Tuesday

Feb. 16th, 2010 08:10 am
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I finished Ringworld on the walk home last night. Actually, saying 'I finished' feels like cheating, in that it was an audiobook from Audible, so what I really mean is 'I finished having Ringworld read to me'. Sure, it took 10 hours, and I'm certain I could read it faster than that, but I didn't really have 10 spare hours to sit and read.

On the other hand, though, I do spend between 3 and 4 hours a day walking, so that's a clear 15+ hours Monday-Friday that I can fill with podcasts and/or audio books. The weekends are different, since I'm normally walking the dog with P at those points, and me plugging in would probably not be best received ;-P
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Well, couldn't bring up the interwebs at Castle Fox this morning, again, after possibly a clear seven or eight days' run with consistent connections. Instead just the red glowing light on the router indicating that attempting to load up some new podcasts to the Shuffle was going to have to wait until later.

So I'm listening to Larry Niven's Ringworld instead; I remember reading this waaaaaaaaaaaay back in the 80s, but don't actually remember that much of the story, so it's nice to get the refresher.

Also, I forgot my wallet today; result is I feel kinda naked.
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Work is busy, with a deadline looming fast, and a spec that keeps morphing...

Finished Snow Crash, which was enjoyable, but the story seemed to die towards the end; nonetheless, considering when it was written, it's quite visionary in places.
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I'm enjoying Snow Crash on the Shuffle as Mali and I continue our perambulations around the Avenues. The down side is that my podcasts are queueing up in the background, but this hardly constitutes the end of the world - at the moment, I'm just on the single book per month plan with audible, and re-acquainting myself with just how much iTunes sucks under Windows (srsly, everything grinds to a complete stop when I fire it up), but Ione isn't the most powerful of beasts, so perhaps some of the blame needs to be shared there.

Was insanely jealous to receive a text from [personal profile] carolanne5 informing me that she was in the pub sitting one table down from Peter F Hamilton - actually, having just been over to his site to check the URL, I note that The Evolutionary Void is now semi-complete, with a projected publication date of September this year. That definitely counts as good news :-)

Bone Idle

Jan. 29th, 2010 08:16 am
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I drove in today - normally, of course, I walk, but I'm still feeling pretty flaky, and I also wanted to take a detour via the Sorting Office to double-check that a missing eBay purchase wasn't languishing in the Royal Mail's dungeons sans Castle Fox notification card.

It wasn't :-/ So I'm chasing up the eBay seller at the moment. Joy.

I finished watching Edge of Darkness last night - good, good stuff from the 80s; quality drama, good storyline, excellent acting, but perhaps a little slow-paced compared to today's fare. On the other hand, I had a great time geeking out over all those 80s cars. The music is an Eric Clapton/Michael Kamen combo, and those two brought in David Sandborn to do the soundtrack to the first of the Lethal Weapons. The wheel turns full circle when you note that Mel Gibson was the star of Lethal Weapon, and he's again the star of the Edge of Darkness remake being released this year.

I've also just finished reading (well, actually, listening) to Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, mainly because that's the current discussion book for the Sword and Laser podcast. It had some nice touches, although I have to confess that I suspected whodunnit rather early on (perhaps as a consequence of the book's rather limited cast). Still, some interesting stuff therein, particularly about the psychology of a post-death society, and in a world of near-infinite resource, how they get around the money problem.
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Huh. Intermittent internets seem to have plagued Castle Fox for the weekend - am not sure whether the fault lies with my router (a Netgear 4 port with (disabled) WiFi), or upstream from these walls... either way, though, if it's intermittent, that usually means it's a pain to diagnose.

Another quiet day, really - P & I ambled into town this afternoon, and I picked up River of Gods by Ian MacDonald, a SF story set in mid-21st Century (I think), where India has been carved up into twelve (I think) semi-independent states. I'm barely a chapter in, thinking it's got a sort of Gibsonesque vibe to it. Proper review as and when...

...which could be a while. I've currently got four open books at the moment, which is unusual for me, because I tend to read serially rather than in parallel. Hmm. Must. Try. Harder.

