It was the season leading up to Super Bowl XX that I first became interested in American Football, and in particular Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. I stayed an avid fan for quite a few years and even went to an American Football Camp in 1988 where I was chosen to be the quarterback due to having the best arm! But then University and work took over and my interest waned. About 6 years ago I became interested again and even bought a season subscription from Pontel.com to receive the Dolphins game DVDs every week, back when Pontel did the NFL DVDs. Then in 2007 I went to the first International Series game at Wembley and saw the Dolphins lose to eventual Super Bowl winners: the New York Giants. My interested dipped again and some weeks I’d even forget to see if the Dolphins had won or lost.

It wasn’t until the Super Bowl (XLV) this past weekend that I became interested again, intended to watch the game on the Monday as I had the morning off. Thankfully I was able to watch it on the BBC iPlayer as I’d forgotten to Sky+ it! So Monday morning I sat, with my laptop, well, on my lap, and watched the first half of the Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s worth mentioning at this point that I’d forgotten to avoid Twitter so I knew who’d won, but not the score.

The Super Bowl is always such an amazing spectacle and this latest instalment was no exception. Emanating from the $1 billion + Cowboys Stadium, which looked amazing. Lea Michele was great with her rendition of America The Beautiful, and Christina Aguilera not so much with her over warbled attempt at the National Anthem – wrong words aside! The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award always brings home the sad end to his life – he was one of the big stars of the NFL when I first started watching and was the MVP of Super Bowl XX, the first one I watched.

When the game started I found myself drawn to the Packers, probably on a subconscious level because I knew they’d won, but also because they played more of a passing game which I have always preferred – being drawn into the sport by Dan Marino that’s not surprising. After the first half I though the Packers were going to walk away with a huge score, if not for the last minute comeback by the Steelers who avoided going into the break with such a huge gap to make up. The interception from Nick Collins in the first quarter was particularly impressive as he ran the ball in for a diving touchdown – always nice to see something in real life akin to what you might see in a film.

Nick Collins returns an interception for a touchdown

The half time show, while visually impressive, wasn’t that great. The Black Eyed Peas can’t sing live and that was very evident on one of the biggest stages in the world. The highlight for me was Slash coming out to play Sweet Child ‘O Mine, though I have no doubt that Axl Rose threw his television out the nearest window when Fergie started signing. Slash’s amp needed turning up as his guitar solo was only just audible.

Back into the action of the second half and the Steelers seemed to have the momentum and came within a few points of the Packers on a couple of occasions. Without the 3 turnovers that the Steelers suffered this would have been a very different game, but in the end the Packers held strong, thanks not only to those turnovers but also the arm of quarterback Aaron Rodgers who rightly received the MVP award for the game.

This is the first full game I’ve watched in a few years and I thoroughly enjoyed it – so much that I questioned why I hadn’t taken more interest in those wilderness years. I’ll be interested to see the incineration between the Green Bay Packers and WWE wrestlers on SmackDown on Friday as they are due to be at ringside. I’ve also ordered the NFL Super Bowl Xliv Champions: New Orleans Saints Blu-ray from the US as there is no European NFL DVD/Bu-ray distributor, but thankfully the US Blu-rays are region free. I’m keen to see what happened last year, though it’s just a pity the Blu-ray doesn’t contain the whole Super Bowl game, just highlight of the season. I now have 7 months until the next season starts up – we’ll see if my interest holds until then.

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As of Thursday I have been the proud owner of a Panasonic Lumix LX5 which is the latest in a long line of cameras I have owned. I’ve not used it very much but so far I am very impressed with aperture priority mode and it’s ability in low light. The latter is the reason I have always been disappointed with compacts and bridge cameras, and my de quervain’s tenosynovitis has put a stop to my use of a DSLR, as I found out earlier in the week when I received a Sony A200 in amazing condition only to find my hand and wrist hurting after just minimal use. So, after much research and question asking over at AVForums I decided that the LX5 was for me. I am sacrificing a great deal of zoom compared to previous cameras but I rarely used the high end of the zoom and the photos produced are of little use offline. One of my goals for 2011 is to take a photography that is good enough to frame and out on the wall, and my LX5 will be my tool of choice to achieve that goal.

