Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Neal Asher Video Clip



I think this was the last 'fan question' video clip I did back in 2013. Well, a lot has changed since then, including me, so maybe it's time for me to have another crack at one of these clips? Anyway, to that end stick your questions in the comments section below. When I've got enough I'll do a video clip ... maybe.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kazani 2014 in Papagiannades

At the end of my stay in Crete this year, as on numerous occasions before, it was raki time. This is signalled two or three weeks beforehand by knackered old trucks loaded down with big brown barrels or monolithically stacked up crates of grapes. They make the raki at the end of October and start of November. Unlike what a lot of people seem to think, it is not made out of grape waste – out of what’s left over after the grapes have been pressed for wine – but whole grapes.


Fermentation is a few weeks. As every wine maker knows that’s when the yeast works hardest and produces the most alcohol. All this stuff with demijohns is just about a little extra alcohol and flavour. The yeast in this case is simply the bloom on the grapes. When you wipe a dull soft fruit and it then becomes shiny what you are wiping off is natural yeast. After this fermentation is complete it is Kazani time. The still is brought out and set up, the fire lit, and the fermented mess poured into the cauldron. 

In fact ‘kazani’ is the Greek word for cauldron, but it is also used to name the place where stilling is done and the lengthy boozy barbecues that ensue.



This year Cretans have had trouble getting all the paperwork sorted to start their kazanis as the Greek government, ever greedy for revenue, is moving in on them. Enjoy this video clip of one cycle of the process because it might be something you won’t see in years to come.



As the raki is made and transferred to barrels, hot coals are scooped from the fire for a barbecue. Large quantities of barbecued pork are consumed, along with rabbit, fish, mushrooms, sausage and potatoes baked in the hot coals and so tasty they only need a sprinkle of sea salt. Also consumed is toasted garlic break with oregano on it, raw cabbage with lemon juice and salt, pomegranates, sweetcorn and, here, at the kazani just a staggering distance from my front gate... 


...plenty of my homemade chilli sauce which many of the Greeks attending here have come to enjoy.   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Back to Grey Skies

So here I am back in the land of grey skies, the droning of the BBC and, for me, seemingly endless bloody paperwork.

 
First I opened my parcels to see free copies of the American editions of some of my books and also a German edition of The Departure – I’d forgotten they were even doing a translation.
 
 
As discussed elsewhere I should have saved the parcel opening as rewards to myself for opening letters. As it was I spent all evening opening letters, discarding rubbish and trying to put the rest into some sort of order. I did discover a great load of letters from a debt collection agency. Seems I didn’t pay my last Asda bill though I thought I sent a cheque. I sorted that out too, chuckling when asked questions about my ability to pay.

 
Meanwhile I noticed that my central heating did not seem to be working properly. Sitting there with a house temperature of 17C after being of Crete and being tired from the journey might have been what brought it to my attention. I hit a reset button and generally buggered about with it and now it is working. I’ll have to pose some questions to my plumber when he comes round to service all this stuff in a week or so. I got an electric fire down from the loft and used that till I hit the sack.

The next day I intended to fully sort out all my mail and get onto filing my tax return online. What I actually did was shopping. First I thought it might actually be a good idea to have some food in the house so went out to my garage, reattached the battery on my car and started it up. When I tried to drive it out of the garage it stalled. The brakes were locked on and I actually ended up driving it out just skidding the back wheels along the ground. A couple of thumps with a metal bar and hammer on the back callipers sorted to problem and I headed for Morrisons.  

 
When I got back I’d obviously got the shopping bug because I continued online. Presently, on the ecig front, I’m down to my Vamo, one Protank and a couple of spare atomizers. I spent quite a bit of money on Fasttec and elsewhere behaving like a kid in a sweetshop and the first items have already arrived from Go-Liquids.

