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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Revelation Space

So Revelation Space is a book that establishes the universe in which the similarly titled anthology is set.  I bought a digital copy of the collection which is well worth the asking price (if you can find it anywhere!) - I would guess it contains around a million words (no counting was done to verify this), most of which are worth reading.

The universe is well realised, which isn't surprising considering the breadth of work available in the collection, but it establishes itself with authority, it feels obvious that there is a plan in action and you are welcome to join in despite the obvious lack of a stated direction at the beginning.

The singular style ensures that once you've read and enjoyed the first, you are almost guaranteed to like the subsequent additions.  This also helps when jumping between time zones within the fiction itself as any character vagaries or lack of environmental definition are intentional, and importantly, known to be intentional by all involved.  Trust between author and reader is important in all work, doubly so in science fiction because both parties work together with the express aim of building into an unknown space; more so again in hard sci-fi because everything is set within the realms of current human understanding.  There are no warp engines with which story can be progressed, nor are there magical powers with which the day can be saved.  Any incongruity is a potentially insurmountable hurdle.

The pure 'future,' science is interesting enough, but the applications of current thinking are the most intriguing parts.  The melding (that's a pun, for those who might have read it) of the human and technological is well conceived, especially the use of the animal kingdom.  Other topics such as immortality and epidemic are less well handled, purely because these particular tropes are somewhat tired.  That isn't to say they're not interesting as applied to this universe, more that they take longer to reach virgin territory than, for example, the characterisation of the ships.

The plots within the collection stand alone despite sharing familiar characters and locations.  They are interwoven in interesting and unexpected ways, tending to shy from direct character sequels and taking a much longer term view of the universe than books in other genres.  While this approach is fairly standard for science fiction due to the mind boggling distances and time-spans space encompasses, it is still pleasing enough to see a nod and wink to former books and characters.  They are, however, somewhat blunt.  Instead of writing around interactions the author has chosen to outright include these ties without any allusion or mystery.  This is a bonus if you're not looking to add your own flavour, less so if you don't require everything spelled out.

Loss of humanity or the evolution of humanity is another well worn road that is tackled in particular detail within this compilation.  All the books think about the nature of a humanity capable of self modification with an interesting mix of interpretations in the manifold forms this might take.  This is one of the draws of this series, and I won't say much, except that the outcomes are fairly standard if you have read any genre books in the past - but the characters and characterisations are superb despite the obviousness of their foundations.

There are precious few books that truly innovate, that bring new ideas into the mainstream.  This is not one of those innovators, but what it does show is that tropes handled by less skilled writers are still valid in the hands of the more adept, and this author is most certainly among the adept.

The Revelation Space collection is not a transformative work, it is an excellent evolution of worn ideas.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Can't Sleep, Won't Sleep

So I'm told that being physically tired is a good way of ensuring you sleep.  Not necessarily sleep well, but sleep nonetheless.

I've inadvertently spent my entire life disproving this theory, and today is another example of this as I've just started going to the gym again after a months hiatus (off-season) and yet find myself with less than a normal persons amount of sleep.  How much less?  Well, exactly none.  After getting a couple of hours last night I've given up today, hoping that tomorrow will be better.  

Fingers crossed I can get to work alright tomorrow (what is actually today in real terms), get that shit done, then come home and just fall asleep on the sofa or something.

But, I hear exactly one of your cry, if you sleep during the day you'll mess up your sleep cycle!

Yes I reply, but if I don't sleep I'll die of headaches and/or total brain shutdown.  Also, my sleep is already messed up hence why I'm in this predicament in the first place.  I'd rather try and tackle this problem from a place of actually having slept at some point in the past, rather than where I currently stand.  Have you ever desperately kept yourself awake until 9pm only to find that your brain turns around and says "actually no, fuck you, no sleep tonight."

That's not fun, and it happens.

So basically it's another insomnia post.  Yay!

On the positive side when I was on holiday I didn't have many issues, it turns out that just getting up whenever your body says to and going to bed whenever you're tired is a really good way of getting enough sleep.

Who would have thought it.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Green Fingers

So I'm horrible at plants.  I am also horrible at animals.  I bought a spider plant a few months ago because I think it would be impossible to kill one of those - low and behold I was right.  Unfortunately I picked a really good place for it to go and it grew really big, outgrowing the pot I bought it in and sprouting roots and whatnot everywhere.

