Saturday, January 31, 2009

Book Cases Six


Bollocks, I've been getting so many of these is was only a matter of time before I fucked up. These are of course Alexander Kruel's books. He is from Gütersloh, Nordrhein-Westfalen, DE.
Apologies all round.

And higher resolution shots are here, here and here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Book Cases Five

Here then is the collection of Kirby Ubben, who for some time has been threatening to bring his collection of my books over to England for signing, but now cannot afford the excess baggage charge. Interesting to see that he's managed to obtain some books I thought virtually unobtainable. Nice one Kirby!

Book Cases Four

Here's some seriously cool ones that make me very jealous. How lovely it would be to have that kind of space for book cases ... well, I do, but have to climb up a ladder into the loft to get to them.

These belong to Petr Kotrle who is the Czech translator of my books. And in that respect he must be doing a good job since The Skinner won the Salamander there (an Academy Award) and Gridlinked was shortlisted.

Stem Cells.

-->I have to say that Obama took a little step upwards in my estimation when I read that he intends to take the religious right handcuffs off the stem cell researchers.

Stem cell research advocates have waited nearly eight years for the policy change President-elect Barack Obama has signaled he'll make in the early days of his administration: lifting the restrictions imposed by President Bush on federal funding for research on human embryonic stem cells.

And now it seems the FDA is approving trails for using stem cells to heal spinal cord injuries. A branch of research which is more than promising since the researchers have already used this technique to heal the spines of rats (listen to the animal rights protesters scream). This one has to be the first target to hit because, the moment the first cripple gets out of his wheelchair, it will tune down the loud objections of those ‘moralists’ with a direct line to their invisible friend in the sky.

But this stuff, objections or otherwise, is being pursued all across the world. Just the few I mention here are the tip of the iceberg and only today we hear about stem cell therapy being used on MS sufferers.

Not one of 21 adults with relapsing-remitting MS who had stem cells transplanted from their own bone marrow deteriorated over three years.

We very definitely need this research and it can be seen that moral objections will be falling by the wayside as researchers hack out a path to differentiating adult stem cells for such therapy, which has to be the ultimate goal.

Now, researchers at Northwestern University have found new evidence that hematopoietic stem cells, a type of adult stem cell derived from the bone marrow that gives rise to blood cells, are capable of undergoing more diverse transformations than previously thought and could be transformed into a wide variety of tissue types, not just blood cells.

Damn but it's weird - every so often I discover my inner optimist.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Book Cases Three

Here's a couple more for jealous appraisal. The first belongs to Mark Chitty and the second belongs to packrat54. Oh and, additionally, you can find Bob Lock's one here.

LED Light.

-->Over in Crete, and probably at holiday destinations all over the world, you can buy lighters, with LED torches incorporated in them whose intensity is astonishing. You can also buy torches alone that utilize numerous LEDs, and throw out one hell of a beam of light powered by a set of batteries smaller than the collection of LEDs itself. I’ve seen keyrings with these things in, and know that some manufacturers produce them for home lighting. However, they haven’t caught on as yet, because of the ridiculous unit cost. But perhaps they will now:
The researchers have designed a bulb that is three times more energy efficient than today's best offer and can cut lighting bills by 75 per cent. They are made using Gallium Nitride (GaN), a man-made substance used in LEDs (light emitting diodes). It is routinely used in bike lights, mobile phones and camera flashes.

But until now the production costs have been too expensive for widespread use in homes and offices - a single bulb would have cost £20. However, the researchers have found a cheaper technique to help manufacture the bulbs and manufacturers have begun work on production prototypes. The first units could hit shelves within two years. Professor Colin Humphrey, head of the centre, said: "This could well be the holy grail in terms of providing our lighting needs for the future."

The bulbs are 12 times more efficient that conventional tungsten bulbs and three times more efficient than compact fluorescent "energy efficient" bulbs. They can burn for 100,000 hours and they illuminate instantly and can be dimmed, unlike energy efficient bulbs. If they were installed in every home and office the bulbs could cut the proportion of UK electricity used for lights from 20 per cent to 5 per cent a year.

The Victorian Farm.

