Saturday, 30 December 2017

Snow, Photography and Holidays!!!

Well interweb it has been a while since our paths have crossed.
The weather of late has turned a pale shade of shit but with the snow came an opportunity to get out with my camera to get a few shots of the pretty views before it started raining and all turned to slushy wet cold crap.
One thing that you have to remember when taking photographs in the snow is that the bright white stuff actually fools your camera meter. This means that if you go with the setting that the camera suggests your snow will turn out all grey and dull.
This can be countered by over exposing the image by using the exposure compensation feature or switching it to manual settings and over exposing by about 2 stops.

All this cold weather and about 6 months of personal crap has left myself and Viper in need of a holiday to be honest and so we are looking at trying to get away before the end of March for a couple of weeks, otherwise known as a fortnight just to annoy any Americans reading. lol
Embudu Village in the Maldives is looking favourite at the minute and the weather at this time of year is pretty damn good as well.
All the adverts on the TV have holiday destinations being advertised and this is not helping in my mood.
I'm going to try and take and post more photographs this year so hopefully I will be interacting with you more often in the coming weeks.
Till then I have a bottle of Lanson to interact with as tonight is my New Years Eve as I will be working overnights on the actual New Years Eve and New Years Day.

So I will bid you goodbye for now and I shall go and indulge myself in a glass or 5.

Peace out Y'all The BAGSTA XXXX

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Restaurant Zero, Sun Island Maldives. !!!

After a recent vacation to the Maldives Feel I have to tell people about the amazing Restaurant Zero on Sun Island Resort and Spa.

Having arrived on Sun Island in the Maldives the largest tourist island in the Republic of the Maldives I was intrigued to see a restaurant named Zero, advertised as an ecologically zero impact restaurant serving up ecologically sustainable food from its menu.

After a brief chat with Aurine from guest services I asked if I could take a few photographs and if there was any more information that she could give me regarding how the restaurant worked.

The following day Aurine escorted me to the Zero restaurant where I was met by Abdulla Mausoom Ph.D. The General Manager of the island. (+960 7791001

We sat down for a chat and he explained a little more about how the restaurant came about and how it has developed.

This unique restaurant has been running for around four years now in it's current state with tree top alfresco dining and whilst it's humble roots started as a team idea for growing coconuts, bananas and other agricultural products it is now a fully fledged eco friendly restaurant. The only one of it's kind in whole Republic of the Maldives.

Guests can walk through the gardens and select their own produce which the experienced chefs then prepare for them.
There are several different types of lettuce to choose from, basil, rosemary and other fresh herbs are also grown in the solar powered hydroponic buildings.

Not all produce served at Restaurant Zero is grown on site and this is a conscious decision from the management team so that some produce from other local farmers can be purchased which helps the local economy.
It's all about balance Mr Mausoom explained.
“The local economy benefits we benefit and the guests benefit from a great tasting dining experience.”
Zero restaurant offers a healthy menu which can be combined with fish or meat dishes should the guests so choose.
As I sipped on some fresh coconut milk a waiter delivered 3 stunning plates of food for me to sample. 

The flavours were exceptional and the fresh tuna in the “All greens with Maldivian Tuna Chunk Salad” simply bursting with flavour. The chicken in the “Zero Special” just makes the mouth water 
with flavour and taste and the Fresh Herb Marinated Chicken Winglets are quite simply to die for.

As I explained to Mr Mausoom that they beat KFC hands down he joked that he likes KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King when he visits Europe.
The chicken comes from a poultry farm dedicated to rearing chicken and producing eggs just for restaurant zero.
All produce is grown using organic fertilisers and the whole production is self sufficient.

The restaurant has set opening times but guests can request special opening times for romantic dinners if they so choose and they always try to accommodate any reasonable requests.
Mr M, Waheed the Executive Chef has been in the food industry for over 40 years and has 23 years working with the Villa chain under his belt.

He is responsible for engineering the menu and bringing about any changes.
Each meal is individually prepared, there is no mass production of anything.
In 2016 Sun Island won an award for the most eco friendly island in the Republic of the Maldives.
The large banana plantation and the production of water melons which is a project being run by the chairmans daughter must go someway towards helping towards a Zero carbon footprint.
The water melon plantation has sun flowers growing throughout to attract bees to help with pollination.

