Sunday, July 12, 2009

It's been a long time....

Wow, I haven't written one of these in a while, have I? To be honest, the main reason for the lack of updates has been the migration of most of my spur of the moment thoughts to Twitter - It's hardly the stuff of legends but... well, that's kind of the point isn't it?

That aside, it seems that the non-stop insanity of work and the various projects to which I tether myself never ceases, happily swallowing up vast chunks of my existence. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the lot has been my humble anime 'blog, which has somehow turned into quite a monster in its own right when it comes to drawing in traffic - What was simply a fun distraction which I doubted I'd keep up for long has become a (thankfully still fun) behemoth with over 900 episodic reviews of anime and counting. As per usual, watching something grow from nothing to several thousand visitors per day is hugely pleasurable in its own right (beyond the fact that I genuinely enjoy writing about this stuff), and I'm currently resisting the urge to start throwing advertising on it and thus corrupting the wide-eyed innocence which is currently still holds in my "empire".

Funnily enough, this ramping up of the depth of my anime and Japanese culture interest has come at a perfect time, with UK Anime relaunching and looking to really push itself into the UK industry limelight. I've really thrown myself into doing my bit to make that transition to something bigger and better with gusto (perhaps too much so - bad control freak Andy, bad!), and I'm genuinely excited as to what could come of the hard work of the whole team there if we can keep it up and keep getting noticed for all the right reasons. Even beyond such ambitions, there's something hugely enjoyable about writing reviews and articles that aren't grounded on a technical foundation - Whereas my work for Elite Bastards generally requires precision and clarity, both UK Anime and my anime 'blog allow me to let loose with the full force of my vocabulary while having a bit more fun with my use of language.

That's not to say that Elite Bastards has been languishing, although things are pretty quiet on that front in a sense - The credit crunch is hurting in terms of advertising revenue and visitors, while the industry as a whole is in a huge lull before Windows 7 and DirectX 11 will make things interesting again. No doubt come the autumn I'll be firing on all the cylinders there again.

All of this is without my "real" job, which is also becoming increasingly busy - lots of meetings, winning big contracts and so on and so forth. It's still an interesting project for me in its own right, so no matter how much I whinge at times I can't really complain.

So, there you have it - Pretty much the last year in a nut shell (or at least the stuff worth/safe for mention on here). What will the next year hold? More of the same, I would imagine. Unless someone fancies whisking me off to Japan for six months...

Monday, September 15, 2008

150 reviews and counting...

Today saw me publish our 150th review on Elite Bastards since introducing our current CMS system in February 2006. That's a lot of hardware in two and a half years! Now, let's see how quickly we can make it to 300...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

It's Good to be Free

What's this, three months without a 'Blog update? One of the grand ironies of 'Blogging about your own life is that the more that you actually have to talk about, the less time you have to write about it because you're too busy living said life.

So, what's been going on with me? Well, firstly my 'real' job has been hitting some fantastic new heights, involving some very big contract wins for the system I manage and plenty of other growth along those lines, to the point where I'm now heading up a team of five rotating engineers who work alongside me to keep things running smoothly and leaving me to focus on 'the hard stuff'. The year so far has been a fantastic challenge on this front, and although it's had its rough moments (working until 1am to recover from some major software issues counting amongst them) I'm loving every minute of it. I do need to book myself some holiday though...

After another small period of reviewer's block, I'm now writing material for Elite Bastards pedal to the metal, with plenty of great things both recently reviewed and still on the table for the coming weeks to keep me on my toes. Again, things have been falling into place nicely there, and we're continuing to grow our readership month on month, making for yet more positive news.

Away from all that, my Facebook page has been taken over by the ramblings of a madwoman... And I like it. ;o) Most importantly of all though, as of a couple of days ago I'm now officially a free man once again, with the paperwork finally confirming that the bane of almost my entire adult life is now nothing but bad history (or should that be bad comedy?). Yokatta!

So, that's the past three months in a nutshell, ignoring the fact that it's been snowing in April and other bizarre goings-on. Will the second quarter of the year prove to be as exciting and eventful? Probably not, but one can only hope for more of the same...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Some Kinda Rush

Well, here we are, just a few short weeks into 2008, and already the year seems to be passing by at a million miles an hour. Ever since Big Ben struck midnight on New Year's Eve, everything seems to have been a blur of meetings, lunches, phone calls, passion, music and multimedia.