Snow again

Jan. 5th, 2010 09:56 pm
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We have fresh snow round these parts - this is preferable to the partially melted then refrozen slush that we'd had earlier, although since the snow has simply settled on the ice, the surafces are still pretty much as treacherous as they were before, but it at least looks prettier :-)

The first book of 2010 proved to be Rachel Caine's Carpe Corpus, book VI of the Morganville Vampires series, and whereas the earlier instalments pretty much finished on consecutive cliffhangers, this one at least feels like it has an ending proper

I say 'feels like', because book VII is out now, and I'm assuming that it's probably going to kick off a new(ish) story arc, since I think most of the plot threads from the tale to date have been, if not exactly resolved, at least touched on in part VI.

They're fun reads (much moreso than Twiglet), although I felt that Book II was a little off-pace, and Book VI, whilst it had its moments, didn't quite gel for me; I felt that we had less of an image of who Claire is, again. On the other hand, certain aspects did work pretty well (Oliver is nicely done, even if he doesn't get enough screen time, and I do like Myrnin, who, as I'm sure I've said before, I'm sure must be Merlin).

So yeah, pretty good series, although I'd say that the Sook is a lot more fun for mature readers... still waiting on the next instalment from Bon Temps, which we've been promised this year. Rest assured; the moment that's published, it's mine :D
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After gingerly walking in through the Snap! Crackle! and Pop! of a thin layer of ice over yesterday's snow dusting, I'm back at the Office (II), and was very much looking forward to warming my gloveless (they went missing over the festive period - must replace. Seriously must) hands opn a mug of boiling water (for I am still coffee-free™), to discover that our 'instant' boiling water machine isn't producing forth vast torrents of instant boiling water... more what you might call lukewarm-ish.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly - the beast has been switched off over the Christmas break, and needs some time to get back up to operating temperature. Of course, since we have instant hot water on tap, we don't have a kettle...

I've got some background processes running on the PC which would've been much better run over the Christmas break, but that only occurred to me once I was home, and I'd powered down the work PC, so I couldn't remote desktop in to set things in motion. So that was a bit shortsighted of me, but nothing terminal.

DVD-wise, The Wire continues to prove rivetting viewing - the cinematography in the penultimate episode of S3 (the showdown in the empty house with Omar and Brother Mouzone) is awesome (Omar rocks), whilst in matters literary, Rachel Caine's Carpe Corpus, Morganville VI is looking set to be my first book of 2010 - I'm about half way through at the moment, but keep getting distracted by both The Wire and Assassin's Creed II.
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2009 has been a bit of an up and down year, all told, but I think I'm ending it better than I started, and I'm hoping that's what's important.

I read a lot of books - my target was 36, and I got past that. Next year's target will again be 36, but I'm going to try and read more non-fiction (new Sook notwithstanding). And I'm definitely going to try to read less Stephanie Meyer in the new year. Heck, if I could unread Breaking Dawn, I most definitely would.

We moved buildings at work in October (if memory serves): overall, I prefer the new place to the old, if only because we're squirrelled away somewhat, which means fewer walk-in distractions. Colleague H and I have been assigned a full-on project for the new year, which could well take some getting into, so I'm expecting January and onwards to be pretty busy.

DVD-wise, I've obviously discovered The Wire, which is seriously, seriously good. I've yet to finish either Battlestar Galactica or Prison Break, and I have the first five seasons of Lost waiting to go through too. As for Flash Forward, though, I think I'm going to give up on that one.

I don't really remember too many notable films. Coraline was OK, but nothing compared to the book. The Star Trek reboot was certainly watchable, but not ground-breaking. Avatar, ultimately, disappointed. Was there a stand-out film this year?

I've just received a 'Happy New Year!' text from a number I don't recognise... have at least returned the good wishes, but I hate it when that happens!

Anyway, have a good New Year, all you people! Hope 2010 brings you all things good! :D
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In what must be a first, the Barclays ATM on Chants only had £5 notes this evening... this is quite remarkable, as the poor fiver is becoming an increasingly rare beastie, seldom spotted in the wild.

Have some picspam: The Grauniad's Iconic Images of the Decade. Some good stuff therein.

