Friday, 27 May 2011

James Clerk Maxwell's Grave

I've just found this short film I shot on a stills camera around 2004.

If you're a bit geeky, and think James Clerk Maxwell is one cool dude like I do, you may like this.

My narration is a bit poo but I'd just stumbled across the place and only had the Canon with me.

Some stills:
The headstone - click to enlarge
Old Kirk interior - click to enlarge

Old Kirk setting with Loch Ken in the background - click to enlarge

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Bend, don't break.

According to ‘the lads’ in the pub, because, 1) I drink pints with my pinkie in the air, 2) I recently admitted to being wrong to a female colleague, and 3) I like latte, I have to hand in my penis.

Fortunately, because, a) my favourite Bond is Sean Connery, b) I came up with “or more gore” as an anagram for Roger Moore, and c) I have the sartorial nous of a Star Trek convention, I was pardoned and allowed to keep the ‘Ald Fella’. For now.

We were talking about the pressures on blokes to be blokes. 33.3% of us thought the pressure overwhelming. 33.3% hadn’t noticed any pressure whatsoever. The remaining 33.4% was still at the bar, but I’m sure he - the tallest of the trio - would have said he had noticed but didn’t give a monkey’s.

Then the football came on and 33.4% kept interrupting the run of play with a story about getting on a bus behind a fat man with a gigantic back-pack and spending a happy ten minutes laughing as the guy tried to sit down in the narrow seats without removing said encumbrance.

Without thinking I asked the question, when is bending to peer-pressure ever a good thing?

Of course, there are many answers. It’s not good to be rude or offensive, or make people gag due to your halitosis, for example.

Also, if you want to sell books.

Placing your book firmly in a genre really does help. There are only so many labelled shelves in the book store or library. The drop down list on the bookseller’s website can only be so long. Even if your book is cross genre, pick the most representative and say that’s what it is. Help the publisher and retailers to sell it.

I’ve been reading submissions for a publishing house recently and it struck me that the author’s cross genre descriptions accompanying some manuscripts made them sound muddled, unsure, weak. Not a good start.

Books described as a single recognised genre did not suffer because they strayed or crossed over during the course of the story.

Sell as one genre. Let the readers add their tags at their leisure. You may be surprised at the results.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Reviewlette - Stone Spring by Stephen Baxter

It's roughly 7,300 BC, life is hard but nature provides and the people of Etxelur are proud that their daily lives hardly touch the landscape.

Vast quantities of the Earth's water have been locked up in the ice-caps but now they're starting to melt, and unfortunately, the sea wants its land back.

The land in question lies between modern England and the European continent smack dab in the middle of, what is now called, the North Sea.

We follow Ana and her people as she fights back after a devastating tsunami: building dykes to hold back the sea. So setting the seeds for an alternate history for Europe which will lead ... well, as this is the first in a trilogy, I don't know yet.

We're also introduced to ancient peoples from other parts of Europe along with individuals who have travelled far in their quest to trade or simply to survive.

It's a fascinating read, well written and absorbing, and the characters mature well as the story unfolds.

If I've one small issue with this book - as with most of Stephen's books - it's that it can be very dry. But then again, this is Mr Baxter's style. His works are always superbly researched and easy to read. I just wish there was a little more ... I want to say, ironic levity. Is there such a thing? It's just that everything is so damn serious. I'm thinking that, in other works, lines like, "We're going to need a bigger boat" give us a human perspective I think is lacking in this tome. (That may just be the inappropriate-quipper in me.)

But it's still a very good read. I'll be looking for the second in the trilogy next time I'm at the library.

You read it. Tell me what you think.

In the meantime I'm starting on Greg Bear's Quantico. Based in the near future, the strap-line is, "Three FBI agents. One Armageddon."


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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Reviewlette - Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear

Our protagonist is woken on a Ship and doesn't know who he is or what he's doing there.

But something's wrong and everything, it seems, is out to kill him.

Hull Zero Three is an SF thriller, a mystery, a - sometimes gruesome - voyage of discovery.

There's not much I can say without giving the game away. But there is one idea that stood out for me ...
** spoiler **
What if mankind's only legacy is a space ship containing the last of Earth's species. The only planet it reaches is inhabited by intelligent life. The only way to survive is to wipe out the new planet's inhabitants. The ship has that capability. Should the space ship's crew allow it? Would they?
** end spoiler **

As well as making me pause for thought, I found it a fast paced, fully transporting, fascinating read but with an ending that wasn't one hundred percent satisfying.

Recommended for all hard SF fans. Let me know what you think.


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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A heart warming tale

It's not often I'm moved to reproduce something received from a friend ...
This letter was sent to the Elton High School Head Master's office in
London after the school had sponsored a luncheon for Pensioners. 
An elderly lady had received a new radio at the lunch as a door raffle prize and was writing to say thank you. 
This story is a credit to all humankind. 

Dear Sir
God bless you for the beautiful radio I won at your recent Senior Citizens luncheon.
I am 87 years old and live at the local Home for the Aged...
All of my family has passed away so I am all alone.
I want to thank you for the kindness you have shown to a forgotten old lady.
My room-mate is 95 and has always had her own radio;
but she would never let me listen to it.
She said it belonged to her long dead husband, and understandably, wanted to keep it safe.
The other day her radio fell off the nightstand and broke into a dozen pieces.
It was awful and she was in tears. She asked if she could listen to mine, and I was overjoyed that I could tell her to f$*k off.
Thank you for that wonderful opportunity.
God bless you all.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Reviewlette - Diaspora by Greg Egan

We're at the end of the thirteenth century and mankind has divided into three. Fleshers: naturally evolving Homo sapiens, gleisner robots: machines with human minds, and those in the polises: human personalities living in communities run by huge supercomputers.

We begin with the birth of Yatima, an intelligence created among the communities hosted in computers. The story follows its birth, introduction to the others in the polis,  its meeting with other types - gleisner and flesher - and ultimately follows Yatima as it searches this and other universes for a place safe from the natural disasters that threaten Earth.

The first part - Yatima's birth - had the old programmer in me itching to create an AI on my laptop. Again. (One attempt, in 1985 on an Apricot Xi, took seven weeks and resulted in something that could distinguish between music and not-music. Yup. Really useful!)

The book is chock full of ideas. Mr Egan certainly seems to know his stuff - though at just over ten years old, some of the ideas are starting to look a little dated.

If you don't mind a bit of science, it's a good read. Had me transported for hours. Though the end tended to peter out a little. The last revelation is - deliberately it seems - subdued.

If you're a hard sf fan you'll enjoy it.

Read it. Let me know what you think.


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