My 'real' job is bringing me more challenges by the day, from a presentation to the entire sales team of the company (which went down extremely well), to taking on additional staff to work under me on the project to which I'm assigned, leaving me free to build our offering, and thus its profitability, to new levels.

Elite Bastards is as busy as ever needless to say, with some new advertising opportunities coming my way, a huge amount of review hardware to enjoy and pile through, and plenty of other stuff to concern me with.

Then there's... Well, loads of other stuff going on with my life too. But that would be telling. ;o)

Thankfully, with what little downtime I get, there's a new season of anime fresh from Japan to see in the New Year, with Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Gunslinger Girl getting second seasons, and a couple of other interesting series either starting or on-going. Music-wise things have also been interesting too, with some very mainstream music actually (shock horror!) hitting the spot for me. Strange times indeed. Perhaps the A&R people have finally noticed that the vast majority of bands on MySpace are, in fact, shockingly bad with a fan base that is little more than a circle jerk, and (again, shock horror!) gone out to start finding talented artists again. Or maybe I just got lucky, who knows.

Anyway, that's where I'm at right now - After what the first half of January has had to offer, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what goodies the rest of it brings!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Wrapping

Okay, so I said that my last 'Blog post would be the final one of 2007. Famous last words and all that...

Well, here we are again, another Christmas Day. So, how has it been? Well, it's Christmas Day, which is pretty much a guarantee of being 'any good' as days go. Despite starting out the day feeling a little like Shinobu Maehara in the Love Hina Christmas movie (now there's a reference to confuse the majority of you, thankfully!), since that point it's been a pleasant and enjoyable day. I realised just now that this has been my first day of real, unfettered downtime (i.e. not thinking about or concerning myself with work-related matters at all) in a long, long time. Hell, I've barely even touched a keyboard until tonight! I guess it really is something I should think about doing more often for my own good.

I think over the last couple of years I've also discovered that I really am getting old, in that I now enjoying the giving of gifts to others far more than I do receiving them. Sure, getting presents is great, but you can't beat the feeling of giving something to somebody that they really love. I guess I'm just a big softie after all...

Anyway, I'm rambling now. Tomorrow is Boxing Day, and I have at least one must buy item on my shopping list, meaning I'll have to brave the masses... Fun! Isn't it amazing how no matter how well prepared you are for Christmas and any gifts you know you'll be receiving and giving, there's always something you don't account for?

So, there you have it, Christmas in a nutshell - Lots of eating and lots of drinking (which I'm sat here trying to recover from), and a fair old whack of Christmas TV. Probably time for me to sign off and get back to it all in fact....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ramping up for Christmas

Wow, what a day - Not only have I done a massive amount of work towards two reviews for Elite Bastards scheduled to go live this week, I've also found time to watch Arsenal beat Chelsea (oh how, how sweet that was to watch!) and... Well, write this 'Blog entry.

While most other people seem to be looking towards shutting down for Christmas, things seem to be getting busier than ever for Elite Bastards. The major operation for this weekend was to final finish off what will be the largest single review the site has undertaken thus far - It's taken a lot longer than I hoped to get around to and finished, so it's good to see it come to a close with a release slated for tomorrow. Then, by midweek we should have our GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB review out the door, which is another big plus. There'll be no rest for the wicked though, as we'll (hopefully) be previewing something new and unreleased motherboard-wise around Christmas Eve. All that, and there's still a huge backlog of work to churn through!

Anyway, the one thing I've been meaning to highlight in this 'Blog since the turn of the month is the latest visitor numbers for the site. Thanks to Quinn's moving the forums to their own dedicated server, and the change of our e-mail services to a third-party provider, we're now finally starting to find some headroom to eke a little performance out of, allowing us to serve more readers than previously. That, combined with some big-hitting articles for the month of November (two major GPU launches and the NVIDIA Crysis driver furore) drove our numbers through the roof, and saw our visitor numbers climb by over 35% compared to October, with our page views creeping towards the half million mark.

