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April 2nd, 2012

Asa Briggs - Secret Days : Code Breaking in Bletchley Park
(c) 2011 but this edition by Frontline Press, London 2012

An interesting account of being at Bletchley rather than the usual doing at Bletchley tales.

It provides a unique insider's view of life at the Park and does not purport to be either a technical discourse on code breaking or a simple narrative of events at Bletchley.

Brigg's strength is in providing historiographical analysis of and personal context for the various autobiographies and narratives that have been produced of the WW2 code breaking effort. We get an insight into some of the major personalities and how that may have influenced their own narratives.

My favourite anecdote however was the following:

page 106

"Military officers in the Camp had orderlies, of course, and that, not social background or individual ability, distinguished them from warrant officers and sergeant. When one of them, a young 2nd lieutenant, tried to pull his rank on me, telling RSM Conners on a room inspection that my blankets were not folded properly and that I should be put on a charge, the RSM warned him that it would be stupid to do so and that our Commandant would not approve. Later he tried to get into my college in Oxford."

March 27th, 2012

Seiko Kinetic Repairs

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Do you have an older Seiko Kinetic watch where the battery is no longer holding its charge?

Get this guy to overhaul your watch, he offers an absolutely A1 service. Safe, secure, prompt and great communication.

http://www.kinetic-repairs.co.uk

Because of scratches I had the glass changed and had the ultrasonic cleaning too.

It honestly feels like a new watch - and i guess internally it is!

March 8th, 2012

Project: iPad for Dad

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The project is moving elderly father from G4 Powermac to iPad - remotely.

G4 obviously ancient, power hungry, no longer upgradeable and ergonomic disaster area as he has a hand-me-down massive CRT screen on a rubbish computer desk. Also not ideal for everyday computing as in different room upstairs from main living space.

Solution : buy iPad to do 95% of everything he does now, plus access to FaceTime and all those lovely apps.

Snag : He has broadband but not a wireless router.

So the plan is to buy a new iPad 16GB (retina display FTW, and 16GB as he will be streaming stuff and doesn't have an mp3 or video collection now) and an Airport Express.

Also needs a smart cover to protect screen against his dog!, and i think potentially a keyboard dock to help with typing (but i reckon the dock is not a Day 1 purchase but rather a see how you get on with touch screen keyboard first)

As the local shop is a Reseller, the plan is to get them to help him set up Apple ID in-store using their wireless AND ensure that Airport Utility is downloaded to iPad before he goes home.

This means, I think, that he should be able to get home , plug in airport express to router and power and use Airport utility to name base station and add password.

Does this sound like it should work?

January 2nd, 2012

In “Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbervilles” Kim Newman shares with us a number of the (mis)adventures of the Professor and Sebastian Moran as the underworld mirror images of Holmes and Watson.

After reading the re-issued director's cut edition of Anno Dracula earlier this year it was obvious that I had to buy ‘Moriarty’ given that I love Sherlock Holmes. Easy when you have been brought up with Jeremy Brett's performance as the great detective in the famous Granada serial. [Which by the way is available as a collected set on DVD where the approximately 2500 minutes of deer-stalkery goodness work out at under a penny a minute!]

The ‘second most dangerous man in Britain’ proves to be an excellent and obviously unreliable narrator and makes a fine anti-hero. Moran's turn of phrase in stating objectionable views is hilariously funny. So much so that my laughter whilst reading on a crowded train drew stern looks and the assumption I was bonkers.

It is obvious that the Newman has relished the chance to write a character who’s point of view is selfish, misogynist, colonial and imperial in outlook and who is a thoroughly rum cove indeed. However Moran‘s character is more subtly drawn than you first think and your understanding of him develops throughout the stories.

As I read my way through the stories my initial admiration of this arch take on Sherlockiana gave way to the realisation that this is very cleverly constructed book indeed.

Newman demonstrates deep knowledge not just of Conan Doyle's tales but also of the crime, horror and adventure tales written by Conan Doyle's contemporaries. This means that not only do the individual tales related by Moran stand up in their own right as good adventures but they are significantly enhanced by being entwined with the existing Holmes adventures and the wider fictional world.  

There is a good deal of 'meta' fun to be had working out how the story fits into the canon or which character is going to get a walk on part next. Helpfully for those of us who don’t happen to have an encyclopedic knowledge of popular Victorian literature there are substantial endnotes to fill in the gaps.

Moriarty is a rollicking read and is highly recommended. This is much more than pastiche. Newman has taken the Sherlockian tropes we all know, inverted them and then run away with them to somewhere very interesting indeed

Buy it now.

You can then read it in between watching the Moffat / Gatiss modern Sherlock starring Benedict Cummerbund and Bilbo Baggins* which is beyond brilliant. Episode One of Series Two was on last night and if you missed it go to the iPlayer and watch it now, no really right now...

See I told you it was good.