Obviously I had to buy a bigger pot, so I did, and now I have this:


They actually gave me 2 spider plants, so I split them up and put some mossy stuff between them.  I've not forgotten to water it yet, so I think they should be fine.  I bought the wrong kind of soil so I've got to change that; put a big wodge of real soil underneath the stuff that's currently in there.

Because there were so many roots wedged into the old pot (there was no soil left) I couldn't get it out.  I resorted to taking out my pen knife and cutting the damned things out, nearly chopping my fingers off in the process.  The knife came in handy for cutting the plants apart though, so I was going to need to risk life and limb at some point in order to get the desired effect.

Regardless of how long it takes to kill these things it turns out that you can grow something for a short time even if you are terrible at that kind of thing.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

I Think I'm Done With Chocolate Forever

I have officially become fed up with chocolate.

I have eaten so much lately that I fear my arteries are forever hardened, my veins forever clogged and my brain forever dulled.  Well moreso than before, at any rate.

I do this every year and honestly it seems to work pretty well for me.  Now is my current off-season and I can afford to get really fat and stupid, so that's what I do.  I'm not an angel when it comes to food during the season, but I don't overindulge and I certainly don't drink heavily - the upshot is that I consider myself fairly healthy (I even eat vegetables, to the shocked gasps in the peanut gallery).  The problem is that I eventually build up a resistance to this behavior and I crave the experience of eating far, far too much unhealthy stuff; which is what I do around this time of year as my own personal Christmas ritual.

So I did it again this year.

The result is my current big fat bloated belly and the aches I now harbor.

My training regimen starts for real next week, with a few light sessions building up to the real grunt work of trying to put on weight and get more explosive.  Luckily the fitness doesn't come into it for another month or so (but there's no way I'm going to neglect it completely, can you imagine how much it would suck to be forced into pre-season off the back of zero running?).

So that's about it for me currently.  Back at work.  The holiday was long but still too short.  Still have intentions of writing a million selling novel, after I invent a perpetual motion machine and earn infinite money from that, of course.

Hot News Flash:  Scientists are REALLY BAD at naming things.  CERN should have a specialist come in and talk to those fools, Jesus.

In other news, Happy New Year and all that.

Monday, 29 December 2014

New Years Recipe

So it's official, steam is the future.

I recently obtained a steamer of some kind, big enough to steam a chicken breast and all the vegetables.  It's the only way to cook potatoes (I really didn't eat many potatoes outside of England).  It's the best because you just turn it on and leave it, you don't have to worry about it boiling over or not being covered (so basically there's no difference between steaming and boiling).  It's good for just setting and forgetting which is perfect for me because I can't cook.

The one downside is that there's literally no flavour.  Spuds are so devoid of taste that they go with anything, but that's not exactly a boon for someone who can't cook.

The answer is simple, and is one that I've only reached today.

Before I unleash this recipe upon the world I must add that I'm making it now (I'm writing this while it boils away) and I haven't tasted it yet.  But here goes:

Boil or steam or fry your vegetables and chickens.  Or microwave them; whatever suits you best.  Put it on a plate in your preferred order.  Put cheese on top.  Wait, you're not finished yet.

Now add lots of marmite.

Done.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

A Merry Hacking!

So someone in Holland has tried to hack my Hotmail account.

Obviously, he's not actually in Holland (or he's a really bad hacker), but Hotmail detected the intrusion and told me someone from the Netherlands was trying to access my account.

This is nothing new; Hotmail gets hacked weekly by some botnet sending out e-mails about viagra (if you've ever wondered where all that spam you get comes from - hacked e-mail accounts!).  They're pretty good about fixing stuff, to be fair.  They won't jump all over the news and warn you, but they fix intrusion weaknesses quickly enough.

I've decided my password library needs an update.  If you use a-z 1-9 and all the other stuff on your keyboard and have an 8 character password there are 3025989069143040 possible combinations (roughly) (I think).

That's a lot of combinations, but computers are pretty quick so I've decided to upgrade my passwords and whatnot. The best way to make a password, jam on the keyboard! Write it down and after a few inputs you'll remember the combination. You need three or four passwords for all the things you do, so as a service to the internets, here you go:

password 1: eirgbp347b3iubi3g4igbs
password 2: 432982h2uifdwnhifbuwib
password 3: huisghsdfsdfaoujbfamn83
password4: asikudfb3671bsdhfbsdhfbv3

Now you don't even have to come up with your own passwords!

Nothing of importance was taken this time, but you never know.

Also merry christmas.

