A new design for your trophy cabinet

Apple’s recent update to iOS12 has brought with it plenty of changes, some are good, some are bad, some are genius, and some make your life better without you actually realising it needed it. I have thoughts on a few of the interesting new features but I’m kicking off with something that is a subtle change but I’m really loving it.

I’ve talked before about how much I like the Activity feature on the Apple Watch, in particular the badges that you can earn, and I’ve also talked about how frustrating it is when they don’t work. They seem to be functioning correctly for me at the moment, which is a good start, and it’s always fun to view which awards you have achieved and which you are working towards via the Activity app on the phone.

The awards tab used to be just a great big long list of badges that you have achieved, with a couple greyed out that you are probably currently working on. You could tap each to see more details, dates, times, calories, number of achievements unlocked, that kind of thing.

None of that information has changed but the subtle layout update in iOS12 has really brought this page to life for me. The awards have been split into categories, with a new competition section, limited edition badges, your monthly goals, and then individual badges further down. That helps to narrow down your gaze depending what you are focusing on this particular week.

I also really like the addition of the goal information underneath each badge. It’s either telling you how many times you’ve achieved your goal, or what you’re aiming to do in the future. For example, to get my October challenge, I need to close all three activity rings for 20 of the 31 days. You used to have to tap into the badge, read the blurb and do the maths yourself. Here, it is displayed front and centre. It’s not a big change but it just makes checking your progress more of a “glance and be inspired” moment rather than a labour of love each time.

I love when little design tweaks make a big difference.

On the record 2018, Week 41 – Six to start

For the last ten weeks of this year’s album adventure, I thought I’d mix things up a bit and post about what albums I’ve got to listen to before I’ve listened to them. The usual reviews (if you can call my brief thoughts a review) will follow, but this is a fun heads up of what is on the menu this week.

So, it looks like some really good albums are coming up, but releases over the last couple of weeks haven’t totally stirred my blood. For the new album, my choice, this week, I’ve gone for You Me At Six, with VI.

I feel like I should know this band but as always, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about them. I will probably find out I know all the songs later, that’s what always happens.

And the older choice, from Mr C, is Clean Bandit, with New Eyes.

Clean Bandit are the type of band where every song can be completely different so a whole album is going to be an interesting one to digest.

I will report back!

Tomb Raider’s long shadow

The third release in Tomb Raider’s recent reboot emerged into the wild last month, and I can honestly admit to being completely obsessed with it. I’ve enjoyed the previous two games, but it’s taken me a while to get fully to grips with this new Lara and her rather more complex adventures. Everything is rather more realistic, far more brutal, significantly more graphic and eventually, a lot more fun, than the Tomb Raiders that have gone before.

After playing 2013’s Tomb Raider, I talked of the brilliant game spaces (“the game is essentially Lara does LOST”) and during Rise of the Tomb Raider I was grateful for slightly fewer enemies to kill and more puzzles to complete (“the developers have gone back to the core of Lara”). This time out, with Shadow of the Tomb Raider being on our consoles for less than a month so far, I’m happy that all the good stuff has been built on for yet another great adventure.

We’re maybe halfway through the game, and there have been challenging enemies which are perhaps my least favourite bit, but there have been fabulous puzzles. I’m liking the additional missions to the main story, and some of the spaces to explore are mind-boggingly vast. My ability to look at the map and plan a route only to immediately get lost knows no bounds. My only complaint so far is the swimming controls are impossible. I’ve always struggled but whatever they’ve done to this year’s controls means I cannot do it. Thankfully, Mr C indulged in some swimming practice (Lara Olympics, anyone?) and can now get us out of every watery escapade.

One of my favourite bits of this year’s game is the photo mode. You can pose Lara in a shot, snap a photo and share it however you like. There are competitions to take part in but I just like capturing the moments where the game ever so slightly takes your breath away.

And, of course, Mr C likes that you can capture moments like this, where you juxtapose TR2 Lara into new Lara’s surroundings. So weird.

Just like the previous Square Enix products, I was impressed with how much value for money you get out of this game. We have been playing almost endlessly and are about 50% complete. And now, there are downloadable side missions being released as well. So, as an update to the sign off on my previous review: I guess I will be productive again in 2019.

Assassins and bodyguards

The entire country went crazy for the recent BBC drama The Bodyguard, featuring Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes as a bodyguard and cabinet minister respectively. I came to this show late, as always, so was almost completely spoiled in terms of who did what, who died when, and what the outcome of it all was. That being the case, it wasn’t quite as intriguing for me as I imagine it was for other people, but it was still good.

The last episode, in particular, was a masterclass in suspense especially around the ‘red wire, blue wire’ scenes. Richard Madden was excellent, a revelation to me, as he was through the entire series. I wasn’t that bothered by Hawes, although people rave about her so I am in the minority. And the underlying story, the politics gone wild, corruption in the high ranks, actual whodunit mystery, I wasn’t that interested in. I liked the bodyguard and I liked the two police officers who were on his side.

It was a good show, but I much preferred Killing Eve, which has emerged in popularity around the same time. The BBC America production starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer follows the adventures of an assassin and the unlikely MI5 agent tracking her down. Unlikely, only because Eve was formerly in a desk-based role and often seems out of her depth, despite having the balls and intelligence to run circles around most of the people on screen.

This show has lightness amongst the dark, hints of comedy amongst the gore, some great central performances and even better supporting actors (Fiona Shaw and David Haig two absolute favourites). Glad to see this has gained a second series, and I know people are hoping for a second outing for The Bodyguard too. Hopefully they will be released at different times though, so I don’t end up binge-watching them both in a week.

Strike four

I’m surprised that I haven’t written about the Cormoran Strike novels before, but as I’ve just wrapped up reading the fourth installment in the series, I figured now was as good a time as any.