There has been a lot of thought gone into Restaurant Zero and if you ever find yourself on Sun Island I strongly recommend a visit here. It might not ease the guilt of 3 aeroplanes and a boat worth of carbon footprint to get here but your taste buds will thank you for weeks to come.  

Peace out Y'all, The BagstaXXX

Friday, 21 April 2017

GT Sport Beta, Peace, Force and Complaints. !!!

Hi interweb, once again it has been a while since we have had much interaction on the. log side of things, nothing personal you understand.
After my operation in February I have been slowly but consistently been getting better. A slower than I would have liked but at least I can spend more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time sat upright now and with this new level of ability comes my return to a bit of gaming.
More to the point the Beta version of GT Sport.
 I think there are still a few beta codes out there to be had as the beta appears to be run for several months.
What it has consisted of so far are Qualifying laps and daily races, The daily races are at set times during the week and weekends.
 Qualifying laps can take place at any time and your best time is saved for the given track, then when you are matched against other players of a similar level your best time is counted and you are put in with players of a similar skill set.

You are also measured by your driving ability and sportsmanship rating which can go up and down depending on how you drive and this is where I think Polyphony need to take a long hard look at things and try to make things a bit fairer.
At the moment if you run off track your SR (sportsmanship rating) will go down and it will also go down if you crash into other cars. The main problem here is that if another car collides with you both suffer an SR point drop. This in my opinion and as somebody who has had his fair share of been rammed off track is a little bit off.
Remembering that this is still in beta I am quite forgiving as most of the time things seem to work OK.
When a car goes off track it appears to turn into a Ghost car till it has spent a certain length of time back on track however this time does not have a set length it would appear and cars seem to become solid again the moment they appear in front of me on track. lol
At the moment it seems that about 50% of the people playing the beta get it, and I have had some very enjoyable races where everybody is playing ball and trying to race properly but the other 50% have been demolition derby type races.

The graphics whilst still unfinished are lovely and the physics of how the cars handle is very good however the matchmaking does leave a fair bit to be desired.
As mentioned earlier it goes on qualifying times and driver rating etc.
So this can be manipulated by simply qualifying slowly you will getup into an easier group that you can then spank and win all the time.
I have found however this is not the best tactic. From what I have experienced the faster and better the driver the less chance you have of getting rammed of track and you tend to be matched up with better drivers that play properly.
One of the best tactics I have found is to take it easy into the first turn and 2nd and 3rd just to hold your line and watch everybody fly past you into a heap in the gravel trap. :)
The transition from qualifying to online seems to loosen everything up a bit, the general feel of the cars on track simply feels a little more loose. (best way I can describe it). You do get a warm up time of a minute or so to get a bit of a feel for things on the server as it is a noticeable difference.
I have a Netduma R1 router and so can see where in the world I am connecting and for the life of me I cannot understand why Polyphony are running a European Beta test on a server on the East Coast of the USA. This is not a misplaced server either as I ping between 94 and 99 MS to it which is about right for that distance.
One thing which may be contributing the the lack of driver skill is the simple fact that not everybody has a Wheel and I am sure many people are trying to play this beta on a controller.
Now to put this in context, A very good friend of Mine Richard or Bev as he is affectionately know (that's a whole other story) used to game with myself and several others most nights on GT5 and we would race for hours having much fun. He is marginally better than I am and would on most races beat me but only just and I would beat him occasionally.
He doesn't have a wheel for the PS4 and as a result on Brands Hatch Qualifying times he was 10 seconds off my pace simply as he was using a controller.
He will be getting a wheel soon and so I expect normal results to resume soon. lol.
I'm using the G29 wheel and pedals and it seems to work well with the beta so far.
You can see some in game video of the beta on my YT channel on the links below.

Sometimes I have found that after the qualifying countdown as soon as the matchmaking starts I will get disconnected from the servers but I cannot complain to much about it as this is a beta and that are probably stress testing server load as well.
All in all so far I have been thoroughly enjoying the beta and am looking forward to release in the UK, I think I recall a release date of November 17th 2017 or there about however previous versions of the game have been set back on numerous occasions including this one.