This morning I had a play with macro mode, which considering the windy conditions outside, had to be contained to an indoor pursuit. I found a spindly spider in the downstairs toilet but he was right in the corner of the window frame so light wasn’t great and the flash just turned the photo into a white explosion. It was also in an awkward place for me to get too, but exscuses over, let’s get on to the reason for this post. I opened the photo in Photoshop (JPEG mode as it won’t open the LX5’s RAW file, I’ll have to see what I need to do enable that) and applied Auto Tone. My dilemma is deciding what one is better; the photo with the Auto Tone applied or the one left alone. Without further ado, here they are (click for bigger versions):

Spider with no Auto Tone

Spider with Auto Tone applied

The Auto Toned photo does seem to be more like the original colours. It’s almost as if straight out of the camera the shot is sepia, which is an effect I could have chosen, but didn’t. I may be imagining it, but I’m sure that by applying Auto Tone it’s increased the noise. I’m thinking this makes the case for me to need to shoot in RAW and then make the necessary adjustments at the post processing stage.

Auto Tone aside I’m pleased with the results, given the conditions and lighting. I’m chomping at the bit to take it outside in good light and with some interesting subjects to photograph.

So my last post was about change from an iPhone 3 GS to a HTC Desire, and thinking the Desire was broken due to the Wi-Fi issues, I took it back to CEX. They agreed to an exchange but didn’t have another Desire so instead I came home with a Samsung Galaxy. Before we get to the fun stuff the Wi-Fi issues were present with the Galaxy S and I have since found out it’s a farely well known fault with some Android phones, but thanks to a handy app called Wi-Fi Keep Alive my problems are solved.

Samsung Galaxy S

I’ve had my Galaxy since Tuesday, and 3 days on I can say with confidence that it’s the best phone I’ve ever owned. The Super AMOLED screen is stunning, and at 4″ is the same size as my Cowon A2, the portable media player of choice for the past 3 years. Where the HTC Desire was lacking in audio player the Galaxy S excels, with sound that blows the Desire and the iPhone away, and then some. It’s also far superior than my previous 2 phones for battery life, which is a relief after the Desire wasn’t even getting me through one day. Then there’s the fact that it plays DivX files, which means no more messy and time consuming conversion processes. Did I mention the front facing camera? Skype video calls to my Mum in Spain will now not be limited to how much I move the laptop, which when you are tracking a 2 year old round the lounge can be a bit tiresome after a while. I haven’t even tried out the HD video recording, but in this day and age it’s nice to have it.

I’m delighted with my Galaxy S, as you’ve probably guessed from my gushing post – it has all the open potential of Android but in a phone that does rival the iPhone for user experience. The Desire was nice, but the Galaxy S takes it one step further, and is an utter pleasure to use, and play with.

Last week my iPhone 3GS started to play up; it would drop calls mid conversation and 50% of calls wouldn’t actually reach me, with some going straight through to voice mail. As I am working from home at the moment it’s imperative I have a fully functioning phone and can’t take the land line as my wife uses that. So, with that in mind I made my way to CEX and traded in my iPhone 3GS (I got £217 store credit) and some DVDs, and picked up a mint HTC Desire for £305. Thanks to the sale of the iPhone and DVDs I didn’t have to fork out even a penny for the HTC Desire, and even got Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray as well!

HTC Desire

Let’s start with the problem first, and here it is: It stays connected to the Wi-Fi with no problems but when I go to use the phone after it’s been ‘asleep’ it doesn’t receive any data. What I do then is switch the Wi-Fi on and off on the phone – this breaks the Wi-Fi connection and connects with a new one – then it’s fine, that is until I let the phone sleep and then when I wake it up again, same problem. My laptop and iPod Touch have no such issues and my old iPhone didn’t either.

This issue has been raised on forums and HTC themselves and I’ve tried factory restores and data clearance, but still the problem. Now this is not a huge burden as the little Wi-Fi reset only takes about 10 seconds – it’s just a little irritating. I’ve been told I could root (same as jailbreaking on an iPhone) the phone and flash a ROM, but I’m anxious of ending I with a brick if I do anything like that. So for now I’m living it with it, but only because the advantages are so good. Just what are those advantages I hear you say?

Speed of Web Surfing
When the Wi-Fi is connected ok, or when using mobile data to surf – it’s lightning quick. As much as I thought my 1st generation iPod Touch was slow compared to my iPhone 3GS, well that in turn is slow compared to my HTC Desire. It’s an absolute pleasure to surf the web and brings up rich content in a flash.

Camera
It’s so nice having a decent camera on a phone again, and with a strong flash too. I didn’t realise how much I’d missed this until I took a photo indoors in a dimly lit room at night and the result was a very good quality photo.