As I’m sure everyone is aware by now, Cormoran Strike is the central figure in the series of novels by Robert Galbraith, which is a pseudonym of JK Rowling. The first book picked up decent plaudits before the real author was uncovered, but naturally ever since that info was leaked, the series has garnered a lot more attention than it otherwise might have. Four books in, and a TV adaptation to boot, Strike and his temp/assistant/partner Robin are picking up a lot of fans.

And I’m one of them.

It’s taken me a while to really get on board with everything Strike-related, but I’m there now thanks in part to the excellent TV show, but mostly because of the audiobooks.

JK Rowling’s books have interesting plots; storylines that are less crime thriller and more detective adventure, and as such Rowling is at liberty to describe every step of a case in extreme detail. Sometimes it’s excruciating detail, but on the flip side of that, the ability to immerse yourself in a scene and picture it perfectly also makes you closer to the characters involved.

As the prose is so lengthy, I haven’t found enough time to settle down with the written words, but I have indulged in the audiobooks, read marvellously by Robert Glenister. I previously knew him as Ash in Hustle but now as the voice-wonder behind the books I enjoyed so much. He can do basically any accent and manages to keep a consistency across a growing number of characters that is admirable.

The fourth book, released last month, stretched to a lengthy 22 hours, but Glenister’s narration kept it interesting throughout. The book has received mixed reviews, most of which I agree with (loved the evolving relationships, but the case itself was a bit muddled, and the ending felt unsatisfactory given the build up), but generally it’s a good book that leaves you wanting to know what happens to these characters next, and that’s as much as you can ask for from a series like this.

It’s just been confirmed that it will be also be filmed for the small screen to join the three existing adaptations. I need to rewatch the episodes, I think, as I have only seen them once. I remember thinking they would be less enjoyable if I hadn’t read the books, but as a fan, you can just indulge in seeing the stories brought to life. I’ll be interested to see how the bulky Lethal White turns out in four short episodes, I don’t envy trying to pick out the crucial info and not missing anything out that fans will rage about.

Meanwhile, Rowling has confirmed she hasn’t any plans to stop writing about Strike and his adventures anytime soon, so there should be plenty more to enjoy.

Hidden in plain sight

The second series of Hidden Britain by Drone aired on Channel 4 recently, and I just wanted to take a moment to say how brilliant this programme is. I watched the first series and loved the concept – Tony Robinson introduces film footage taken by drones that fly over areas that are inaccessible or, at the very least, not open to the public.

Now, let’s be clear from the start, that description does get a little bit stretched on occasion, particularly in the second series. Some of the locations you could get to on foot, and there often are people milling about, but still, it’s good to get a new view and look at things from a different angle.

Some of the visits in the second series were really interesting – nuclear decommissioning sites, the rusty sea-forts standing proud in the water, and an abandoned theme park! Some of the areas weren’t as interesting, including a bunker of luxury cars and bees on top of Fortnum and Mason, but it’s always worth sticking through the less fascinating topics.

One of the highlights of the second series was a feature that had the drones flying high above Goonhilly, an earth station in Cornwall. I was confused at first, because I thought this was open to the public. It certainly was when we visited way back in 2005.

Since then, apparently, it’s been recommissioned and is playing a key part in space agency projects to provide communications across long distances. In April this year, Goonhilly announced a  team up with the European Space Agency, helping out with part of a Moon Mission.

I love that this programme made me look into Goonhilly again, because when I visited, it was a slightly rundown place with a rickety visitor bus tour. Now I know it’s not a crumbling old communications centre but becoming a crucial mission control.

Amazing!

The time is right

The last time I talked about Doctor Who, I was pondering the news that Peter Capaldi would be stepping down from the show. I talked about the rumours that there might be a female Doctor and how I wasn’t sure that’s where I wanted the show to go. Well, that’s where the show is going and I have completely changed my mind. I’m on board. I can’t wait to see what Jodie Whittaker does with the role and I think it’s a fab breath of fresh air into the show.

However, as I said in that last post:

I worry that I will be captivated by whoever takes over and then have to sit through all the previous episodes to catch up with the show.

Ding, ding, ding! That’s exactly what happened. And not only did I decide to catch up on the episodes featuring Mr Capaldi but I went right back to the beginning. I journeyed through the now less-intriguing first series, through the wonderful Tennant years, through the rollercoaster of emotions that was the Pond era, and then to Clara.

Oof.

What I have discovered with this recent rewatch, which I finished just a few days ago, is that although Capaldi is not my favourite incarnation of the Doctor, I don’t think it was him that turned me off the show.

His series with Bill and Nardole was so much better than the one that went before it, and by the time Clara exited the show, I was more than ready to get her off my screens. It’s not even that Jenna Coleman was doing a bad job, and I think there was a very interesting nugget of something in her increasing recklessness towards the end that finally caught up with her. But that character just grated on me in all the wrong ways.

So freed of Soufflé Girl’s influence, things took an interesting turn. I could have done without the constant appearances of the guitar, and I’m really not sure what I make of sonic sunglasses, but generally, Capaldi did a better job than I initially thought.

Skipping his series’ meant I had also previously missed out on Missy, and my god, I love that rogue Time Lord. Michelle Gomez has been a firm favourite since Green Wing and her in turns manic, crazy, fun-loving, eventually perhaps just maybe doing the right thing, version of the Master was brilliant. Those last few episodes where Missy managed to catch up with herself were brilliant.

And I must say that final episode, Twice Upon a Time, well I did cry at that. It led us nicely on to the Thirteenth Doctor, who is sure to be lucky for some (and probably unlucky for others). The Doctor Who Twitter account keeps on asking: “The Doctor is ready. Are you?” And finally I can say, I am.