 
Next I noticed something wrong with my access to Google+ then to my blog and my account on You Tube. This drove me mad for quite a while. I got madder when I discovered that Virgin.net emails could no longer be used to access Google accounts. I don’t remember receiving any notification about this. I got madder still when I discovered both on Google and Virgin the solution to my problem was to use another email address to access my account. To change this other address I first had to log onto my account. The circle jerk lack of logic there is incredible, but there it is in black and white on their sites. I finally sort-of cracked it much later by getting myself a gmail address and somehow managing to log onto Blogger, then ending up with a new password and another email at gtempaccount.com. If you have the same problem please don’t ask me about this because the details of how I got there are vague. I now have conflicting accounts and that ‘tempaccount’ worries me.

Today I’ve managed to clear most of my mail and it’s time to start on my tax return. This is why I’m writing a blog post and will shortly be pissing about on Facebook and Twitter … and probably looking at You Tube videos about rebuilding ecig atomizers…  

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

3D Printing with Jeff Perkins


Those of you that follow me on Facebook or Twitter @nealasher will be aware that throughout the winter I read a lot of science articles – usually about ten every morning until my mind has warmed up a bit. Of the many things I’ve been following with interest is the evolution of the 3D printer. This is one of those items I’ve mulled over getting for myself, and I may yet buy one (though a quadrotor, satellite watch and underwater camera are first on my shopping list). It was, therefore, great to see that one of my fans, JeffPerkins, has a 3D printer and has been posting his progress with it on Facebook. It was even more enjoyable to see him having a crack at the prador, so I asked him if he could do a post on that here.

Jeff Perkins:

For the sake of coherence, I thought I would restrict the pictures to just the crab print, as it gives a better idea of the process using just one.

I have included a picture of the design stage – adding the bits together in Blender (a 3d design and animation program). I pull the different pieces in there to re-size, rotate etc and weld together. Once done, I export the final piece into a .stl file, which is pretty much the standard for transferring models between programs for 3d printing. .stl comes from "STereoLithography", and the file type can be used across many types of printers and laser cutters.


I then load the .stl file into ReplicatorG - this is one of a number of programs that take the model file and convert it into GCode, which is the scripting language 3d printers use to make the prints. The model can be re-sized and rotated about to make it fit on the print bed better as necessary. From there, you generate the GCode, selecting things such as the speed of printing, the amount of infill (a lattice support inside the structure, 10% gives good support and saves a lot of time and plastic, as opposed to making a solid model). The temperature can also be selected here, and this has a lot of bearing on print quality because differing plastics require different temperatures to print well - even different batches of the same plastic can require slightly different temps for optimum printing.


Once this has all been selected, the computer generates the script - this can take anywhere from a minute or two, to hours for a really large, complex model. I then load the resulting file on an SD card and print from that in the printer - you can connect it up to the computer, but I have found it much
less fiddly to print from the card and not connect the printer to the computer at all. Not all printers offer the SD card capability, unfortunately.

 
From there, the printer prints! I had crabby print upside-down after the first print. I tried with him the right way up but failed badly – the legs came off mid-print, things were getting warped and it was a mess. It printed well upside-down, the only unfortunate thing being that the support mesh leaves a lot of marks on the surface it touches. For a really good print I am going to have to configure it to print right-side-up and have the support structure leave the marks underneath.

 
But that is the joy of 3d printing! It is a technology very much in its infancy and in the experimental stage, and even an unsuccessful print is a good print, as you can always take something away from it to improve the next one.

 
I hope the above info and the pictures is of some use to you, and the sort of thing you were after.

 
Let me know if you want anything else and I can send it off. I will be doing a lot more work on crabby in the next few weeks to convert it into something a lot more like the Prador descriptions in your books, hopefully. I'll let you know how it goes.

...

Thank you, Jeff.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I am Batman Today!

It’s getting colder and wetter here on Crete and I’ve been doing less of the Kayaking or swimming that kept me occupied in previous months. I know, of course, that many reading this will say, ‘Well get fucking writing then!’ I will, but I simply cannot engage with it yet. As I’ve mentioned before, you have to care.

 
So anyway, Kostis, the barman at Revans who wears a T-shirt for which he should be beheaded on the front steps of the nearest library, seems to have a love of the superheroes.

