known to man. I swear, I was expecting bits of typewriter to be stuck to it. It was so old, that the F keys were down the left hand side of the keyboard. It was so old that I can’t find a picture of it. Photography probably wasn’t invented back thenIt was also switch controlled, but unfortunately, some of the keys were knackered. It was OK to type on, but a few of the keys were unresponsive, and I eventually gave up on it. It kept me in supplies of small springs for ages. Years after, I was still standing on them with bare feet. Nasty.

Anyway, I digress, and I go back to my review. I’ve settled on typing with it really rather quickly. For those of you who couldn’t be bothered or have “forgotten” to watch the video, it’s got Cherry MX Blue switches. There are many different type of switches out there, but you’ll need to find these out for yourself. I doubt I’ll have the money to invest in other keyboards in the coming years, so unless some kind companies want to send me “samples” of their keyboards, then this’ll be the only review you’ll be getting!

So, functionality. Well, it’s not exactly feature rich as far as some gaming keyboards go. Pass-through connectors for 2xUSB, audio and microphone jack. The USB ports are handy, I can never have enough of those near the front of my PC, so two more is an added bonus. The pass-through connectors… meh, I can live without those for now. My PC case has mic / headphone jacks on the front, so I don’t really need those at the moment. I’ll probably end up getting a new computer in a couple of months, so maybe there’ll be a use for them then. Seeing as this is a gaming keyboard, however, there are absolutely no other gaming features. The blue LEDs, however, have four levels of brightness. When I first discovered the LEDs were blue, I was just that little tad disappointed. Some of you may remember that my streetlighting interest came about partly because I could see a blue halo around mercury streetlights. About 25 years later, I actually worked out that was because my eyes actually saw blue light as slightly out of focus. Thankfully, the light levels range from just comfortable, so it looks like the writing on the keycaps is blue, to an intense sheen of blueness, that wouldn’t be out of place on a hospital toilet ceiling to stop the smack rats going in and shooting up.

The blue LEDs are also included in the design of the status lights. Ironically, this is a gaming keyboard, and if you switch them all on, they look like the highest score I’ve made, in pretty much every game I own…

BLue LEDs on my keyboard
BLue LEDs on my keyboard

… and also the mount of actual readers who have managed to sift through this pile of absolute blithering crap. Ahem.

Actual feel of the keyboard is really nice. I’ve been asked if it’s improved my typing. Probably, but then I’ll get to the FAQs in a sec. The feel is that rubberised plastic, on the outer of the board, and on the wrist rest (which yes, I did manage to get fixed to the keyboard!) Best way to describe it is like those sightly up-market “Smooth grip” Bic biros. Although it doesn’t feel too bad, there’s a disadvantage, and that’s every bit of grease on your fingers shows up like some kind of shiny skidmark, and every bit of dead skin that you shed goes into the grooves, meaning that’s only been here for 3 days and it already looks rather unpleasant.

It's a mucky keyboard!
It’s a mucky keyboard!

Of course, shedding skin is a human way of life, and I’d much prefer it if I’d shed moob fat, but due to the matt black nature of the keyboard, and the fact it has a little groove running around the edge of it, I wouldn’t be too surprised if, in a couple of months time, that little groove will look like a re-enactment of the Battle of The Somme, but with extra blood, sweat, shit piss and Iron Brew… OK, I jest, but that brings me to another possible downside, there are no drain holes!. I’ve always got a glass of “water” next to me when I’m at my computer, and many times there’s been a bit of a close shave, or there’s been actual spillage. The last few cheap keyboard I’ve had, have had drain holes in the bottom, should the worst happen, but this doesn’t appear to have theme. Maybe it’s because of the hundred or so switches, LEDs and other tomfoolery crammed inside here, but I have a feeling it’ll be only one small mistake with a beverage and Pratfall Percy sat here, and it’ll all be over. Quite literally. Of course, now that I actually don’t drink as much, there’s much less chance of that happening.

Right, sod it, I’m nearly up to 1000 words. I’ve been asked two questions about the keyboard. It’s nearly 1 in the morning, and I’ve got to be up for work. So, I promise, I’ll break my promise and conclude tmorrow, or whenever I can be bothered. Bet you can’t bloody wait.

Speechless. Absolutely speechless.

I’ve been on this planet for 33 years. Technically, I’ve been alive longer than Jesus. It is not until this moment I have witnessed stupidity like this. I’m not talking “sticking-a fork-into-a-plug-socket” stupid, after all, we’ve all been curious after licking the connections on a 9v battery. I’m taking this to a whole new level of stupid. This is a good one.