Then you can go and look at

http://www.johnwatsonblog.co.uk/

and

http://www.thescienceofdeduction.co.uk/

One thing that I really love about the show is the attention to detail and honouring the canon whilst playing with it.

For example, 221b Baker Street is *exactly* the same flat as inhabited by Jeremy Brett and David Burke/Edward Hardwicke. It has the same amount of space, the same floor plan with the only apparent differences being the furniture and modernisation e.g. the addition of a kitchenette.

This is one of those shows where you can get over the fact that there aren’t many episodes in a season because it is ‘all killer and no filler’. Clever, with a rapid fire script and extremely funny (with a knowing wink) script.

I want to borrow the blue box from Moffat’s other show so that I can see next week’s now.


*And the glorious Una Stubbs - what odds can I get on there being a plot device in a future episode where Mrs H is required to communicate a message to Sherlock using hand gestures only?

December 22nd, 2011

Cheryl Morgan just posted the list of just some of the great stuff being published next year:

http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/?p=12463

In the Mouth of the Whale, Paul McAuley
Transmission, John Meaney
Blue Remembered Earth, Al Reynolds
Arctic Rising, Tobias S. Buckell
Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce
The Outcast Blade, Jon Courteny Grimwood
The Kingdoms of Dust, Amanda Downum
The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan
Intrusion, Ken MacLeod
Hide Me Among the Graves, Tim Powers
The Fractal Prince, Hannu Rajaniemi
Black Heart, Holly Black
Ison of the Isles, Carolyn Ives Gilman
Radiant Days, Elizabeth Hand
Empty Space, M. John Harrison
The King’s Blood, Daniel Abraham
The Drowned Cities, Paolo Bacigalupi
The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson
Blackout, Mira Grant
The Shadowed Sun, N.K. Jemisin
Railsea, China Miéville
Weapon of Flowers, Liz Williams


What a great list, I thought and a quick scan and my mental shopping list now has these books as pretty much certain purchases:

Blue Remembered Earth, Al Reynolds
Intrusion, Ken MacLeod
The Fractal Prince, Hannu Rajaniemi
Railsea, China Miéville

And then I looked at main list again and realised my short list had a significant shortcoming.

No female writers.

The authors that I shortlisted are those who I generally buy as soon as they publish something new [Apart from Hannu but given 'that' debut who can blame me for putting him on the auto-buy list]

But, after a bit more thinking about it, that makes the issue even more important - if I have read mostly male authors in the past then I am going to be predisposed to have them in my auto-buy list at the expense of trying something new.

So my resolution for 2012 is to buy and read more work by women.

If I can achieve more than a 1:1 ratio female to male in 2012 then I'll be exceedingly happy. And even if I don't make it i'll have presumably read some good stuff and have some new authors to put on my auto-buy list.

PS don't forget that Nick Harkaway's new book is out early next year too

November 9th, 2011

In Budapest in early 1945, when the city was besieged by the Soviets, almost all the 2,500 animals in the zoo were killed or eaten. “For weeks,” Hastings writes, “a lion roamed the underground rail tunnels until it was captured by a Soviet tank force dispatched for the purpose.”

Read more: http://entertainment.time.com/2011/11/09/it-sucked-to-go-through-world-war-ii-inferno-will-remind-you-why/#ixzz1dDkLdB6V
So I succumbed and bought Assassin's Creed 2 for Mac on Steam.

It is a fairly nasty port with PS3/Xbox controller buttons barely remapped for the keyboard and hardly any other concessions to desktop play.

Also it doesn't work properly after download - I had to google how to properly install the Uplay Ubisoft client [aka always on DRM] as it doesn't install into the correct folder on OSX.

My source for this valuable troubleshooting information was various Fan / Steam forum entries. Simply not good enough from Ubisoft.

But despite all that it is quite fun to play because of the sandbox-y style, ninja missions, the free-running, climbing on rooftops and so on and so forth.

However I came across a bug with one mission : Town Crier - assassinating Antonio Maffei atop the tallest tower in San Gimignano.

I tried lots and lots of times and everytime I got to the top of the tower Maffei was no longer there even though he was still marked on the map. Abort mission and start again. I assumed that this was a bug.

However the real issue with this mission is that it is timed but the game doesn't actually tell you that pertinent fact! You need to get to Maffei at the top of the tallest tower BEFORE he stops ranting / sermonising.

I managed this by taking out the guards on the lower tower next to Maffei's tower and crossing the ropes that join the two, climbing up rapidly and getting to the target. Maffei had actually walked down onto the wooden walkway so I think I only just managed to get him before it timed out.

September 30th, 2011

Com Truise - great video

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Com Truise - "Brokendate" from Ghostly International on Vimeo.



the video is great - every, and i mean every, eighties cop/noir trope: Bladerunner, even Automan , meets Neuromancer and the Gibsonian 'Net.
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