 
Often he’ll wear another T-shirt with the logo of one of these guys and declare, ‘I am Batman today,’ or ‘I am Spiderman and I will collect the empty glasses with my web!’ Mad as a box of frogs. Anyway, I’ve taken a liking to freddo cappuccinos of late and these will often have decorations in cinnamon on top of the frothy milk. In Revans the decoration is simply a heart. Only later did I learn this is because that is the stencil they have in the barrista device they use to put on the cinnamon.

At one point I said to Kostis, ‘You really need to have the Batman bat as a decoration.’ A week or so back, perhaps a little reluctant to go out on the kayak because of the lack of blazing sun, I got a picture of that bat up on my Ipad, drew it on a piece of cardboard and made a cut-out. This sort of worked, but not very well.

 
Next I was shown the stencil for the heart and the sprinkler device it fitted in. I took my cardboard cut-out home and used this as the basis of a stencil made out of the lid of a face cream pot. This Kostis and Yorgos tried out, but the holes clogged almost at once. I realised that the plastic was too thick and thought about some stainless steel I had at home. I took the plastic stencil home, redrew the bat from that on graph paper so I could get the proportions equal, then tried to make the stencil out of stainless steel. Failure. The stainless was too hard and the Dremel drill I was using was blunt after about four holes. I threw everything in the bin then went down to the sea.

 
In Makrigialos the sea was too rough for kayaking, or swimming and, after one beer, I was bored. I came back to the house thinking about other materials I might use, took a look in my shed and immediately found a nice thin piece of aluminium, made the bat stencil out of that and took it down a few hours later. One way round the stencil clogged, but the other way round it didn’t. I think this had something to do with the countersinking.


 
So now, in Revans Bar, you can get a Batman freddo cappuccino. It may be the only one on Crete, or even the whole world!

 
Really, I’ve got to get a life.  

Nightmares and No Escape

What to waffle on about today? Well, even before with my disrupted sleep patterns, I haven’t been dreaming, or haven’t remembered dreaming much at all. Now, for no apparent reason, I’ve started dreaming in Technicolor again. I’ll get the shitty ones out of the way first. I dreamed I’d gone on holiday with Caroline and while we were away she died of a horrible illness. It was a nightmare really. Towards the end of this nightmare, I had to sort out all her clothing and the moment I began doing that I started bawling. Then I started to wake up. Often, when I have nightmares, as I surface to consciousness I start to realise that what I was experiencing wasn’t real. There’s a feeling of relief. This time of course there was no feeling of relief at all because the nightmare was little different from the reality. I woke up more connected to that reality and well down in the pits. Serially, after this, I’ve had dreams about Caroline and I doing stuff, then woken up to the nightmare reality.

 
Then there’s the weird one I had where the old creative process kicked in. I was sitting with a group of people and a woman amongst them was a stalker ... of me. I asked her how she had managed to find me. She said, ‘Google,’ then added in a slightly crazy tone, ‘I’m a googlebeast!’ I immediately replied to this (somewhat paraphrasing The Jabberwock), ‘Beware the googlebeast my son, with claws that scratch and teeth that bite your bum.’ I think I must have been channelling Spike Milligan at that moment. After reciting this, in the dream, I laughed so hard I fell off my chair. No one else was laughing. I think the dream me was as drunk as the real me that went to bed that night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Flowers and Memorials

Since my camera developed a severe case of bashfulness (the lens will come out when I turn it on but shortly afterwards shoots back inside as if it doesn’t like what it sees out here) I haven’t been taking many photos when out walking. However, since I’ve been walking to Voila the damp has increased up in the mountains and this has made a nice change to the burnt-out wilderness they became back in June/July.

 
These, so my Plants of Crete book tell me (thanks Jean-Pierre) are Common Sternbergia. Of course this is the kind of thing you would expect to see in spring in England, but here the season when all the kinds of plants you see in England are knackered is the summer. In fact the Cretans are now planting all sorts of veg.

