Archive for December, 2013

The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 | Distractions

Eminem has courted no lack of controversy over the years. A lot of his songs are about murdering women and doing drugs, two topics which young people seem to identity with to a worrying large extent.

The problem is, it is hard to deny Eminem produces really great music though. He has received almost universal praise from critics and the public alike. He has remained consistently at the top of the charts for the past fifteen years and was the biggest selling artist of last decade. Even The Guardian likes his music.

I haven’t listened to him much since he released The Marshall Mathers LP, but with the release of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 I decided to give it a listen. It’s good. Really good. Enough to overcome the fact that I am not really a fan of hip hop music and make me listen to it.

His lyrics have matured, no surprise given he will turn 42 this year. The subjects haven’t changed too much, and the style remains the same. The lyrics still come thick and fast and delivered with perfection. But the album feels far more reflective than his earlier albums.

Rocksmith Diary: Day 6

Monday, December 30th, 2013 | Music

Feeling a bit more positive today. I’m still unable to set a new high score in guitarade. I can’t even set a score on scale warriors because I can’t get passed the first boss. I think I’m getting closer though. Every now and then, I’m actually hitting the right note for the scales. Just need to keep making progress on it.

Came back to it this afternoon and finally managed to get past the first boss on scale warriors! I had quite a few sneaky looks at the strings but it’s a start. I also managed to beat the second boss and get all the way to level 3. Then lost spectacularly.


Petrol is good for you

Sunday, December 29th, 2013 | Video

Watch this ExxonMobil advert:

It’s promoting petrol. It’s like that parody when The Simpsons go to Epcot. But it’s happening in real life!

Rocksmith Diary: Day 5

Sunday, December 29th, 2013 | Music

I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress today. I played some ducks redux, which is the game where you move up and down the fretboard and once again failed to get anywhere near my high score. This is despite levelling up twice.

I did get better on some of the songs though. I played Sweet Mountain River and got 87% accuracy followed by a 92% accuracy. That is from looking down at the fretboard and strings though. That being said, at least I know what extra to look at now, whereas when I started I couldn’t even do that, so maybe I am making some very slow progress.

I’ve been pretty much playing the guitarcade games all the time because it doesn’t seem to be able to move on with anything until I have mastered getting the right fret and string. However I think it probably is important to keep going back and playing songs as it might be you don’t really see any progress on the games but when you go back and do a song it is more noticeable.

Rocksmith Diary: Day 4

Saturday, December 28th, 2013 | Music

I’ve changed the pick-ups on my guitar and am now getting much better results on String Skip Saloon. I had it set to the lowest setting, bottom pick-up only, but I strum near the top one, so I changed the switch to use the top and middle one.


A lot of guitars will have three pick-ups and five switch positions – these translate to top only, top and middle, middle only, bottom and middle, bottom only.

I’m still finding the amount of time it takes to reload the game frustrating though. I’m just not very good at it and so often lose very quickly. Then it takes ages to get back to the game. Here is a video showing what I mean.

Of course it would help if I wasn’t terrible at the game. But we have to deal with the reality of the situation.

I started playing the power chords game last night though and that is a lot better. It gets you to play a chord, then you have to use it to shoot zombies. Add more chords are added you have to switch between them to shoot at the zombies before they kill you. If you die, you can just continue. This affects you score, but I’m more interested in learning than getting on the scoreboard.

I’m still unable to set a new top score on string skip saloon. I set 4,697,000 ages ago and haven’t been able to get anywhere near it since, even though I set that at a fairly low level and now I’m on level 10, so all my scores have a x10 multiplier on them. I’m having to fight the voice in my head that is saying “you’ll never master this”.

I started playing scale warriors today as well. This seems quite a good game as you have to move around the fret and strings at the same time. I have encountered a weird bug where one of the enemies walks off the screen and then walks on a few minutes later though.

Rocksmith Diary: Day 3

Friday, December 27th, 2013 | Music

I did a couple of extra hours yesterday evening while my enthusiasm is still high. I can’t decide how much extra time to put in or not. On one hand I should get the practice in while I still want to. But on the other maybe it will be less frustrating and I’ll get fed up less quickly if I just stick to the one hour per day.

I spent quite a lot of time on the “guitarcade” stuff, which are arcade games that teach you basic skills like getting the right string and navigating the fretboard. These are brilliant for making repetitive learning fun but you can end up losing on them quite fast and then you have to go through two stats screens, the start screen and the little intro animation before you get back to the game. It feels like I spend more time waiting for the game to restart than I do playing it a lot of the time.