Monday, 22 December 2014

It's Nearly Christmas

Christmas rolls around again.  I've got a small pile of boxes in the corner, containing (hopefully) many kilo's of chocolate and/or marmite - we'll have to wait for the 25th to find out.  In case you were wondering what Christmas day in Japan looks like the following pictures have a handy guide.

The girlfriend is annoyed that I appropriated a bed sheet to cover her present (too big to wrap economically).  I don't think she gets the Christmas spirit.


There are one or two parcels knocking around on the left hand side that aren't in shot - I found that spreading your presents out makes them look more voluminous than just heaping them up.  Top money saving tips on this blog!  This year I'm expecting lots of shoes, because almost everything came in shoe boxes.  The reindeer wrapping paper is bright and sparkly enough that it had to be kept out of direct sunlight; it was causing an 80's disco lighting effect around the room which tends to be distracting outside of a nightclub.  

When packaging your presents in stripes, remember that vertical stripes makes you look taller and thinner, horizontal the opposite.  Therefore accentuate your natural body shape or some such nonsense.

As you can see in the bottom right, Dean and Deluca sent something this year, which was nice.  I'll have to send them something next year.

At this point, some of you may be noticing the lack of a Christmas Tree.  Do not despair.


This is a typical Japanese Christmas tree accompanying the traditional Japanese Orange Juice that is drunk during the holiday season.  Don't forget the traditional Japanese Playstation Controller, used at this time of year.  This troika create a Traditional Japanese Holiday Scene tm..  

So there you have it, a small look into the world of a Traditional Japanese Christmas.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Film Version

The film version is never as good as the book, but these colours are really great so I'm tempted to say that the film camera can still kick it.

As per usual, these are the low quality jpg's they gave me on a DVD.  I have the negatives so I can make high quality prints directly (well I can't, but someone can) or I can scan them in with a decent scanner and get decent files that way.


I really, really like the reds this particular film gives.  I don't know whether that's a thing (having film toned towards good looking reds) but they do have film aimed towards nice skin tones.  If I ever get a willing victim in front of the lens I'll try some of that out and see what the results are like.


This is the colour version of the black and white one I took before.  Except this time it's from the film camera.  I waited for literally an hour, sitting on the next bench in line waiting for the entire avenue to clear.  Needless to say it didn't and the light was fading, so I left with only this shot.


The colours really are nice.  I like this new camera quite a lot.  (It's a bit expensive to get films done regularly though).


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Last Colours of Autumn

So these are the last photographs from the Autumn season.


The night before I went out it started raining and winding all over the place.  The result was a floor covered in leaves and trees very much lacking them.


The trees that retained their leaves were showing some really interesting colours though, so even though they were a bit thin, they made up for it in impact.


The yellows played off the greens really well.  There are a lot of evergreens in Japan, so there are a lot of pictures like this one.


Obligatory black and white picture.


A decent mix of colours on show.


In the more enclosed areas around Shinjuku Gyoen there were a lot more trees intact.


It was mainly yellow when I went, so I wonder if the different trees are uniformly different colours or whether they start of yellowing then move through oranges and reds.


This is the most stock-photo-esque picture I think I've ever taken.


It was a tossup between making this one b/w or leaving it as is.  I was tired and sitting on a bench waiting for one of the above pictures (too many people) so I took this one while eating a sandwich.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Autumn Colour

So I made a really quick video showing the kinds of colours you find around Japan in the Autumn.  It really is quite spectacular.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Black and or White

So I got the film back from a few weeks ago.

The same caveats as before apply - these are all low quality scans and I haven't touched them in any way.

Here's what turned up on my doorstep this evening:


This is the b/w version of the picture that featured on this blog a couple of weeks ago.  The colour version is also my current mobile phone background.


I love the look of wood in b/w, but this needs more contrast.  In fact, none of these pictures are contrasty enough.  (Something I would edit on the computer if I had access to high quality scans).


This is the floor.  It is a picture.


This looks like arteries or something.  I don't know.


Needs about 50% more contrast.  It's one of the tea houses overlooking the lake in hamarikyu onshi koen.  The whole place is pretty interesting to visit, even if there's not much colour.


These kinds of things are best taken in black and white.  The detail of the crumbly bits stands out so much more when you're not forced to process the colour as well.  This was taken at the end of the day, so the shadows are long and interesting.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

IBM vs Akita

So prior to this weekend, IBM were third from bottom which meant not having to play any playoff games at the end of the season (to determine promotion/relegation for next year).

The team below us were Akita, and the team below them were Secom.  We'd beaten Secom a few weeks ago, but now it was time for us to play Akita.