Anyway enough of my half assed ramblings I think its medication time so I will leave you with this,

"The peace of society is obtained by force." and "You can lie down for people to walk all over you and they will still complain you ain't flat enough."

Peace Out Y'all, THE BAGSTAXXX

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Acupuncture, Holidays and Elgato!!!

Hello interweb, I trust your zero's and one's are still functioning in a manner that pleases the universe.
Ive had an interesting few weeks since we last connected. Some of which I will share with you here.
First of is my health, or lack thereof, you see after my 4th operation on L5 S1 spine location my recovery is not going particulary well.
The previous 3 operations have had me back to been a loon within about 4-6 weeks. This time I am around 10 weeks post op and still having some major issues, no feeling in my right foot, lower back pain, shooting pains through my ass into my foot and generally wandering about like a shambling mound. I think that was dungeons n dragons reference but not sure, if it is the geek is strong in this one. But I digress.
Anyway interweb to try to resolve some of these issues I decided to try some alternative therapy as opposed to just the morphine, codeine, paracetatemols, ibuprofen naproxen and red wine.

So Acupuncture it was. I can apparently claim it back from westfield health scheme so why not?
Well I must say I have been stuck with needles in places I would not care to mention and cupped and manipulated by a very nice lady for 2 hours the upshot of being I actually have sensation back in my right foot.
Sounds great but this is a double edged sword. Now I have feeling back in it I can feel the referred pain in it. Oh FFS when will this shit end.
Oh well, I have another session next week so hopefully I can progress from there and then get back to that mad man Bison my personal trainer for some work on my core body strengthening.

In other news Viper and myself have decided to take a break to our usual destination of the Maldives at the end May start of June, the rainy season. We have been there before at this time and whilst it does give some spectacular rain there is also plenty of sunshine plus its about a grand cheaper.
Heading to Sun Island which by Maldivian standards is Fooking massive. The usual islands we visit you can walk around in about 10 minutes, this place will take over an hour. Over a KM long makes it one of the biggest islands in the Maldives. However I shall reserve judgement till I have spent some time there. Apparently there is tree top dining etc several bars and places to eat so im sure we will be fine.
Best time of year for Whale shark and Manta Ray watching too so fingers crossed there.

I sometimes get lost in what I do and who I know,
Having spent a few years rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous and not really giving them the whole “im so impressed shit” it has been nice for the past couple of nights to have been exchanging a few emails with Alice Cooper, Now there is a nice guy. I met him at a car boot sale years ago. 

On the gaming front my Elgato capture card has been a total pain in the ass for weeks.
Elgato suggest that you record footage on a separate HDD than the one that is running the software.
So I got me a USB 3 HDD and plugged it in to my macbook pro.
Didnt matter what settings I used I got frames dropping and tearing footage etc.
Unplugged the USB drive and used the the hdd of the macbook pro to record footage and hey presto problem resolved..

And so we now come to the bit where im supposed to say something meaningful.
Im kinda stumped today so, I will leave you with this,

The difference between twenty-year-old me and me now is that I don't care if you like me.

Peace out yall, The BAGSTAXXX

Monday, 20 March 2017

Coffee, BMW driver's and Age!!!

Hello interweb, due to the wonders of modern technology I am coming to you live today from the Costa Coffee shop on Ecclesall Road in Sheffield, I am enjoying a very nice flat white coffee and the place is surprisingly quiet for this time.
Shot at Iso 1600 / f8.0 / 1/80th sec / 24mm 

The chap sat next to me does not know that I know who he is, he used to work for the people who look after my web servers but was fired cause he was crap at his job. He is now sat talking bullshit to some other business Chappy. lol.
As I was driving here a BMW driver cut me up, no surprise there but it got me to thinking about the whole type of driver that we experience on the road on a day to day basis.
In the UK I have come to discover by far the worst drivers are in the following order, drivers of used BMW's followed very close in 2nd place by used Audi drivers.
Seriously these people drive and park like total and utter wankers, I will add at this point that not 100% of them but a far higher percentage than drivers of any other vehicles.
I have no idea why this might be.

