Saturday, November 24, 2012

My current gaming PC build

By request these are the current build specs for my gaming desktop; there's still some custom work to be done to the box so I'll follow up with another post for the case modding details later.

Who doesn't love a bit of shopping? Heres the before hardware pile, I buy hardware in America from Newegg or Amazon depending on price best to get on their email list for decent discount codes. In Australia I use MSY or Umart

Case/PSU/Drive build

Mainboard after CPU assembly

Build after wiring

And above the table ... 

Monitors: 2 x Phillips LCD 24" Smart Touch Monitors
Keyboard: Logitech G15 Gaming keyboard
Mouse: Logitech MX518 High Performance Optical
Speakers: Logitech S220
Headphones: Creative Sound Blaster World of Warcraft THX Headset
Webcam: Logitech HD Pro 9000

Some comments on the build:
  • This case is huge and will not fit in most desks but you can ride it like a pony
  • You can see I am brand loyal to Gigabyte, Logitech and Thermaltake, after years of trial and error and failed hardware these are always my go to vendors
  • This board is gorgeous and omits the need for add on wifi, SATA extender, bluetooth and sound cards. I cannot recommend it enough.
  • I prefer to buy the Thermaltake Toughpower range but they were out of 950W+ at the time of build, this is still a good modular PSU
  • The CPU fan requires a full ATX tower, do not buy if using anything less
  • Due to the CPU fan and the size of the case I don't need liquid cooling, CPU stays flat at 21C even after hours of gaming
  • The speakers are cheap and cheerful because I had to leave my Creative surround sound set in Sydney and I mostly use headphones in my current house.
  • The HD webcam is no longer made at work I use a Logitech HD Pro C920 and would recommend purchasing this as a more current model
  • Upgrade paths here are to double the RAM and add another 660Ti  with SLI bridge after the new year

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My skin care routine

Periodically I get asked how I have such nice skin and let me tell you its by design not by nature, naturally I have dry sensitive skin that I need to look after. So I thought I would post some information on my skin regime for future reference.

One of the obvious things about me is that I have very pale skin and I prefer to keep it that way. This means that I avoid the sun and I use products with SPF protection. Where viable I also use whitening skin products from Asia, generally this means the products wash away dark visible marks and melatonin infused skin. Avoid products that claim to bleach or lighten skin as these are often toxic. I've tried the majority of pallid skin products on the market and those below are the best I have found.

Pond's White Beauty Detox $9 for 100mls

When things are in serious trouble such as when I've come into contact with something I'm allergic to or when I have had sun exposure that has damaged my skin I highly recommend Pond's White Beauty Detox I use the Pinkish White variant. Be aware this cream detoxes your skin by removing the damaged skin. When applied the skin turns cloudy and then comes off easily when rubbed, causing a slight pilling effect. Best use of this is sparingly (once or twice a year) with an application followed immediately by an exfoliation routine such as using a cleansing brush or facial towel. This should remove the damaged skin gently and reveal your usual pale skin below. Do not use on the sensitive eye area, do not use every day.

On the high end range the Lancome Blanc Expert Spot Eraser is quite effective but at $90 for 30 mls this is no better than the ponds for 10 times the price.

Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes $10 for 50

To remove makeup I use Simple Cleansing Wipes or my cleanser; never soap or harsh makeup removers. With such dry sensitive skin the other key to my success is staying hydrated and avoiding things I'm allergic to. Hypoallergenic wipes like this are perfect. 

I use a number of Lancome products that I usually look for duty free or on sale. These are generally only available in Asia; prices listed are retail and usually ~1.5 times what I pay. 

Lancome Blanc Expert Purifying Foam $50 125ml

Every morning I use Lancome Blanc Expert Purifying Foam. This is gentle on sensitive skin but washes away tired and dead skin cells. It minimises pores wonderfully and leaves skin soft and supple. 

Lancome Blanc Expert Hydrating Emulsion - Moist $93 100ml

After cleansing and drying I apply Lancome Blanc Expert Hydrating Emulsion - Moist this is a very mild and highly moisturising cream. Only 1 pump is required to hydrate your face, so while this item is expensive one bottle will last upwards of 6 months. 

Blanc Expert Nuit $93 50ml

During Winter or when I am exposed to heavy wind (such as during sight seeing or sailing) then I also use the Blanc Expert Nuit Restoring Night Cream. I tend to not need as much of this and will often get by on samples and travel kit sizes that I am given during other purchases. Note that this cream is designed for use before bed and so does not contain any SPF protection, do not use it during the day if you wish to stay pallid.

