Monday, August 29, 2005

The open road

I went out for a long bike ride today, through Duxford, Ickleton, Elmdon, Saffron Walden, Ashdon, Bartlow, Linton and back home. On the lanes near Thriplow, I saw a grass snake side-wind off the road ahead of me; and towards Elmdon, bubbles of tar oozing between the gravel of the road popped under my tyres.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Film — Primer

An interesting low key (and low budget!) time-travel movie, realistically handled as two guys in a start-up tinker in their garage and produce closed causal loops by accident. The dialogue is fragmented and intercut just like real speech, and the low budget ensures that everything else is similarly free from spurious polish.

Alas, the film disintegrates in the last twenty minutes or so; when they get distracted from their get-rich-quietly policy; the model used for the time travelling unravels as scenes replay with later versions of the characters in them, and dramatically irrelevant side-effects (bleeding from ears, broken handwriting) are mentioned and discarded. And then it ends.

[Later] — I saw the trailer to the film, which is actually very classy — asking the question “What is really wanted?”, working up the pyramid of needs — Food and shelter? Done. Wife and family? Done. Money? Done. … — everything is checked out until finally “What is really wanted? — To repair it all.” A very good answer. What a pity the film didn't quite convey that.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Finally, just as the road surface near Kingston was about to slide downhill in chunks completely, to the extent that it had had emergency tarring slathered over it, the road has been rebuilt completely. With weeks elapsing since small areas had been marked by paint, my fear was that it would just have been another set of cosmetic patches that would soon fray around the edges.

Meanwhile, at some point over the summer, a chunk of asphalt has been applied to reduce the worst of the steps in the cycleway over the M11, but there's still no sign of any real work going to be done ever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Book — Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross

I really liked Singularity Sky. It seemed that Stross was singlehandledly fixing the sorry state of British SF. But this return to the same setting is just “Meh.” — routine spaceship fiction with little fizz to it, just a secret cabal of übermensch Space Nazis seeming to be behind it all. I'm a third of the way through, and I just don't care. In particular I get to the just don't care about characters easing tensions in copulation — I don't need to know even in a one paragraph aside.

Actually that sort of coy sex scene (it'd be a “lime” in fanfic terms) annoys me even more than out and out smut.

Yes, it is a quirky little neurosis of mine. Do you have a problem with that?

Book — Iron Council by China Miéville

More New Crobuzon; more of the surrounding continent. War, rebellion and heroes returning from out of myth to save the day — except said heroes are a rag-tag band of misfits whose only virtue is to have survived.

Suffers a bit from having to escalate from volume to volume.

Book — The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

A British post-cyberpunk take on Operation Chaos. If high-tech companies or the civil service have been part of your life, you will recognise all the environment. Meanwhile it's a nerd fantasy where the geeky guy ends up with the hawt chick.

Despite the Hugo, the second novella, Concrete Jungle is the weaker of the pair — it is too much Operation Chaos and not enough post-cyberpunk.

Book — Olympos by Dan Simmons

I read the first quarter and got so bored waiting for things to start moving at above a glacial pace that I gave up. There was about a slim chapter's worth of moving the plot along and too much fake Homerics.

A pity, because the first book really drew me along, for all that I lambasted its erroneous computations.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The seasons turn

House shadow on the curtains when the alarm goes off; plums starting to crop (just the wormy ones to date), and an amazing crop of blackberries on the rogue plant at the bottom of the garden (which seems to have done well after much dismembering the other year — this is only the second significant crop, and first decent one, in its 15 years)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Beard and sandals

Having shed a toenail at the start of the year, in the warmer weather I've been wearing mainly sandals, and now the nail is most of the way back, for the last couple of months not even a pad over the offending toe (since early June). So I have quite distinct tan-lines on my feet.

Friday, August 19, 2005


Thursday evening I left an empty wine-glass on the garden table while I was clearing up all the prunings from the plum and cherry trees from the lawn, ahead of the rain. A day later it had about an inch of rainwater in it.