Sitting here looking around there is an amazing amount of people who are sat, some alone and others with company simply glued to their mobile phones. This is not something that I have only just realised. I have seen it on holiday as well and just about everywhere I go. People walk out in front of my car as I drive because they are so engrossed in whatever it is they are doing on their phone at the time. It would appear that the art of conversation is indeed a dying art.

In other news I am getting a bit bored of the pain now from my recent operation. On previous Op's Id be back at em by now and in full flow but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that this is it now.
It is going to take some adjusting if it is as I have significant pain in my right foot and thigh but the good news is still no cramp in leg so I can still sleep for more than an hour at a time.

I am trying to force myself out to get some more photography done and have even entered a few competitions in the last few days.
Looking through some of my archives for a selective colouring image I stumbled across one of my favourite images. Not many people have showed much of an interest in to be honest but I really like it and these days that is more about what my photography is about. Back to taking images that please me rather than a client. The joys of semi retirement.

The method I used when I took this image was far more involved than what is required today as I have discovered,  but it just goes to show that even an old dog can learn new tricks. :)

And as I must pack up my belongings and return home after my little trip out I will share with you the thoughts of Benjamin Franklin, By my rambling digressions I perceive myself to be growing old" lol

Peace out Y'all, THE BAGSTAXXX

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Pains, Trains and Chicken Stroganoff!!!

Well hello interweb at this bright and early time, 06.04 hrs. Ive been awake since 04.00 hrs but try as I might I cannot get back to sleep.
So I have decided to share some of my recent happenings with you.
The main reason I can't get to sleep is the pain in my right leg and foot. Despite the morphine and various other drugs it is still very painful.
Previous operations have had me up and about with very little pain within about 2 to 3 weeks but this time I am at 5 weeks and still suffering.
I keep trying to do normal things only to pay for it several hours later.
Last night I went down to my local railway station to take a few pics of the empty platforms due to the rail strike. Got a few nice shots and uploaded them there and then with the new MacBook Pro. Worked a treat.
The low light capabilities of the 5D still take me aback.
Called in at Tesco for wine and then picked up a Kebab on my way home.
Watched the Walking Dead with Viper then headed to bed.
Now I am feeling the pain. Felt a lot better when I got back but now I am suffering.
Sunday, Went for a 15 minute outing to the Botanical Gardens and got a few photographs there as well which turned out nice with the spring flowers and the first colours coming through.
Sunday also saw me back in the kitchen cooking proper food for the first time since the operation. I made Chicken Stroganoff which I must confess was pretty damn nice. Minutes to prepare and thrown into a slow cooker for 4-6 hours it wasn't much strain on me either.
3-4 chicken breasts diced and placed in the bottom of a lightly greased slow cooker,
1 pot of soft cheese (philadephia), I always use full fat as I find full fat foods have much more flavour.
1 can of condensed chicken soup, (and the same of water), a good couple of hands full of button mushrooms chopped, 1 Medium sized onion finely chopped and softened for 5 minutes in a pan with a little olive oil. flaked sea salt and ground black pepper corns to taste.
Mix the lot together in a bowl and pour over the chicken.
Leave for around 4 hours on high or 5-6 on low and remove the lid for the last half hour to help the sauce to thicken a little.
Stir occasionally whilst cooking.
You can serve this stuff up on rice, or with pasta or pretty much anything really.  If you're feeling really healthy a bit of broccoli and other veg would work well but once served ( I did mine over Penne pasta) sprinkle a bit of freshly chopped parsley over the food and enjoy.
I have managed a few more games recently in Mission Control and it was a pleasure to be invited for a few games with Mr Relentless UK from the Netduma R1 forums for a few rounds of Call of Duty.
We played Modern Warfare Remastered first and I was surprised at how well I did after over a month off, Still got most captures on Domination but that was probably due to Mr R covering my ass and shooting people from rooftops when I had forgotten to check, lol
Then we tried Infinite Warfare, Mr R kicked some proper ass on Team Death Match with around 49 kills and not to many deaths at all.
I as always on that game got spanked. It just does not play for me. Hit marker after hit marker.
Oh well, good job there are other games to play.
In other game related news GT Sport has been announced to be released on November the 13th In the USA and a few other places but here in Blighty we will have to wait till the 18th of November. That said the company that makes GT games are notorious for putting back the release of the games so we will have to wait and see.
Right then interweb, the bloody birds are sounding more like a football crown than a dawn chorus so I may as well get up and make coffee but I will in light of recent events leave you with this thought,
Joseph Campbell once wrote, "Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain".
Joseph obviously never had 4 micro discectomy operations in the same place.