Much like other leagues around the world, scoring 4 tries gives you an extra point in the league table, as does coming within 7 points of the opposition if you happen to lose.

As such, the table was interesting.  Akita were 1 point behind us despite losing all their games.  We had 5 points, they had 4, Secom had 0.  The next match is the last of the season; Akita are playing Secom next week which is one they are likely to win handily.

Basically, the only way to ensure we did not have to play in the relegation match at the end of the year, was to beat Akita, score 4 tries and ensure we won by 8 or more points.

Just a heads up, I didn't get any attacking opportunities as my mission was basically one of defence.  The worlds only defensive winger.  They had a Samoan or Tongan international 13 whom I was tasked to stop, so I just followed him around the field from set piece to set piece.

The referee was also not a fan of me.  I was not a fan of him.  It was a mutual mistrust.

I missed one tackle all game, and it ended up with them scoring a try after a couple of phases from the attack they set up.  In total, it's a game I'd rather forget from a personal perspective.

So, we scored first.  They scored.  We scored.  They scored.  It ended up with them a few points ahead with about twenty minutes to go.  Our scrum-half scored to put us ahead (our kicker nailed all his kicks) so after his double (he scored earlier too) we needed another try in the last ten minutes without letting them score in order to fulfill all the requirements.  They had a scrum around the halfway, they passed it out into the backs where they promptly knocked on, literally handing the ball over to our winger.  He raced away to score the final try we needed under the posts.

The referee blew his whistle, everyone was happy.  Except the referee had blown the whistle because, and I quote, 'there was no advantage to be played from the knock-on.'

This gem, coupled with an earlier penalty for me being off-side (despite the call coming directly from the referee and not a touch judge) and for me high tackling someone (I was chasing the guy from behind, unless I grabbed his head and or neck, it's physically impossible for me to have tackled him high.  For the record, I grabbed his arms.) made me think there might be something slightly dodgy going on.  I forgot to mention earlier that this was an away game.  Very, very away.  We'd flown up the night before and stayed overnight.  (Free food, yay!)  I can only assume the referee was a local.

To be fair, he apologised after the game.

Anyway, with about two minutes left our full-back evaded a tackle and danced over the line to score.

We were 6 points ahead at that point, so our kicker needed to get the extras for us to be clear this year.  It wasn't an easy kick, but he managed it.

So that's that.  There were a few tears, much stress was relieved (last year they had to play in the relegation game, which they won so managed to stay in the league, but it's not an ideal position to be in.)

The upshot is that we are playing Yakult in a couple of weeks, for the chance to end mid-table.  A great result for IBM if it's possible.

I just need to play better and cut my hair or something.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

It's an Interesting Thing

Last week I put up some pictures I'd taken of a park.

I thought they were absolutely fantastic, but interestingly enough I didn't get many page views on the particular post, which leads me to believe that they weren't anything special.  It's an interesting thing, taste.

As an aside, I've been given a load of photos from the game against Hino, so here they are!


A few are from training.


It's starting to get really cold so I'm wearing an awful lot of clothes.  It's starting to feel more and more like England.


I've started a few games now so I've got some game fitness, but there's nothing like running some laps to get breathing.


This is the warmup before the Hino game.


As we walked onto the pitch.


The ground was in a park from the 1960 something olympics held in Japan.


You can't see it but the in-goal areas are about 2 metres long, given an extra 2 metres by laying some carpet.  Literally carpet.


The solo effort from a kick our wing and fullback fielded.


You can't really see the carpet from this angle but I made sure to dot down before getting anywhere near it (I was actually tackled and just fell over the line).


The first time I've scored and had such congratulations from the team.  Feels good!


Smiles all round!


This is probably me walking right after the try, attempting to catch my breath.


The Australian guy was playing centre, but switched positions after the try to cover my position.


This is me scoring the second try, pulling a sexy face.


Unfortunately the second try was judged to have a knock on during the build up.


After the game.  Annoyed at the score and extremely tired.  I attempted 12 tackles, the most attempted on our team was 13.  Needless to say it's strange to see a winger trying so many tackles in a game.


This face sums up the game pretty well, I think.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Rikugien

It's Autumn time.  That means the leaves are changing colour and there's a chance you might snap a few reds among the greens.

Before I move onto the pictures; IBM played against Hino this weekend.  We lost, but I scored our only try and made any number of tackles.  I missed one, and in the process broke the vice captains nose.  Not exactly ideal, but we look past the mistake and try to improve.