Monday, August 15, 2005


Was at Consternation, the RPG con held at New Hall over the weekend, mainly to free up a yard or more of shelf-space at the auction.

In between getting dragged into playing railway board games, which I never do any good at, I was helping ensure that the real ale bar was not going to be left with a surplus. Drinking stuff at over 4% rather than under makes a notable difference. At Worldcon, I was going for the 3.8% Goldihops; and on the Friday, the Minotaur mild. Saturday and Sunday the other beers at 4-4.3% were on, and the mild was exhausted.

I cycled home quite happily after six pints on Sunday, but as soon as I got off to push the bike down the drive and into the garage, I was well wobbly. That was quite weird.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Day 5

A very hung-over Mr Stross at the first panel on the fantastic elements of the Baroque Cycle (historical SF or historical fic about science?), which all agreed that Eliza was unusual. Worries that Stephenson was committing trilogy, with Cryptonomicon as the first volume. The Cats and SF writers panel is too crowded into a small room for comfort. Even the gophers are surprised at how quickly the room fills, as one holds up a STOP sign assuming that this is the previous panel not yet exited. Final panel is a scrappy talk by the once great Jack Cohen; and after a final trawl of the dealers' room, we set off back to the Fat Lamb as a way-station for the night.

Very different doing this in sunshine.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Day 4

A couple of entertaining panels with Charlie Stross, on AI and on Genre killing ideas (like the mobile phone); and one about whether Tolkien-alikes get things wrong in that they have people hunting for the fix-it item of power, while LotR has people with the item of power trying to get rid of it… The panel get stuck on the wording of the topic, until I point out that it is actually Tolkien who inverted the Grail quest.

Cue long Arthurian digression…

After lunch, the next section of the anime talk, where I get to see enough early Gainax to find out why their first mobile armour series gets called Bustgunner by some — and that even those in the business either don't get NGE or can't summarise it well. There was much disrespectful snickering at the long-held still during the clip of Asuka's revival in EoE.

Inoue-san did a talk on SF in Japan, which indicated that there was little market for written SF, hence most writers went into some visual medium too. Space-opera is well liked, with a new updated (tech-wise) translation of the Lensman series doing well. I guess that explains Daatipea no Daibouken, then. And I resisted the urge to ask fanboyish questions about Gainax gossip.

Curry at Sibbo's Delhi Dabba, including a naan the size of a tea-tray, and a needful walk, before going to a fanfic panel. Relieved to find that most people there will never see 30 again, and many were likely as old as me. Some very weird fandoms — Wild, Wild West and Blakes 7 seemed to be the defaults. And so to bed.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Day 3

Not a lot of interesting panels; all the ones of British SF collide at 10:00, so I go for the one on the British Landscape in SF — and it turns into a vague rambling about fantasy, rather than SF, to the extent that one question trying to drag the talk back on topic got the answer “Did you know that Conan was a Scot?”, like a politician's preapred answer with nothing to do with what was asked. Back to anime with Black Magic M-66 which is harmless, even if quiet unlike the manga.

Lunch and some bheer. Then a so-so talk about the history of anime in the 70s and 80s (up to the advent of the home VCR). Scout the dealers' room, and don't find much (ten years ago I would have bought When the dark star passes, or Venus Equilateral, but not now), then a panel on manga with Hioraki Inoue, quondam Gainax founder, the guy who did the anime talk and an editor from Del Rey, whose answer to most questions was “Buy Tsubasa, it's great!”.

Inoue-san gave the most interesting snippets, indicating that some of the manga strips aimed at older readers acted like soap opera, with characters ageing in real-time; and the honest response to “What do you get out of manga?”, of “A job.”

Decide to skip the masquerade in favour of the Real-Ale bar. Drink lots, go take pictures

Science museum


Back to bar, where the masqueraders are coming through from the changing room, so I get to see most of the costumes, if not the skits, close-up. And get enticed into conversation with a couple of lasses, including the one whose question was so roundly ignored in the panel earlier, which gets us a mini-gripe session. I pontificate a lot. And at one point Xena walks up and peers at my name badge.