I’m talking pens here. Yeah, stay with me as this will be worth it. What is your first memory of holding a pen? Was it drawing shapes on the covers of your dad’s favourite and now priceless records? Do you remember drawing nonsensical circular scribblings on your birth certificate, because it happened to have been left in the reach of little hands? ? Do you lie awake at night, pining for the smell of old fashioned permanent markers before they took all of the chemicals out? Do you still think back to the days, in infants, when Peter Thompson fell out with you, because he wanted to use the green crayon you were using, and instead of lending him it, you were greedy and kept it all to yourself?

Is the answer no, to all of the above? Well, then. You’re completely and utterly normal! It’s drummed into us at an early age, so it becomes almost like instinct, that a 6-inch plastic instrument with a point on the end, will leave some mark on the paper that the pointed end makes contact with. We are all to young to remember it.

Imagine my surprise, when in Asda tonight, I found some markers. You know, normal markers. A bit like sharpies in their design. Perfectly acceptable for writing “PORNO” on the last DVD you’ve just burned. Nothing special. Except these markers had directions for use.

“Select a pen and remove the cap to reveal the point. Touch the pen to the writing surface and move along the material to leave an ink mark as desired”. I absolutely shit you not. That is the directions on them.

Right now, when it comes to typing the blog, I am at a standstill. where do I go with this? Octopuses tentacles full of writing material are flailing in every direction. Do I take the piss? Do I question why these directions were needed?

All I can think of is that these pens were designed and made by humans. Those directions of use were typed up by a human. Somewhere down the chain, there must be a whiteboard, or a document saying “These are going to manufacture. These directions of use must be on them”. Nowhere, during that process, did someone think “Aren’t we over-simplifying things here?” For instance, the guy, at the keyboard of the printer… maybe they got paid for filling both sides of the pen up with text?

I’ll never know. It’s hurting what’s left of my brain thinking about it.

So, your Sandisk Sansa MP3 player is quiet…

Cor, two posts in two days. I’m really spoiling you. Well, actually, this is mainly just information for others who have experienced the same problem as me, or are thinking of getting one of these. This is the one I have, it’s listed as the “Sandisk Sansa Clip Zip”, and it looks a little like this…

8754001871_625cc42695_o

Well, in fact it looks a lot like this, because that’s actually it. Now, I bought it a couple of weeks ago, and have suffered with the device having very, very little volume. I happened to be in may favourite chatroom, when Marko (who has posted a few comments on here too) mentioned, in passing that he had one.

[20:18:42] [Marko] I remember showing my mum and dad my little sansa clip mp3 player
[20:19:19] [Scribbler] Haha, I’ve just got one of those sansa clips
[20:21:38] [Scribbler] I need something to make it louder
[20:21:44] [Marko] louder?!
[20:21:52] [Marko] did you set the region to “world”
[20:22:10] [Marko] if you have it set to europe, it’ll be quiet
[20:22:15] [Marko] due to EU regulations

Well, I rushed downstairs as fast as my milky-white legs could carry me. I remember it asking me the region, but thought that was just for the radio, which I’ll probably never use anyway. I negotiated the menu and couldn’t find an option for that. However, I did a factory reset on it (Settings > System Settings > Restore), and got the option for “Europe” and “Rest of World”.

Naturally, I selected RoW, and found out I could then crack the volume up until ELEVEN. Problem solved, and I shall have a happy bus journey listening to “Crap From the Past” until my ears bleed.

The Steam Easter Indie sale. My purchases.

EDIT MARCH 2017: No doubt there’ll be a steam sale in the next month or so, and in the off-chance someone finds this during the same, here’s my update on what I still think of these games…

So, for a few more days, Steam are having what they’re calling their “Indie” sale. These are games what are written by individuals, or small independent companies. My love for them dates back to the days where another word for them was “public domain”. and the games were on the Amiga. I would save up what little pocket money I had, and rush down to the now defunct “Peak Computers” in York Road. to pick up 3.5″ floppies, with some of the latest “PD” games on them.

Fast forward almost 20 years, and my love for the independent developer has not died, and as this is a sale, I thought I’d buy a few. I’m brassic for the next 5 weeks, so this couldn’t have came at a worse time, but I’ve still picked up a couple up.

First up… “Thomas Was Alone”, in the sale for £2.99.

This obviously comes out of the “Less Is More” stable of graphics, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Movement is fluid, as you’d expect from 4-sided polygons, music is perfectly acceptable, but the highlight of the game is strangely the narration, and the fact that each block has its own story. Narration is provided by Danny Wallace, someone who I have actually heard of. As with all of these types of games, you’ll think you’re stuck on a level, then get fed up and quit, only for you to sit there for the next 20 minutes, staring at your desktop, working out how to do this. You eventually have an idea, you load it straight back up, you complete the level, and the circle of life is complete.

MARCH 2017: I don’t really play this one anymore. It’d been a good 18 months since I last gave it a blast, but I do remember getting into it slightly. Probably worth getting if it appears cheaper.