Music as Ringtones
It’s like going back 10 years when you first got a phone that you could use any bit of music you’d loaded on as a ringtone, and that’s something you can’t do on an iPhone – no idea why. So after loading on my music, by mere drop and drag I must add, I chose You Give Love A Bad Name by Bon Jovi.

Aesthetics and Feel
It’s a really nice looking phone with a fantastic screen (bigger than my old iPhone) in a slim and light package.

It works as a phone
That might seem like a strange statement to make but my iPhone wasn’t a great phone. Quite often people couldn’t hear me or I couldn’t hear them, no such problem with my Desire. My boss has already commented on how she can hear me properly now.

Auto-correct
The spell checker and auto-correct is light years ahead of the iPhone and doesn’t change my typos into ridiculous alternatives that I’d never use. It also offers me several suggestions to choose from, all of them sensible.

There are plenty more advantages, like not having to sign in when grabbing a free app and being able to increase storage should I want. However, the iPhone does still have the advantage in a few key areas.

Music Player
I suspect I need to download an app but out of the box the Desire doesn’t offer me a great iPod alternative. I also need to find out how it handles podcasts as that’s not obvious straight away. The speaker is also quite tinny and there is no graphic equaliser to let me increase the bass.

User Experience
The Desire is 95% there, but it’s still not quite as nice an experience as when using an iPhone. It maybe because I’m still very new to my Desire but the iPhone felt like it was made for me where as the Desire feels like something I need to learn about.

I had to get rid of my iPhone due to the missed calls, and I’ve long wanted to play with an Android phone so I’m glad I made the change. My contract is up in June of next year so I have 7 months to decide whether to stick with an Android phone, or change to an alternative like Windows 7 or back to the iPhone, in whatever form iPhone 5 appears.

As a newbie to both the Desire and Android OS – any hints or tips would be gratefully received and appreciated.

So it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, mainly because I’ve been concentrating on Dedicated to Disneyland Paris, that and I’ve been working from home with my right hand in a splint thanks to a chronic case of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. Since I last posted I sold my Panasonic FZ38, bought and sold a Panasonic FS30, and took took delivery of a Panasonic TZ10 just this morning. My latest camera acquisition was helped in some way by the £30 cash back currently available with this camera.

The TZ10 is a powerful compact camera that is small enough for me to take anywhere, but packed with features and manual controls such as aperture, which I really wanted. I’ve only had it a few hours and at lunch I went into the back garden and took a few snaps – not easy with your hand in a splint! Anyway, on a dreary day like today there wasn’t much to take a photo of, until I saw this guy munching away on his lunch.

Spider with lunch

It took a few goes for me to get a decent shot as the wind was blowing quite violently, but I managed in the end. I’m pleased with the results and it reminds me of the great spider photos I took with my Panasonic TZ7. Will I keep this camera for more than a few weeks or months? Who knows, only time will tell – it’s my 9th camera since last August!

I also owned a Kindle 3G for 24 hours earlier this week, but more on that in another post!

For years I’ve wanted to watch The Sopranos, but just never got round to it. I’m one of those people that has to watch a TV show from the very start to the very end, without missing one single minute, so jumping in at any random point wasn’t an option. At the start of August I took my second load of DVDs to CEX and as well as £170 in store credit, I came away with The Sopranos – Complete Season 1-6 Deluxe Boxset. Not only does it contain all 86 episodes on 28 discs, but it also comes with 2 extra discs with a ton of exclusive special features, of which I have all but 3 minutes still to watch.

The Sopranos Deluxe Boxset

I watched the first episode on August 1st, but wasn’t that impressed. in an email to a friend, one I knew was a big Sopranos fan, I wrote the following:

I watched the first episode last night and I don’t know if it was because I was tired or expectations were so high, but I weren’t that keen. I found it a bit confusing with so many characters being introduced and also couldn’t understand some of the dialogue. Does it get better, or is me not being keen on that one indicative of me not being likely to enjoy the whole show? I did like bits, but didn’t think the whole episode flowed particularly well. Maybe it was just because it was the first episode and now we’ve have met so many of the characters we’ll start to concentrate more on particular ones, rather than so many at once, and as they become more familiar it will feel more smooth. I do like Tony as a character – I get the feeling he’s an onion that we’ll be peeling away as the show progresses.