Well, since I’m often putting up post here ranting about something I haven’t liked either on TV or in the cinema, perhaps it’s time to talk about something I do like. The Victorian Farm is a delightful, informative and absolutely addictive program, each episode packed with fascinating details about how country folk way back then used to live. It certainly shows that they were also a hardier breed than us, and opens ones eyes to just how soft and cosseted are our present lives.

The program also brings home how those who really improve people’s lives are inventors. The guy who invented the washing machine did more to negate the drudgery of day-to-day life than any number of politicians, and the guy who invented the tractor fed more of the starving than any charity you care to name.

And apparently, there’s plenty who agree with me about this program, since its viewing figures have exceeded those of the execrable Big Brother. A victory of substance over junk. It’s on tonight at 9.00 on BBC2, so screw Piers Morgan or that crappy Hustle, turn over and watch something worth your time.

It's Not Easy Being Green.

-->I caught part of a program last night filled with ageing hippies and the young open-faced naïve believers like you’ll find in new churches in Bible Belt America, but who in this case have been indoctrinated into the eco-church. It was called ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ and most of the program was about building houses with straw bales – the kind of thing you can do if you’ve plenty of time, money and space (since your wall will end up being a couple of feet thick), and is therefore probably only the province of the champagne eco-warrior who can afford to eat organic and probably drive a brand new Prius.
The hectoring eco-bullshit was bad enough but, having worked some of this stuff out myself, the financial figures were highly questionable. I have, for example, doubts that changing about five light-bulbs for the mercury version will save anyone £100 a year.

Having looked at buying a solar panel and then worked out the costs involved, I was interested to watch the bit about a woman who had a ‘green’ heating system installed in her house, including solar panels. In my case the panel would have cost £3,000+, and I worked out that the savings wouldn’t cover the interest at the time if I were to take that money and stick it in an ISA. I would just be making a loss on it, forever.

The entire cost of this woman’s ‘green’ system was £9,000, whereas a conventional system would have cost her £3,500. Apparently, since the system would save £500 a year, the difference of £5,500 would be paid off in 11 years. Now, I have to wonder just what kind of house is being run here that costs over £500 a year to heat – I’m guessing the kind of house owned only by the residents of TV-land. But that aside, haven’t these crusties heard of interest?

Take that £5,500 and stick it in an account and even today you’ll get over £100 back each year. A few years ago and that would have been £300+ and, supposing the British economy doesn’t crash and burn (or should I say continue to crash and burn), that’ll be the interest you’ll get in a few years time.

So, with cumulative interest, that 11 years can be extended to over 30 years, by which time you’ll doubtless be adding to it the cost of maintenance. And of course, if you had to borrow the money to pay for such a central heating system, the period would be even longer – probably the length of a working life time. These twats really need to try living in the real world.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book Cases Two

Here have two book cases of ‘Afront’s’ collection, thoough there’s more over here on his blog. I have to say I’d be quite happy ensconced in an armchair next to that lot for a month or two.

A Rural Story.

Thanks to Shaun for this one:

A Lancashire Farmer is overseeing his animals in a remote part of the County when suddenly a brand-new BMW advances out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young man in a designer suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the farmer, 'If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?'

The Farmer looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, 'Reet, why not?'

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel Spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the farmer and says, 'You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.'

'Wow That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,' says the Farmer. He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the boot of his car. Then the farmer says to the young man, 'Ey Up!, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?'

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, 'Okay, why not?'

'You work for the British Government', says the farmer.

'Wow! That's correct,' says the yuppie, 'but how did you guess that?'

'No guessing required,' answers the farmer. 'You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used all kinds of expensive equipment that clearly somebody else paid for, you tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about cows ....... this is a flock of sheep. Now give me back my dog.'

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Case.

