Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bark/Byte: Diarrhoea, Chocolate and Japanese Shipping

Apologies for being quiet these last few days, but as the post title intimates, I have been rather ill. My least favourite recurrent malady (gastroenteritis) has struck again, leaving my bowels in a state of violent rebellion for the last few days, though the trouble in the Balkans has finally decided to allow UN mediation and a ceasefire has been called.

The last four days have been spent (in almost equal amounts of time) in the bathroom and bedroom, performing emergency evacuations and resting somewhat fitfully, respectively. If there is one positive to take from this most unpleasant of illnesses, it's that I've lost nearly a stone in less than a week, given that the only things I've been able to eat in the last five days are a packet of tortellini and a couple of bagels. Well, it's one way of reducing the weekly food shopping bill, I guess.

Today has mainly been spent watching TV. I seem to be getting unusually good reception on Five at the moment, so I took advantage of it this evening to watch the double bill of Grey's Anatomy. It's not normally a series I'd bother with, but it had Christina Ricci guest-starring in it tonight, plus the central story was about some muppet who'd shot himself with a home-made bazooka, so it was actually quite dramatic. Still not as good as House, but then, what is?

I also spent quite a bit of time today eating chocolate, with it being Chocolate Sunday (now, this fact might offend some more religious readers - not that I expect I have any - but today is clearly set aside in the calendar for the consumption of fine chocolate; the Christian lobby have simply derailed yet another pagan festival to shoehorn in one of their own celebrations onto the calendar. Eggs representing the rebirth of Christ, indeed. Pffft!)*, since my dear Fleur had seen fit to provide me with a Cadbury's Caramel chocolate egg (given to her by a devoted student, no doubt) to tide me over until she comes back next week with proper continental stuff from the chocolate section of the Altkirch Leclerc supermarket, which is larger than most UK supermarket tinned vegetable sections. Tangentially, French supermarkets are incredible places. You get a larger selection of chocolate in French supermarkets than you would get in five UK supermarkets combined. Similarly with wine - though the booze sections in UK and French supermarkets might be roughly equivalent (the French just edging it in terms of volume, and overwhelmingly superior in terms of quality and price, however) in French supermarkets the balance between home-grown and foreign wines is very different to that which you'd find in the UK. In France, the larger supermarkets will have at least two isles over 100 feet long, with sections divided up into every single French 'Appellation' (that is, geographic region that grows wine in France) every dozen feet or so, leaving just a three foot section at the end of one of the isles for 'foreign' (i.e. non-French) wine. Not parochial at all then...

Finally, when I've not been sick, watching TV or asleep, I've been launching primitive aquatic explosive robots of death at Japanese merchant vessels in Silent Hunter 4, which has turned out to be better than I expected it to be. I will be writing my review of it for Pro-G tomorrow for posting sometime in the week, so I won't preempt too much here; but despite a few bugs and graphical issues, it's definitely a solid title. The lack of anti-aliasing is a shame, and I've been forced into a few annoyed reloads after very random things happening during time-compression (more detail about this will be in the review), but the return to Pacific is a welcome one, and it's nice to commanding a Gato again, after the previous two games' indenture to the Kriegsmarine. The original Silent Hunter still rates as one of my favourite simulations and this comes close, but Silent Hunter 4 still has a few too many little niggles to be a classic as far as I'm concerned. If you're into the genre, it's definitely worth checking out, but as with Silent Hunter 3, SH4 is trying to straddle the simulation and action game genres, and not entirely successfully...

*Cue Christian sense of humour failure alert. AWOOGA! AWOOGA!
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