Overall, that sets us some pretty hefty targets to live up to for 2008, and I for one can't wait to see where the Elite Bastards adventure is going to take me next.

Anyhow, that's probably all my 'Blogging done for 2007 (unless I suddenly find myself inspired to jot something down), so now is the time to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! Have a good one everybody...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Facebook and invading users privacy

Scary stuff...

Seeing as my 'Blog here is replicated on my Facebook profile, I figured I'd link this here - It's well worth a read if you want to know what Facebook are doing with your online surfing habits.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What a rough week

I can't really talk about it much (in fact, I can't really use this 'Blog for anything even remotely personal any more since someone decided to take liberties with it to create a tissue of lies against me, causing a great deal of upset to me and my family), but this week has been a tough one, with illness and worry aplenty, making it very hard to focus on anything outside of family matters.

Thankfully, there's now light at the end of the tunnel, although I won't be able to stop fretting for a few days yet, so hopefully I'll be able to hit December in an overall happier frame of mind. Fingers crossed everything turns out okay. Boy, do I need a break.

We now return to our legally friendly, boring and safe discussion of my website work...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why? - Good Friday (Boards of Canada Remix)

Need I say more? Not quite a new album, but new Boards of Canada material is always a guaranteed jaw-dropping musical experience, and always likely to veer off in an entirely different direction to whatever you were expecting from the Sandison brothers. Is this remix any different?

Of course not. Once again, fantastic beats are the order of the day.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

"Looking at the stars, must be a reason..."

This is probably the simplest 'Blog entry I've written in a long time, but I have to say it - I'm happy. Incredibly so. I love my life.

Elite Bastards is going from strength to strength, my 'real' job is both challenging and moving forward in the right direction apace, Arsenal are top of the Premier League, I know some fantastic people, the sun was shining in a beautiful Autumn day today, and I've just learned that karma really is a bitch, and that you reap what you sow in one of the most hilarious stories I've heard about one of my friends (EDITED FOR CLARITY) in a long time.

Today is one of those days when every breath feels fresher, food tastes nicer, every joke is funnier, the sun on your face is warmer, every conversation more interesting, every song on the stereo sounds better. Like I say, I love my life. Long may it continue.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Another month gone by...

...means another leap in Elite Bastards' readership. The September statistics are in, and visitor numbers have increased another 8%, with page views up around 11.5%.

That's all there is to say really - I'm one happy camper yet again.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Due to a high level of shipments...

...your delivery has been delayed. Thanks Scan, for screwing up my review schedule.

For all the glamour of getting to test and play with the last hardware and software, I would imagine that a lot of people outside of the review business don't realise how much thought goes into scheduling testing and article writing... In my case at least. More often than not these days, I have at least half a dozen pieces of hardware 'in flight' and awaiting review, coupled with vendors anxious to get said samples turned around, review exposure, and so on. This can involve making some pretty tough calls at times, and quite often scheduling everything in such a way that I can produce two quality articles a week while keeping everybody happy is an almost arcane art form. Nonetheless, it's something I try to do to the best of my ability - Some sites regularly take on hardware and fail to make time to review those samples, which is a trap I never want to fall into. On occasion, I fail to get things right (the recent PowerColor Radeon HD 2900 XT was a perfect example of a sample that got its testing/review time pushed back and back for various reasons, and once that kind of slide starts its hard to halt), but overall I like to think that time management is one of my fortes, and certainly most of the vendors that I deal with seem pretty happy with my efforts at both turning around samples quickly and, perhaps more importantly, keeping them in the loop as to what is (or isn't!) going on.

When something comes out of left-field to strike down your beautifully prepared plans, which are often arranged thinking weeks ahead in my mind, it really is frustrating, hence the whole reason for this 'Blog entry. With a huge amount of hardware coming into the Elite Bastards lab at the moment, I had everything planned out perfectly, with the weekend largely set aside for benchmarking our first Intel X38 motherboard sample - As this needs DDR3 memory, I ordered some from Scan at the start of the week, scheduling it to arrive on Friday in perfect time for the testing. This remained the plan until tonight, at which point I'm informed that said delivery is delayed, thus knocking down the whole beautifully arranged set of dominoes.