Hokay… next up… “Garry’s Mod”, which set me back a whopping £1.49

I… I just don’t get it. It seems insanely popular, but I just can’t seem to be able to do anything at all with it, and where’s the fun in that? I spawned some balloons, which I popped. Some crows and seagulls, which I shot. A table, which I threw about a bit, and that’s practically been it. Maybe I’m just reading too much into a sandbox game which is many years old, but I can’t see the point in it? Is there any point? There’s even Steam achievements that claim “2 hours of your life wasted”. Maybe I’m just too old for this shit? See, now if I was 4 when this game was released, the little-me would have embraced it with open arms. The 33-years-old me keeps thinking “Well, I really could be doing the pots right now. Or getting myself a life”. naaah, the latter will never happen.

Well, I really hated this one, as I couldn’t get anything to work as it was supposed to. Currently uninstalled, and I don’t geel any great need to ever go back to it.

And so… onto “Super Hexagon”…

Well, this one set me back a silly amount of money. 67p. to put that into context, a can of coke out of the vendy at “Newest Employment Palace” sets me back 70p. therefore, if I can get 30 seconds worth of enjoyment out of this game, then it’s been worth it. And you, know what, I haven’t managed to get any more than what’s stated above – 24 seconds! Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily! It is very, very difficult. For me, anyway. If you’ve got the hand-eye co-ordination of a nettle, you’re going to struggle with this. And that’s its beauty, as strange as it may seem.

You control a pointer on the screen, which you rotate by the cursor keys, and you have to avoid hitting the bright lines. Seems simple enough, except the screen is constantly spinning, and the playfield is spinning in the opposite direction. The screen pulsates to the sound of the music, and everything gets faster, at more of an angle the further you get into it. I’d say, the average game length for me is 12 seconds. It’s something I can’t describe in text.

Before I loaded it up tonight to get the screenshots, I was going to put it in the “This is shit” pile, but then I broke my record by a few seconds, then a few seconds more, and those small time differences actually gave me a sense of achievement. Last time I felt that good after 20 seconds of action, I was [insert sexually explicit joke here]

MARCH 2017: Worth every single penny of what I paid. I decided to tackle the hardest levels first, then work back, as it made the easy levels so much simpler. Up to about 75 seconds on the easy level now. Get it, if it reappears.

Last, but not least, “Puddle”.

I do like my physics games. I’d put them up there with driving games as one of my favourite types of game. the premise is simple. you control fluid, you tell it where to go by rotating the game screen using the cursor keys. The more fluid you get to the exit, the better your score. If fluid leaves the screen, for instance, it gets caught somewhere, and it disappears off the top of the board, you lose it. Each level requires you to finish with a certain amount of fluid. Go below this, and it’s game over. Naturally, there are also obstacles that will evaporate fluid, making it just that little more tricky.

There’s plenty of worlds to explore, and the graphics are the best out of the bunch I’ve purchased of the last couple of days. Despite it being pretty much a physics engine simulation, it just feels too linear. You can only turn the board to a certain angle, which invariably leaves you with large smatterings of stuff everywhere, which naturally disappears off the top of the screen. I might just be in the early stages of the game. I don’t know if I can be bothered getting much further.

MARCH 2017: Got bored of this one really easily too. Not for me, I’m afraid.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Get these while they’re hot. Or cheap.

THE BINDING OF ISAAC

Have I mentioned this before? If not, get it. Now. 99p. This game is huge, yet you’ll actually struggle to see much of it. Think “Atic Atac”, but with poo jokes and random maps. I bought this ages ago, and have never been able to take screenshots from it. Odd.

MARCH 2017: Yeeeeeeah, it’s still OK I suppose. I could never get anywhere wit it, and it gets repetitive very quickly, even though the maps are different each time.

10,000,000

I would love this, but it falls into the all-too-obvious trap of getting easier and easier the more you play it. It’s not that you actually get better, it’s that the items you unlock just make the game easier. I’ve not played it for a while though, as I know I’m literally a couple of playthroughs off getting 10,000,000 points to complete the game (hence its name). I’d completely write it off, if it wasn;’t for the fact one of the tunes in the game is remarkably similar to “Monday“, one of my favourite Amiga chiptunes of all time. Also, this one, known as “intro33.mod“>. I’m posting it here, as it’s taken me 20 years to find out its actual name. I just knew it as the jolly little tune that played when I inserted my Project X disk, with its blue handwritten label, and the “Future Zone” logo emblazoned on the disk shutter. I digress.

MARCH 2017: I still really enjoy this game, and thankfully it’s still available on Steam, so if there’s a similar sale in 2017, I’d recommend getting it..

I was going to put a couple more in, but there’s no point. All I have to say is that everyone on the planet, whether, to mis-quote Johnny Mathis, you’re white, brown, yellow, it doesn’t matter. you just have to own Audiosurf, Chime or Beat Hazard.