I was too taken aback to react. Was I being mistaken for some celebrity? Might I nearly have gotten lucky? I'll never know.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Day 2

Early start for Wings of Honneamise, then go to the Japanese SF panel, which turns into a talk about Nippon 2007, the Worldcon to be held in Yokohama; and slideshows of SFWJ members cosplaying, all to the background music of Komm, süsser Tod, which choice boggled at least one member of the audience. Oh, and the panellists seem to be reclaiming the word otaku for the normal run of fan.

Foreign language Seiun awards were given to Sturgeon's And now the news from 1953, and Egan's Distress from 1995, for their recent translations into Japanese.

Then do the R.O.D. OVA (cute), a resupply run, a panel about some of the surface experiments from Huygens, then the new Appleseed movie, which looks pretty, albeit like a video-game, and is sorta faithful to what the series is about, if not many of the details. And bheer!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Day 1

THe morning I take the chance to yomp into town for fruit and other supplies — I reckon I'm going to stack and cruise at breakfast, then snack. I'm gratified to find, opposite the Sainsbury's in Bothwell Street indicated by the con guide that there's an M&S Simply Food opposite, which I use instead.

First panel on Hubble results is off; second on feminist influences on F/SF art (if any) is limp, so I'm off to the anime room, for Alien Nine (loopy), Furi Kuri (insane), Battle Fairy Yukikaze (angsty and wooden), Project EDEN (slapstick) and Please Save My Earth (bland) — an episode or two of each, except the movie. Then the real ale bar, where I spot Charlie Stross with a pint in each hand and no obvious other person to be claiming one. Then wrap up the day with a panel of disgusting ideas in SF — which, being a panel of women in a roomful of blokes, goes for the obvious yuck factor, as exemplified by Sturgeons Some of your blood.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Second leg

Drive in intermittent rain to Glasgow. I put off getting onto the M6 until just short of Carlisle, and then it's follow the road as it gets renamed/renumbered until the M73 forks off, then M8, then off at junction 19 and follow the signs to the SECC.

Hotel and WSFS Armadillo

Worldcon site

Have to wait a bit for the room to clear before checking in; then get registered. Finding that WiFi is £3/30min, with the clock ticking even if you're logged off, I refrain. The lack of drop kerbs makes finding dinner challenging; so we give up and eat in the unremarkable carvery at the hotel, where no-one comes to take any drinks orders; and we are ignored until we are done and get up and start to go. I don't recommend that part of the restaurant on those grounds. Maybe the up-marked one would have been better; but at least we got a reduced rate for the con.

Then to the bar, and beer at a striking £2-95/pint…

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Strictly for the birds…

A sunny day, with enough cloud and breeze for comfort, so drive down to the Falconry Centre at Giggleswick. We arrive just in time for the first show, and stay to the last.

Bataleur Eagle

Bataleur Eagle

The weather is wonderful for the birds, even if one of the falcons gets a bit distracted by the local wildlife, so we get really good displays of both high soaring flight and the final lunge for food (to the extent that one bird brushes my head on the way down).

Take the pretty way home, through Hawes then up the B-road past Outhgill to cross over on the single track road I walked a couple of days ago. And soon after we get back, the cloud comes down low and heavy drizzle sets in.

Monday, August 01, 2005

More mooching

No appetite yet at breakfast (which was huge yesterday).

Shorter walk, Ravenstonedale, then along the minor road towards Adamthwaite. Vaguely peckish at 12:30, so stop at bridge and eat rest of picnic stuff. Leave the road by the bridleway to Murthwaite, then down the steep descent by Sally Beck to to A683, and so back.

Since my holiday in France a couple of months ago, I've not worn socks; but now the toenail is long enough not to itch when just sitting in socks and shoes (tested yesterday), I'm hiking in boots and the whole two layers of sock gig. A couple of miles short of the hotel, I'm getting tired hot feet, so change into the sandals I packed. And my feet are just so much more comfy!

After being cool and cloudy all day, it brightens up by evening. After a lighter supper, I go for a stroll — and spot this:-

White shorn sheep with red L on the side