Thankfully, going back to the drawing board has given me time to look at something that was very much on the back burner, which should now (provided nothing else goes wrong!) make up next week's first article, potentially with a different motherboard review to follow, pushing back the X38 piece an entire week - Not perfect, but it keeps things rolling along at the pace I try my best to keep.

Of course, even the 'two articles a week' mantra isn't always possible - Sometimes due to plans going awry, and sometimes due to plain laziness on my part... We all need a break sometimes, right? However, also on the horizon are at least a couple of occasions where we have articles/reviews coming up that will take a lot of testing and groundwork. One in particular is going to be the single biggest review we've tackled on the site yet overall, and another exciting step up for both the content quality and reputation of Elite Bastards.

Reading a long, onerous 'Blog entry like this, some of you probably wonder why the Hell I go through all this... To be honest, even the mundane stuff like planning my time and schedules excites me, and I really do get a great amount of joy from keeping Elite Bastards running and growing. A lot of people I know tend to take me simply as quiet, laid-back kind of guy, without realising just how much passion and drive to make any endeavours I embark upon succeed I have. I guess you could almost call it my secret weapon... ;o)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Watching any anime series twice is pretty unusual for me, but three times... Well, it just doesn't happen very often. But, between the release of You Are (Not) Alone in Japan and me having a week with plenty of spare time on my hands, I found myself sitting down once again to make my way through Neon Genesis Evangelion - Doing it 'the proper way' of course: Episodes 1-20, the Director's Cut of Episodes 21-24, and then End of Evangelion as Episodes 25' and 26'.

For some odd reason, Evangelion is the only anime series I've only ever watched in its dubbed form previously, so third time around I righted that wrong and watched it with subtitles, and boy am I glad I did. I'm not sure whether it's down to a superior translation in the subtitles, better voice acting from the Japanese seiyū, some kind of third time lucky effect or just the fact that things work better in my head when I read them rather than hear them, but somehow this time around many of the subtleties of the Eva universe I'd missed out on previously clicked into place. Perhaps it's simply that I've matured, but watching the series this time, I found myself understanding far better the feelings, idiosyncracies and inter-personal relationships of the main characters, which made for a more satisfying and 'final' experience, particularly when it comes to that much-debated final episode in End of Evangelion. That isn't to say that I've completely figured out what those meaning-laden final seconds and words mean to me personally, but somehow this time around I came away with a more comprehensive feel for the world left at the end of the movie.

The one thing I really still can't get my head around is why so many people (and by this I'm talking viewers of the series, rather than in the show itself) hate Shinji Ikari so much. Of course, he is very much a 'flawed hero', and an excellently realised one at that (second only to Code Geass' Lelouch by my reckoning), but is he really the whiny, irritating character so many people see him as? Considering he's all but press-ganged into risking his life under the command of a father he hates, while being subjected to emotional and physical ordeal after ordeal, would anyone expect any different? I suppose it's just a personal thing, but I've always found Shinji's character fascinating, as I do Asuka's - I guess they simply both have facets that I can relate to directly, either in myself or people who I've been close to.

Anyway, at the end of the it all, the one thing I love most about Evangelion is how it engages your mind on so many levels - You come away from that closing scene wondering so many things, not just about the series, but also about yourself, your place in the world, and indeed the world around you itself. I really hope the new tetralogy of movies manages to keep that depth, while still adding something new and interesting to the franchise - Personally, I can't wait to see the first installment for myself, even though it appears to offer little deviation from the first six episodes of the original series (albeit squeezed into almost half the running time).

Saturday, September 01, 2007

On the up and up

Okay, so I'm really pissed off about something today (and no, not just going back to work on Monday, that I can live with), but at least it hasn't been all bad news - Since we've been using Google Analytics at Elite Bastards for our traffic analysis, I've been able to keep an eye on how things are going visitor-wise month on month. The numbers for August came in this afternoon, and we've seen a very big increase in our overall traffic:

June: 243,392
July: 259,067 (+6.44%)
August: 309,747 (+19.56%)

Considering we're still largely limited by our infrastructure (until the forums are moved to their own dedicated server at least), this is a fantastic achievement to my mind.

A good excuse to forget my troubles and have a drink or three tonight methinks!!