Now, I’m always interested in other people’s book shelves. If I’m around someone’s house I like to check out what they read and, more importantly, what they keep on their shelves. This interest extends to when I pick up one of the crap lifestyle/celebrity/woman’s magazines (usually in a dentist’s) and flick through it. I’m not looking at the people, or most of their furnishings, I’m looking for books. This is usually a disappointment because, if you pick up one of the celebrity lifestyle magazines like Hello, on the rare occasions you see a room with a book shelf in it, the books arrayed there are usually for appearance sake. Often you’ll see the beautifully-bound collected works of Shakespeare which you know for damned certain have never been opened. Sometimes I wonder if the book spines might be some decorative plastic moulding that came with the set of shelves. A sad reflection on those ‘celebs’ that demonstrates the victory of appearance over substance. Anyway, getting to the point, all this is why I like to see pictures like this one of Pekka Jonsson’s book case in Italy, tagged for me on Facebook. Pay special attention to the bottom righthand corner.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Shadow Review.

A very nice review here of The Shadow of the Scorpion by John Markley. Obviously this is of the Night Shade version since the Macmillan one isn't out yet. Here's a sample:

I really liked this book. It provides plenty of the intense action Asher is known for, and continues to explore the setting of Asher’s future history. On a purely action/adventure level, the book definitely delivers, with Asher’s usual talent for excitement, description, and visceral power brought to the forefront. It also gave me what were probably the two things I most wanted from Asher: more information about the character Ian Cormac, and a closer look at the society of the Polity itself.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Orbus Edit.

Okay, I’m now about halfway through the Peter Lavery edited typescript of Orbus. Though this is a thoroughly necessary part of the process, it is also a chore. Yeah, you guys haven’t read it yet so will hopefully enjoy the process. I, however, have read this in part and total and even backwards more times than I care to count. It’s engraved on the inside of my skull and actually trying to detect errors now requires an effort of will – I must read what’s written in front of me rather than the engraving.

Another problem – something to do with posture – is that after a few hours of this editing I end up with my neck stiff and burning. It was worse when I used to refer to sheets stacked beside me, improved when I affixed them to a piece of card positioned below my screen, but is still a pain.

But I can of course understand how many reading this will wonder, “What the hell has he got to complain about?” Yeah, I don’t have to get up to drive to work, clock in, avoid colleagues with BO or have to put up with a boss with the brains of a worm and personality to match. The dirtiest I get is when refilling printer cartridges and, as yet I am in no danger of losing my job … or my house. Really, I’m just trying to give readers a look at some of what’s involved in putting that book in front of them.

Once I’ve finished this particular batch of editing and return it to Macmillan, I later get it back from the copy editor, and must check through it again. It then comes back a third time for me to check the finished product. Still, doubtless, there will be mistakes for which I can only apologise, and put down to having been pushed beyond my boredom threshold. The glamorous life a writer, eh?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Flood Warning

-->Ach, despite my resolution not to rant so much in here, I’m going to have to have a rant right now. Okay, it’s raining very heavily here today, there are pools across the fields, dikes overflowing and pools spreading across the roads. Because I had a dental appointment this morning I braved these conditions to get there – gosh I’m such a hero.

At the end of Latching High Street there was a fire engine parked off-road pumping out water perhaps to prevent someone’s house turning into an indoor swimming pool, which is fair enough. I drove through about an inch of water and turned right heading towards Maldon whereupon I came upon police vehicles parked around a flood across the road and extending about fifty feet. That they were there I assumed was because there had been some sort of accident, but no, they were turning drivers around, not allowing them to drive through about six inches of water. I thought this ludicrous, but obeyed these officers of the law who were obviously lacking something better to do with their time.

Heading on another route into Maldon I drove through a similar flood, you know, low gear and high revs, just chug through – it’s not going to be a problem unless you’re an idiot. After the dental appointment I avoided the police road block and found myself in a slow moving queue into Latchingdon. What now? Well, it seemed the police or the fire service had blocked off one lane of the road to prevent people driving through about four inches of water.

I despair of this pathetic molly-coddling. Are the British public such wimps and inadequate they must be protected from puddles?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eric Hoffer

Interesting insight in this article by Thomas Sowell, here’s a sample:

Hoffer said: "The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."
People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding," Hoffer said. "When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."

What Hoffer was describing was the political busybody, the zealot for a cause — the "true believer," who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.

Well, I wonder who those people who mind other people's business might be? I declare the comment section open.

Here's a further quote by Hoffer: “Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesy and make their prophecies come true, but they can also lie and make their lies come true.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Frederick Pohl Blog.