Lancome UV Expert Makeup Base $60 for 30ml

When my face has dried from the moisturiser then I apply a makeup primer with high sun protection. I favour this Lancome UV Expert Active Protection Make Up Base. I would also highly recommend MAC Prep and Prime Face Protect or Napoleon Perdis Auto Pilot Face Primer. If you want great makeup a primer is a must; it smoothes pores, fills fine lines and keeps your makeup looking fresh all day. Think of it like priming a canvas before painting. 

Let me know if you found that interesting or useful, I can do a similar rundown on my daily makeup routine. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sleepless in Seattle: PAX Prime 2012

Finding friends in a new city is weird and honestly, I've had some trouble so far. Every time I stand alone and try and look vulnerable in clubs and in public I get the strangest assortment of pick up lines and start up pitches. So I thought about how I made friends when I moved to Sydney and I remember the best thing for me was when the guys from Games Paradise dragged me to a gaming con for the weekend.

Right! Thought I, lets see what's coming up soon. I was going to miss GenCon with a poorly timed trip to Australia but Penny Arcade eXpo was coming up and I'd always wanted to go. Some damage to my credit card later and we were away!

On arrival I had all the love of being given a deluxe upgrade to my room at the Grand Hyatt, despite being on the convention rate. The main advantage of deluxe rooms is always the view, here showing gorgeous weather and downtown Seattle at its finest.

In fantastic news my friend Kevin and his lovely lady managed to get tickets at the last minute, so I wasn't totally a stranger in a strange land. We spent Thursday night drinking and catching up about the US move and all the fun that goes with it. 

On Friday I was determined to hit the Expo floor before all the people who only had weekend passes showed up. I was worried about tales of queues at PAX and this line that took me out the door, through a park and round the corner had me in fear. However it turned out that everyone was lovely, trading game cards and playing DS in the line and despite the kilometer or so of line... we all got in in 15 mins of opening. 

Inside the Expo hall is a gamers wet dream. Just about every game, platform, hardware vendor, tradeable and more. There's games for sale, games for trying, games in competition! New things, favoured things, indie things, all the things!

I walked and walked and walked until I was totally exhausted, realising a little too late that buying a bag full of heavy comics and games wasn't smart. Thankfully though the convention is a several building affair and my hotel was smack bang in the middle so I dropped things off and found people again. 

A group of lovely folk from the PAX IRC channel invited me along to Karaoke and to say it was my kind of night out was a total understatement. Karaoke complete with Concrete Blonde and the Care Bears, Cider on tap (at $4.50 a pint too I might add) and a group of mad geeks belting out songs with not a care in the world. A++ would buy again.

Saturday I spent playing MMOs and earning a lot of free schwag. A hat tip to RaiderZ as I think this is the next big thing in that scene. 

Then it was time for panels, one on MMORPGs and then one on the new Kepler Nvidia hardware which was basically an hour long demonstration of how the GPU I'd just bought was sex on legs. 

And then... then I went for a cigarette, and in my usual fashion this meant I talked to a group of smokers for about 4 hours without moving. In the meantime I met a schwag of awesome people, most of whom it turns our are PAX Enforcers. These are the volunteer army of hardcore nerds and con goers. Between these guys, the PAX IRC folks and some WarCraft contacts I had a really social nerdly wonderful weekend which was totally what I needed. All it wants to make me to do is sign up for promotion activities straight away (hey I waited ... weeks before volunteering) so you can expect to hear about Enforcer talk in future. Later that night I went to the concerts, finally getting my chance to see Jonathan Coulton and MC Frontalot live, complete with building sized singalong of Still Alive. 

Then there was a lot of whiskey and <scene deleted> but I managed to wake up without too much of a hangover and still make it to see Wil Wheaton and isn't that the important bit? Wil gave a great recollection on how he fell in and out of love (and in again) with Magic the Gathering. Other great panels of the weekend included the Gaming Addiction panel and the Ratchet & Clank 10th Anniversary. 

I had a frankly marvellous time, and other than the desperate need to socialise one of the reasons is the scale and variety present. It's the same reason I like WGT over all the other goth festivals - because whatever your *thing* is you can do just that for 4 days straight... 



Tabletop gaming

Hand held gaming

PC Gaming

Competitive Gaming

Hardware modding 

Or y'now... just chilling the fuck out with your fellow nerdkind. 

Me? I mixed it up and did a little of everything. I had a great time, met some great people and came home with some great memories (and a few extra t-shirts).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Goth Goes to live in Silicon Valley

So if you haven't heard the news I got offered a job at our headquarters in Silicon Valley and have moved to the US of A.