The try was an absolute beast of a solo effort by the way.  Amazing.  I'm not allowed to upload it for the whole world to see, but it's great.  Honestly!

Anyway, onto the pictures.


As you can see, I took a lot of pictures of the same place.  Apart from the lack of colour elsewhere (it's still a little early for the true Autumn show) this place had a nice combination of light falling through the trees and shades of orange and red.


This one is slightly more contrasty making the reds a little redder.  As a result I think I prefer this one.


This one also looks quite good in black and white, but everyone's had enough of that.  I might go back and deepen the reds a little.


This is the view from the bridge above.


Aha surprise!  Black and white!  I over compensated for the lens I was using, hence why this pillar bends in really awkward ways from the middle third upwards.  It's easy enough to correct if I ever want to come back to this picture; for now it's fine.


This is the view looking back towards the entrance of the place.  It's supposed to look like this all the way around the park at this time of year, but this is the only really pretty stretch at the moment.  I'm sure it'll look good in a couple of weeks, maybe less.  I'm not sure how long it takes for the whole place to change before the leaves start dropping.  If it's like England, you'll only have a relatively short period of time before everything looks drab.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bloody Interesting Stuff

I'll get round to giving this a write up along with the titles I promised to review earlier this month (last month!).  If I could just stop reading damned books for five minutes I could actually write about them!

It's very interesting to look back at what you've read and try to think about it because if you're like me, it'll end up being a blur that you vaguely remember reading once and never properly digesting.

As such, the idea is to solidify my memory of these books.  An entirely selfish act for your reading pleasure!

The actual interesting point is this:

http://rosetta.esa.int/

The European Space Agency is trying to land a probe on an asteroid.  The thruster that's supposed to push the craft onto the asteroid while its drilling legs and underbelly harpoon activate and secure it to the rock is no longer working, and as such I'm not sure what's going to stop the thing just bouncing back off into space.

The comms delay is roughly 30 minutes (half a light hour,  which makes it what, 3 and a three quater AU from earth?) and the expected landing time is roughly 6.30 GMT.  I'll be in bed when it happens, but you might not be!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Before Bed

So I'm off to have a nap now, but before I do I thought I'd share the low quality scans of the pictures I took with my brand new (enormous) film camera.

There is one portrait that came out nicely, but the rest were a bit 'meh.'  They were, in fact, very 'meh,' so here they are for your viewing (dis)pleasure!

Plants are often viewed as being colourful and therefore people think they require colour photographs to do them justice.
Trees on the other hand...

Of course they are black and white, because I have a digital camera for the colour stuff.

That aside, as these are the low quality scans the quality will be comparable to any .jpg created by a low end digital camera, or by scans from 35mm saved as .jpg

The benefit comes when I want to get one of the negatives blown up really big like.


That's not entirely the whole story though - the feel of medium format is slightly different and, for mine, gives a slightly ethereal quality to some of the pictures.  Not all of them of course, but on the occasions when you get it just right, there's a style that you can't replicate elsewhere.

This plant seemed to be rather old and was definitely shapely enough that a decent picture should have come out of it; I just couldn't find the angle this time.

Exactly one picture in this series has something approaching that feeling.


I'll leave it up to you to decide which one you think it is.  It might well be wishful thinking on my part, and you might decide none of them have 'it.'

The water is so featureless - it'd be an alright picture if there was a skyscraper reflected in it.

I won't disagree if you think these aren't very inspiring, but look at them as a proof of concept.  I mostly figured out how to use the camera!

There's a title about driftwood or bare branches or something here.

I also learned that hand holding it viable if you have decent light, and even if you don't have tons of light you can still walk away with a picture or two despite the weight of the thing.

Divine Headquarters

I don't usually bother editing .jpg's because for every edit there's bound to be a loss of information in the resulting file and I'm habitually saving over old files by mistake (decades of using computers has taught me to save without thinking, which in this case is inadvisable!).  But in this instance I made an exception because I wanted to emphasise the rays peaking over the top of the building.

The camera works.  I figured out how to use it.  There's still half a roll left in the camera waiting to be used up somewhere before I throw another roll in.  That contains the rest of this load of pictures (in truth there are only 2 shots left in that enormous monster so I need to pick up some more film) and a couple of test shots I took to check the film still wound after I dropped the bloody thing (clumsy bastard).

It took a couple of weeks for the film to come back but it was nice to pick it up.  It's like a Christmas present because you forget you put it in to be processed and a week later it's there to be picked up!