I'm currently reading a John Grisham novel - I could tell you the title, but there's not a whole lot of point since they're all essentially the same story, told over and over again. I will say, though, that in painting his protagonists and adversaries, Grisham manages to make Avatar look like a subtle and nuanced film... (So why read it? 'cos it's there, and I do kinda have a soft spot for popcorn legalish thriller stuff)

Still watching The Wire, and I think I'm going to declare it my favourite TV series as of now - it's not as quotable as Firefly, nor as pretty as Heroes. It's not as heartwarming as The West Wing, nor as sexy as True Blood... but it has a subtle, understated quality with excellent acting and genuinely complex storylines. So if you were wondering, yes, it is that good.
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Feast of Fools by Rachel Caine )
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Midnight Alley by Rachel Caine )
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It's 3pm and it's dark out there - and wet, too :-/

P & I have just returned from a mission to a deli in Beverley where I'd ordered a Christmas hamper for the parental units. Long-term readers may suspect that I'm singularly ill-equipped to judge the quality of a foodie's hamper as a present... and they'd be right, but I figure even if I have, by some stroke of misfortune, managed to duplicate existing beverages and/or consumables in the parental abode, they'll still get used eventually, right? And it looks impressive. Have also got some DVDs and books for them, so I think I'll be calling it a day/week/month/year on present buying on that front, at least.

Comradette K got me into the Morganville Vampires books by Rachel Caine by lending me the first two instalments. I, in turn, suggested to [personal profile] cynthia_black that [personal profile] aki_itsuki might enjoy them, given her prediliction for things vampish, and it so happens that she's now reading them faster than I am. Which means that book 3 has been borrowed from Grimmauld Place, rather than Comradette K's library shelves. 's all good, either way: actually, Book III is proving to be quite fun (it's notable that both Oliver and Monica have both commented to Claire that she's now a proper player in Morganville, as a consequence of her derrings do in tomes previous), and is more than compensating for the suspicion that Book 2 didn't quite have the same 'zing' about it as the opener).

I started a new gamer profile on the 360 - RedDogFever (you have to pick a unique gamer tag, and I chose that because, hey, what were the odds of it already having been claimed? Absolutely), and have thus set about building up my gamer score through the noble art of Achievement Hunting on Braid and Geometry Wars, principally. We've also picked up Defense Grid, a Tower Defen(c/s)e game that's rather addictive, although the achievements on offer in that look as though they're going to take a lot of playing hours. The 'proper' discs at Castle Fox (the aforementioned all being XBox Live Arcade titles downloaded to the hard disk) are Forza 3 and Assassin's Creed II. I've made a start on the former, but I think it's the latter that's going to be taking up my evenings when I'm not Wired.

Speaking of The Wire, the h264 rip of 1x01, courtesy of Badaboom player rather nicely (albeit with a 'watermark' bottom left that I'm hoping the full version dispenses with). What was more noticable, though, was that I was able to understand a little more of the witness speech when he was talking to McNulty in the opening scene...

And finally, I got my hair cut yesterday.
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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman )
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One Red Paperclip by Kyle MacDonald )
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P was only at Castle Fox until lunchtime yesterday - he had a party to go to Saturday afternoon, and for a change ex and co came to Hull to pick him up, rather than me ferrying him back. Unfortunately, ex not having much practice in the commute, sort of underestimated the time it would take to get here, and ended up being an hour late. But hey, all good in the end.

Today saw me venture into town at lunchtime, just as the skies went almost completely black. I caught a single glimpse of lightning off in the distance, but it would seem that the weather wasn't really that interested in putting in the requisite effort for a storm proper, and instead just contented itself with a spot of rain.

Mali and I have had a couple of brisk walks around the Avenues - if I move quickly enough, he'll walk to heel almost perfectly. And he maintained that for a little while as I attempted a light jog, but patience isn't that dog's strong suit, and he eventually went into Race Mode, so we called a literal and metaphorical halt on that one. But I'm going to try and add some light jogging into the standard walks every now and again, and see how that goes.

Bookwise, I'm currently reading (or trying to read) One Red Paperclip by Kyle MacDonald. This is the tale of that guy who traded items sequentially on CraigsList, starting off with the object of the book's title, and moving ever on up until he managed to trade himself into a house. The parenthetical hesitancy is due to the little 'zen wisdom' nuggets that pepper the end of each chapter. Since we're currently on one chapter per trade, and we're at him having acquired a camping stove, I'm somewhat fearful for my sanity, should I have to endure too many more observations of the calibre of 'now was two words ago' (I actually make that five, and so does Kyle himself in the paragraph explaining this gem, which makes the paragraph's title all the more bizarre).