I’m also struggling with some of the basics even though I’m doing okay on the harder stuff. For example I’ve completed the chords lesson to 100% but I’m finding it really hard to hold the pick without gripping it and I really have to focus to do alternative picking (where you go up and down). Maybe this will be easier when I actually know which string is which without looking.

Today I had some problems with the String Skip Saloon game. It isn’t registering a lot of my low-E strums. I thought it might be my guitar at first , especially as it fell apart today. However I had soon had that fixed with my trusty screwdriver and yet the problem continued. This meant I kept losing games because I was strumming E to shoot the bandits but they weren’t being shot.

Sometimes it would just buffer a little and then you would strum again before it caught up with you – sending two shots, one bouncing off the wall and moving all the other bandits forward. Other times it just wouldn’t register no matter how many times I tried and the bandits got to the bar. I had to give up playing the game in the end because it just wasn’t working at all. I tried calibrating my guitar but no solution there either. I might need to fiddle with my pickups as noted on their official forums.

I’ve started playing the ninja slide game too, but I don’t think I will get very far on that until I have mastered navigating the fretboard. I set a new high score on ducks redux though, so hopefully that point isn’t too far away.

Santa visits the office

Friday, December 27th, 2013 | Events

What do you do when your Business Analyst spends all his time working from home? Individually wrap everything on his desk and put it under the office Christmas tree of course.

Raj xmas 1 Raj xmas 3 Raj-xmas-2

How did Sherlock fake his own death?

Friday, December 27th, 2013 | Distractions


Rocksmith Diary: Day 2

Friday, December 27th, 2013 | Music

Still enjoying it, still making some measurable process. The automatic difficulty level is pretty cool. I will play the same song and it will start throwing new things that me. Not that I hit them, but when you miss them all Rocksmith then goes off and recommends some lessons.

Hit my first two-string note today. Took a while but eventually I got there. I think with chords it is just going to be a case of learning the hand positions until it is second nature. It also really hurts my fingers.

One of my criticisms of Rocksmith was that it doesn’t teach you what fingers to use so I was just using my index finger for everything. However it turns out that that is just to get beginners going and as you improve it adds what finder you should be using for each string onto the display!

I almost got stuck in a loop on the slides tutorial as it kept slowing the track down and then I could do it, but when it went at full speed I couldn’t. So we went round in circles with “let’s slow it down a little” and then “you’re ready for this at full speed now” for quite a while. Eventually I mastered it though.

Rocksmith Diary: Day 1

Thursday, December 26th, 2013 | Music

Rocksmith is a game that teaches you to play guitar. It is similar to Guitar Hero, but you play with an actual guitar. They claim it is the fastest way to learn. They also boast of the “60-day challenge” – play for one hour per day, for 60 days, and you will learn guitar.

I’ve had a guitar for ten years but I never took formal lessons because I didn’t want it to become a chore. I was still in education at the time and didn’t want another round of boring homework to do every night. I just had fun strumming it and learning a few basic notes without any real plan. Now I’m older and my cost benefit analysis says it is probably worth trying for two months, so I’m taking Ubisoft up on their challenge. As an added incentive, I’ve told myself that if I make it to the end of the 60-day challenge, I can buy myself a new guitar.

I started yesterday and will be trying to keep a diary of my progress on here. Everything will be filed under a new category “Music” on my blog. Hopefully it won’t get too annoying.

As I’ve covered already, my starting point is zero. I can’t play any musical instrument and I wouldn’t describe myself as having any music talent. I really enjoying singing, but nobody else enjoys it when I do. If Rocksmith can teach me to play, there is hope for basically anyone.

Day 1 entry

Managed to get everything set up. The tuning was a bit frustrating as I thought I kept getting it right but the game insisted I didn’t until I continued to very slightly tweak it for a few minutes per string. Once this was done though I got into the game, watched a few of the videos on strumming and stuff like that then tried a song.

The time flew by; I had done an hour before I knew it. I then set my timer to give me another half an hour which I spent playing a game where you have to shoot ducks by playing the right note and before I knew it this extra half an hour had gone too. I went back to play X-Kid one final time and actually managed to hit some of the notes despite fret and string changes. Sounds simple, but I could not have done that when I started today.