Peace out y'all, THE BAGSTAXXX

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Operations, Cameras and the cost of living!!!

Hello interweb my old friend, it has been a while.
I initially began blogging with you to help me stop smoking back in 2011 and it worked very well and I have now been smoke free since February of that year.
I am currently laid up in bed after a fourth operation on my spine and so to help beat back the cabin fever I have taken to your zero's and one's once again.
The previous three times I have been back up and about by this time but to date it has been 3 weeks and 4 days which in no way sounds like it could be made into a Sinead O'Conner song.
I am only allowed to sit upright for 15 minutes an hour and to be honest that feels about right.
On the upside they didn't use staples to fasten me up this time so Viper cannot take great pleasure in removing them for me with tools that look like they came straight form the Spanish Inquisition.

It does however look a bit like tyre tracks and lady parts. Anyway enough about my misery.
A short while before my operation I picked up a Canon EOS 5D MK3 camera and managed to put it through its paces a little before getting bed bound.

I have to say that I am very very impressed with this bit of kit.
It has a full frame sensor and the way it handles high ISO images can only be described as stunning.
The lack of grain and noise is images at stupidly high iso levels is simply amazing.
This shot was taken at 20,000 iso. yes 20,000
I also managed to get put and about on a couple of occasions and despite the crappy weather managed to get a few nice shots out in the Peak District.
I went for a steady walk down Wyming Brook which is one of my favourite places to visit but the levels of mud were on another level to what is usually there, thank heavens for walking boots that can be hosed down.

A few days later we had a light dusting of snow which didn't cause me and Thumper (or should that be Thumper and I?) much of a problem and also meant that I could get out to Stanage Edge which affords great views over the Hope Valley towards Mam Tor which always looks gorgeous in the snow.
I am proper itching to get back out there taking photographs because, well it's what I do. I love it and find it very therapeutic.
In other news I have not been able to spend much time in Mission Control and as such have been proper missing playing games on my Playstation.
Infinite Warfare had been playing so badly for me on my PS4 Pro that I gave up on the title after a couple of weeks. I try for a couple of games every now and then but I actually re purchased Black Ops 3 because despite it's issues It plays a world apart from IW.
Infinite warfare seems to be very much a game that you either love or hate judging by the feedback I have read from others and it would appear more people hate it than like it and there has even been rumour of a 5th Map Pack for Black Ops 3.
I am just glad I wasn't sucked into the hype this year to purchase the season pass or I would have been pissed.
Bollocks, just realised I've finished my cup of tea.

So Viper is itching to go on holiday but we are undecided to which direction to go, left or right.
By the time I am fit to go which will be around the end of May heading right towards thew Maldives will put us in one of the monsoon seasons but we have been before at this time and man did it rain but there were enough hours of sunshine to make it OK, plus I managed to get some great photographs to.
The other option is left towards the Caribbean and Viper is getting very excited about the possibility of two weeks on Young Island which I must admit does look quite lovely with a distinct lack of people which is good for me.
I have also decided in the last week to move over to the dark side and have purchased an Apple MacBook Pro.
There are several reasons for this. The weight is substantially less than my 17" laptop that I have been lugging around for years and as such will make it easier on my back.
It is also fast, very fast. Fast enough for me to make proper use of my Elgato Capture device and will even work with the stream command with webcam overlays to my youtube channel at 1080p 60 fps, so you will all soon be able to look at my ugly mug whilst listening to my dulcet tones swearing and using vast amounts of profanity late into the night as I get my ass kicked on Black Ops. lol.
Another reason for the purchase is so that I can carry it about with me to upload photos from the field which will be great for uploading pics to news feeds etc and will be great when I am travelling to upload pics to my blog etc.

Well interweb it has been nice catching up and hopefully over the coming days I will visit you again with a few updates and thoughts from the depths of what is left of my mind.
However for now, be safe in the knowledge that despite the cost of living, it is still quite popular.