Anyway, since Christmas is coming up, obviously this is the time of year when I buy myself stuff, and so I now have Assassin's Creed II for the 360... I know all the hype this year is about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but I am hopeless at FPS titles (seriously, Colleague N lent me Gears of War once, and I couldn't make it out of the training level without being killed. Repeatedly).

So expect the book-reading to tail off a bit as the year closes ;-P
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Dead Girls' Dance by Rachel Caine )
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Today is one of those days where, from about lunchtime onwards, everything needs to run exactly to schedule if I'm going to achieve everything in time.

I've got my appraisal this afternoon, which is a little bit weird, because it's going to be with New Boss, who still doesn't really know what I do day to day, nor has he been in touch with Old Boss/Effectively Still Acting as Boss to find out said. Hmm.

Anyway, that's scheduled to end at 4pm. Which is fortunate, because I then need to pick P up from school, so that I can get the two of us back to Castle Fox to walk Mali, eat (speed dining FTW!), possibly take Mali out for Walk 3, and then amble across to the KC to watch Hull City take on the mighty Everton in what will be P's first evening match.

I've only been to one floodlit game before now, which had a less than optimal outcome for the Tigers, so I'm kinda hoping for better things tonight.

I'm currently reading Rachel Caine's second Morganville Vampires book, Dead Girls' Dance, which is... not quite as much fun as the first instalment, but is certainly readable. Proper review to follow on completion.
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Set in the siege of Leningrad during World War II, this is an absorbing book which follows the travails of Lev and Kolya, two guys who happen to end up in prison on the same night, as they try to work off their debt, as it were.

Anyway, what happens is this: Lev and Kolya are hauled before a colonel, expecting summary execution, but instead are tasked with procuring a dozen eggs, so that the colonel's daughter can have a cake for her wedding a week hence, as is proper. As set-ups go, this is a pretty good one - the population of Leningrad are starving, quite literally, and are eating sweets that are made from the spines of library books, because there's protein in the binding glue. Finding a single egg would be the stuff of legend, just cause for a banquet for the discoverer - to find twelve? But then again, it's challenge that's tantalisingly plausible, and besides, the alternative is death, against which all options probably look enticing.

Benioff is a Hollywood screenwriter, and I think this shows through in how the crucial scene plays out (even if, for argument's sake, the German general accepted the challenge, it's unlikely that all three of the Good Guys would've been present, when only one was required). The plot has a slight tightness to it (an almost-dormant aptitude that one of the characters is noted as having turns out to be utterly pivotal later on) which clearly lends itself to a screenplay, but perhaps there's not that much Hollywood interest in a film set in WW II, in Leningrad, telling a story from a Russian perspective...

Nonetheless, I thought it was a good story, well told.
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This book would be hilariously entertaining, if it weren't so sinister.

On the back of the defeat tactical withdrawal from Vietnam, the US Army was seriously low on morale, and Military Intelligence embarked on some pretty Free Thinking™ in a bid to regain the edge, and once again demonstrate that the US was the world's supreme military power.

And so they actually took seriously such things as psychic spies, attempted to train men to walk through walls (atoms, after all, are mostly space: if the wall's made of mostly space, and the person's made of mostly space, too, shouldn't it be possible for the latter to percolate through the former), acquire the über-ninja skill of daylight invisibility, and... yes, kill goats just by staring at them.

All this had the potential to be a mildly diverting late 70s episode in military intelligence, but what makes Ronson's narrative slightly chilling is how he demonstrates that the thinking that emerged in Jim Channon's blueprint for a First Earth Battalion eventually led to the treatment meted out at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

There is a glorious moment in the book where Ronson's interviewing a guy who can kill... er, hamsters, just by looking at them. To demonstrate this, he shows Ronson a videotape of the hamster, which, to Ronson's eyes seems to be behaving perfectly normally. His host explains that they taped the hamster un-stared, as it were, to prove how it acted un-afflicted, before he turned on his Stare of Death. What's amusing about this is that the second that Ronson's walked through the door, he himself is being filmed by his hosts...

It's a very good book, but one with a slightly sinister undercurrent that runs through it.

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