 
My walk to Voila now takes me along a slightly different route to the one I initially used. This is a winding track down past a memorial to that point on the tarmac road where I first saw those words ‘Never Stop Writing’ scribed onto the white line.

 
When I first looked at the memorial I guessed, with my yet limited understanding of Greek, that it was to some town official or, as is so often the case here, to some local priest. However, I memorized the name and asked about it next time I was in the kafenion. Yiannis, the patron, made a gun shape with his hand and said something about WWII and the Germans. He also told me that this guy was a ‘thaskalos’ – teacher.

 
Yesterday, after I had taken the pictures you see here, I showed them to Anna (my Greek teacher neighbour), who then showed them to her mother who, having been a resident of the nearest village to that memorial, recognised it at once.

 
Again, some limited understanding of Greek was involved, but I understood some of it and certainly understood the hand gestures. Right, they ripped his fingernails out. There was more. I still don’t know what this guy did but I’m guessing it was something to do with the Cretan resistance. Anyway, he certainly pissed off the Nazis because they ripped his fingernails out – this doubtless accompanied by other tortures – then finished the job by burying him alive.     

Ain’t humans wonderful.  

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Forbidden Planet Signing

Thursday, 29th January, 2015 18:00 -

London Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR

NEAL ASHER will be signing DARK INTELLIGENCE at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Thursday 29th January from 6 – 7pm


One man will transcend death to seek vengeance. One woman will transform herself to gain power. And no one will emerge unscathed...
Thorvald Spear wakes in hospital, where he finds he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war that ended a whole century ago. But when he relives his traumatic final moments, he finds the spark to keep on living. That spark is vengeance.
Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate. But after competitors attacked, she needed more power. Yet she got more than she bargained for when she negotiated with Penny Royal. She paid it to turn her part-AI herself, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret. The Dark AI had triggered a transformation in Isobel that would turn her into a monster, rapidly evolving into something far from human.

This is the first volume in a no-holds-barred adventure set in Asher's popular Polity universe.
Neal was born in Billericay and started writing SF and Fantasy at 16. After a range of jobs that landed him in the machine industry, he began the Hadrim trilogy, and wrote his first version of Fool's Mate. Neal has had great acclaim and success for his books; Gridlinked, The Skinner, The Line of Polity, Cowl, Brass Man, The Voyage Of The Sable Keech and Hilldiggers.

Walking to Voila


Tuesday 7th October
For five days now I’ve remained up in the mountains, every day walking to Voila. I was going to write a long post, or even an essay with ‘Walking to Voila’ as the title. To me the phrase somehow relates to Sisyphus pushing his boulder up a hill throughout eternity, only to have it roll back down every time. An eternal cycle; repetitive labour rewarded only by ending up back where you started. It’s a bit like grief really. When I think I’m getting somewhere, recovering, starting to feel better, something comes along and tips me over the edge and I seem to end up back where I started. When someone asks, ‘Where have you been?’ my reply is often just, ‘Crashed and burned again’. But it does get better. The boulder doesn’t roll all the way down every time. And my coping measure now is to take the 9 mile walk to Voila every day.

 
In this post, or essay, I was going to write about some of the things that have happened to Caroline. But as, in my mind, I got past the stuff about boulders, with maybe a little bit about Prometheus chained to a mountain top having his liver eaten out, I got into the nitty-gritty. I realised then that I could not do this. I cannot talk analytically about Caroline going, ‘Oh no,’ and then dying as I tried to make her more comfortable, or the light going out in her eyes, which it did – that is no cliché. I cannot detail the daily awfulness of an ileostomy bag or the litres of vomited emerald green bile flushed down the toilet. Just a few examples there, and I have not yet inspected too closely the definite holes in my memory.

The Late Post


I’ve been remiss in posting here yet again...

Saturday 27th September
It’s kakos keros today (bad weather) and, as I mooch about the house gradually getting a few jobs done (like wiping the three week’s accumulation of dust off the coffee table), I realise that this is probably a good thing.