He assured me that it did indeed get a lot better, and an episode as close as episode 5 was one of his favourites of the entire series. Well, a few days later I did give it another go and by Thursday 2nd September I’d watched the whole show, at an admittedly furious pace.

After the stumbling block of the pilot episode, which I’m keen to go back and re-watch, I was very quickly drawn into the world of Tony Soprano and all the characters that made up his crazy world. Episode 5 was indeed a great one, and highlighted the contrast between the world he wanted to show Meadow, his daughter, and the world in which he made his living. I found myself desperate to watch another episode and am almost thankful I missed the boat on The Sopranos when it was on television so I didn’t have to a week for each episode and was able to watch the show in a month rather than 8 years.

Are you in the Mafia?

The characters are varied and interesting, as are the storylines that bring them all together. I cared what happened to each and every character, good or bad, which is something I can’t say for Flash Forward which I gave up on after 5 episodes, not caring for the survival of any of the show’s characters.

I was torn about the demise of Richie Aprile at the end of season 2. On the one hand I wanted more than anything for Tony to finally deal with him, but at the same time having Janice shoot him was an unexpected twist, and solved Tony’s problem without going down the obvious route. The same could be said for the death of Ralph Cifaretto, whose death could have come at numerous points before it did, but I’d never have guessed it would have happened like it did and over something which seemed so trivial (in the world of The Sopranos at least – it’s all relative) compared to other deeds which could have more justifiably led to his death. And what about his wig!

As for the finale, well I remember at the time hearing it was controversial but never looked into any more as I knew at some point I’d watch the show. In my mind Tony didn’t die. Hiding a gun in the toilet may be a nod to The Godfather but hiding guns isn’t really keeping with the series where people blatantly carry and use guns with no real worry for who has seen them. My wife wondered if the DVD had broken, but I had a feeling it may be intended, the black screen, and it turned out it was. From the moment the hit was out out on Tony I was on the edge of my seat, expecting bad things to happen to Tony and family in almost every scene, so I was understandably relieved when it ended with all still alive. I thought it was the perfect end to a perfect series.

The biggest problem I now face is television post Sopranos, and will anything ever live up to it? I still enjoy Mad Men which comes a close second and just yesterday got Nurse Jackie – Season 1 DVD and 24 Season 1 DVD, while The Wire, West Wing and The Shield remain on my ‘To Watch’ list. I also have all The Sopranos special features to watch and the whole series needs watching again, be rude not to.

On a lighter, but related note, this is a tweet I got from the awesome Jamie-Lynn Sigler who played Meadow Soprano:

Tweet from Jamie-Lynn Sigler

Just 4 days ago I posted about having pre-ordered a Kindle 3, and just yesterday I cancelled that pre-order. But why, you ask? It’s the simple matter of me thinking I won’t actually get a great deal of use out if it and there are cheaper alternatives out there.

This epiphany actually started in Waterstones today where I was set to spend £20 in vouchers on some graphic novels. However, I’m noticing a recent trend that Waterstones have massively reduced the number of titles they stock, and as such I couldn’t find anything I wanted. I get a £10 Waterstones/HMV voucher every month thanks to being an active member of Consumer Pulse and usually spend them on graphic novels but now that looks like it’ll be a non-starter thanks to the poor selection. So, all these works of fiction that I was going to buy for reading on the Kindle can now be bought in paperback format with the vouchers, and if I don’t have any shelf space for then I can just give them to charity – there’re not costing me actual money after all.

There’s also the public library, and for someone who spent as much time in it as a child as I did, I’m shocked I forget that these wonderful resources are there to be taken full advantage of. Why am I even thinking about spending money on books when there’s a facility close to my home that offers me books to read for free, legally. Don’t ask me how this suddenly entered my mind whilst looking at children’s books with my son, but it did, and in that instance the combination of disappointing graphic novel selection and library awareness was enough to make me whip out my iPhone and cancel my Kindle order.

You may recall that my first Kindle book purchase was to be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – well I used my voucher to buy that for £5 from HMV, and I don’t need a £109 device to facilitate the reading of it!

I realise my case is unique to me, but without a long commute or lazy holidays to read multiple books, I have a feeling my initial Kindle order was just me being dazzled by the hype of the latest hot gadget without actually stopping to think if I actually need it or not – a recurring chapter in my life it would seem.

You’ll have to excuse me for rambling – I’ve been ill all weekend and this post is being written at 3.54am due to my headache and nausea induced inability to sleep.