I've moved to Engineering Program Management, a bit more aligned with what I was doing outside Google and a great chance to work on some unique challenges. I'm loving the role and the team and couldn't be happier with the choice.

Unfortunately this wasn't quite the timeline we were intended and my beloved boy Chops couldn't move out at the same time due to work commitments. So there's a lot of video calls and international travelling going on until he can move over. What is nice though is knowing that your relationship is strong enough to stand the distance without worrying, now that is a nice feeling.

If you've never done it let me tell you that moving countries is hard. Even with the full support of a Google relocation team there's still waiting for months on Visas, packing up the house and then arriving to no credit history, no bank account, no tax number and a lot of paperwork.

When I arrived they put me in a lovely but isolated corporate apartment in Santa Clara which is at the arse end of Silicon Valley and pure pain without a car.

The San Francisco rental market is also somehow worse than Sydney with all the same desperate shivving of other applicants and ludicrous prices. I have however got a great house in Twin Peaks, less than 5 minutes bus ride from Noe Valley and The Castro. Upstairs there's a couple of other nerds and there's everything I need within a 3 min walk - including transport to the work shuttles. For SFO the place is a steal too - my own separate apartment including kitchen and bathroom for about $100 a month more than what I was paying in Newtown. Once I've finished decorating and my furniture has actually arrived from Sydney I'll post photos.

For a while there I was really struggling, but now that I'm living in the city, Chops has come to visit and I have a functioning bank account and social security things are looking much better. I found some local black wearing Whiskey drinkers at work and I even got to march in SF Pride, and there's nothing like a pride parade to make me feel at home!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Becoming the Fairy Goth Mother

With a gaggle of adult urban family I've always been dubbed "The Fairy Goth Mother" by an army of lost ducklings I have found and loved.

This time my friend Rachel made me a Fairy Goth Mother for real; bestowing the title of Godmother on me for her daughter Lorelei.

What a cutie she is!

Recently we held a secular Naming Day ceremony, with plenty of friends and family to wish her well in the world. 

For my part in the ceremony I did a reading of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr Seuss, a fitting and sweet story of the ups and downs in life just perfect for a new life going into the world. 

Of course being our friends this also meant about 3 tonne of food including a lot of cupcakes. It was a lovely day to begin the journey of a lovely girl. 

Thanks to Rachel and James for allowing me to have this role in their family, I hope I live up to the task. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More pieces of my art collection

As I've noted recently I've collected artwork over the years from places I've travelled and loved. An original piece of art attached to a beautiful memory has always appealed as a piece for the home.

Recently I found a fantastic local framer and have been having regular trips to the framers to preserve my collection and prepare gifts alike. Lets review some of the work so far!

Black and white photographs of the Chrysler Building and the city skyline bought on 5th Avenue in New York, USA

Handcoloured lithographs of the Maison Jacquet and the St Louis Gate from Quebec, Canada.

This print of the Google Doodle celebrating the birthday of mathematician Gaston Julia I received at the Googleplex in Mountain View, USA while interviewing for a new position. I had this framed to present to my father as a gift, he's a mathematician and instilled a great love of number sets in me. I can't think of a better gift to mark changes in my current life.

Custom archival prints of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and an Allosaurus from the American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA.

Romance, gothic style... this is a print of the Charles Addams "Unhappy Darling?" cartoon from the Addams Foundation Collection that I bought as a gift for my partner Chops while I was away on business without him.

I simply cannot get a picture of this artwork that does it justice. This is a watercolour of the skyline in Firenze, Italy dominated by Il Duomo.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vale James O'rance

Today was the memorial for James O'Rance, a good friend who died suddenly and young from complications of a life long struggle with Diabetes.

James was a man of great nobility, he judged people by their actions and their heart, but loved his friends for who they were warts and all. If a measure of a man is those who choose to come to his wake then today was evidence of what we all know - that James was loved by many and touched us all.

Never have I seen so many people attend a funeral, so many openly weep without fear of judgement and more than that so many people console each other through a difficult time. It speaks volumes of not only the kind of man he was, but the kind of people he attracted.

James lived life to the full, he was himself at all times and to the full. He loved, he laughed, he was thoughtful and silly and wonderful. He will never be forgotten.

James would want us to remember him the way we shared his friendship, fondly, deeply and with laughter. The stories we shared today would have made him proud but not the sombre mood. A more celebratory memorial will be organised in the near future.