 
A moment ago, I was gazing at one item in a list of things I must look up while next on the internet: physical exhaustion. In retrospect, walking 8 to 9 miles then kayaking twice that on Thursday, fuelled by just a bowl of cornflakes, coffee, tea, 2 beers, 2 glasses of wine and a pomegranate, wasn’t clever. On the Friday I felt drained, so didn’t walk in the morning as intended. When down in Makrigialos I did kayak, once, and afterwards felt quite ill so went home. Today, after a typically crappy night’s sleep I ate a bowl of cornflakes. Then, still feeling like I’d been tapped out by a vampire during the small hours, I realised I needed more fuel than that so ate a bowl of chilli. The usual then followed as my body used remaining resources to digest that and knocked me out on the sofa. Now, after a further bowl of chilli at midday, I’m starting to feel like I might be able to do some stuff. Luckily, it’s pissing down and, even I, nuts as I am, think that kayaking 10 or 15 miles in the pouring rain might not be the smartest move.

 
I guess I’m discovering my limitations and, one would hope, pushing against them. Flicking back through my journal, I see that most days I’ve been doing the kind of exercise that a couple of years ago would have left me wiped out for a week. I also think I’ve been led slightly along a false path by taking just a little notice of this BMI nonsense. According to that, for my age and height, my range is supposed to be 9st 13lb to 12st 5lb. At present my weight seems to hover about 12st 7lb so I’m fat? Bollocks.

 
And now onto a completely different subject... Another thing I’ve wondering about is when I last did a book signing, and which book it was. I could find out of course by opening my picture files, but then I would see pictures of Caroline and looking at those while stuck inside on a rainy day is not a great idea. Especially when feeling exhausted and weak – my resistance to my inner masochist is at a low ebb at the moment. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the book concerned was Hilldiggers in 2007.

 
The reason I’ve been wondering about this is because, what with the intervention of stuff like cancer and death, the publication of my next book, Dark Intelligence, was deferred to this winter. This will, therefore, be the first time, in about 8 years, that I’ll be physically present in England during the release of one of my books.



 
The good people at Macmillan, spotting this fact, got onto me and asked if I was up for doing something. Well, so long as it doesn’t involve giving talks or readings I am (I did not retreat into my bedroom to write all those years ago because I wanted to be a performer). I will, it transpires, be signing hardback copies of Dark Intelligence in Forbidden Planet, London, on the 29th January. Be there or be square ... or quite possibly Kindle-shaped. 

Sunday 29th September
Kakos keros still, and again no exercise. Yesterday, after eating the cornflakes, then later two platefuls of chilli and rice, I ate a bowl of meat, cheese and pickled onions then in the evening went out for a meal of lamb chops, potatoes, rice and salad. In essence, I ate about two to three times my usual. When I weighed myself that morning I came in at 12st 5.4lbs. This morning I weighed in at spot on 13st. Um, so a weight gain of 8.6lbs in one day, most of it sitting in my stomach, large intestine and small intestine. I must remember to feel no fear next time I’m on the crapper, because the world is going to be dropping out of my bottom.

 
Today, thus far, my routine has been much the same, though with one less plateful of chilli. Still I feel knackered, still my hands are slightly shaky and still my legs feel like they did 10 miles yesterday. I did rally at about 4PM when I pushed myself to sweep out the stove chimney (a rat had taken up residence in it earlier in the summer). After that I felt warm enough to take off my hoody and thought I might be able to do a bit more. About half an hour later I again ended up flat on my back on the sofa. Evolutionary imperative I guess. Your body will respond when you push it simply because the bodies that all the time went, ‘Nah I’m too knackered and I can’t be bothered,’ ended up as lunch for a passing sabre tooth.

Other things I’m noticing. A mosquito bite on my ankle that has just been stubbornly not healing up over many weeks, has now dried up and properly scabbed over. Spots that a two weeks ago appeared on my back scalp and chin are also drying up and healing. The result of rest? Or the result of not perpetually dunking them in the sea? I don’t know. I certainly need to research how to body responds to the kind of pressure I’ve been putting mine under over the last ... 7 months.

Now, if I can summon up the will, it’s time I returned to my Greek homework.