You might like to know that at 89 years old one of the greats of SF has now got a blog. Just read his post about his collaboration with Arthur C Clarke. Good on yer Mr Pohl!

Here’s a little snippet from Wikipedia:

Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (born November 26, 1919) is an American science fiction writer, editor and fan, with a career spanning over seventy years. From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy magazine and its sister magazine if, winning the Hugo for if three years in a row. His writing also won him three Hugos and multiple Nebula Awards. He became a Nebula Grand Master in 1993.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Across Realtime - Vernor Vinge.

Ah, it’s Mr Singularity himself with tales of pre then post singularity worlds ‘bobbles’ can isolate and freeze in time their contents. It’s dated a bit now what with these two written in 1984 and 1986 and a world war in 1997 but enjoyable none-the-less. There’s also something very believable about the abilities of the future humans and, frankly, all the characters are engaging and you regret knowing no more about them when the story ends.

Note, don’t make the mistake of buying this if you already have either Peace War or Marooned in Realtime because those are the two tales here. I’d also recommend, if you haven’t read them yet A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Methane on Mars.

-->So, NASA are getting all excited about finding a large cloud of methane on Mars, claiming it likely to be the product of life. A corollary of this being that, if life has evolved there independently, it has quite likely evolved all across that universe where conditions permit; that it is a common thing.

This a
ppeals to my sense of reason: Earth is not the centre of the universe with the celestial spheres revolving around it, our biosphere is simply a product of time, chemical reactions and energy, and man is not the God-created reason for everything. Really, as our understanding of the universe grows, our position in it is no higher than that of a microbe locked in the Martian tundra. In fact, words like ‘position’ or maybe ‘purpose’ have no meaning at all.
However, now I’m going to be the skeleton at the wedding. First off I have a big problem with this idea that this methane is a product of life. Methane certainly is a product of life, just like it is a product of all sorts of other complex chemistries. I didn’t hear anyone shouting about life when it was revealed that Saturn’s moon Titan has methane weather systems, that it has methane clouds, rain, snow and sleet. Second off, I have a problem with the idea of independent evolution on Mars.

Do you remember that whole farrago of the Martian meteorite with what looked like microbes imbedded in it? Recently there have been claims that perhaps life spread here from Mars by ancient meteor collision, yet, they are no more valid than a claim that life was spread from Earth to Mars in the same way, which rather kills the idea of independent evolution. In fact, that idea is dead in the water for any life found within the Solar System - we’ll probably end up moving more towards the panspermia view…

Of course, in me the ugly cynic then raises his head over the parapet. NASA being a cash-hungry leaden bureaucracy, quite likely due to look very silly when James Hansen takes his inevitable fall, is now looking to the future. Certain words surface in my mind with tiresome inevitability, words like ‘new’ and ‘president’ and ‘funding’.

Jain Technology

The mad inventor in his shed has been a staple of SF. I thought he'd all but died out in this plug-and-play age until Trevor Bayliss turned up with his clockwork radio. But it seems they're still out there. Now I find this...

It's inspiration is partly from the Space Oddysey 2001, and the technology from a series of books by Neal Asher. The technology is called Jain, and its a biotech hardware plaque that kind of looks a cross between silver vines and roots, and coral. Its tendrils take over any form of technology and subsume it.
You will see this influence later on in the build hopefully.

Uh? wtf?

£2,500 Golden Hello.

In an attempt to get long-term unemployed back to work, £2,500 is going to be paid to firms for every person, out of work for six months, they recruit and train. So, this is how it will work: firms struggling during this recession/depression/credit crunch are going to leap at this. £2,500 is not going to impel them to employ someone they don't need or don't want to employ. Such a quantity of money doesn't go anywhere near covering a yearly wage or salary. But the firms will employ someone they wanted or needed, claim the money, and nothing will have changed. More useless 'action' because this government needs to be seen to be doing something and, doing something as far as Brown and crew are concerned, means throwing our money at it. Another £500 million down the plughole.

The Road to Serfdom

Theodore Dalrymple

Good if old article here from this guy. I must buy some of his books.

A Gallop Down the Road to Serfdom.

If the citizen should drive, he soon discovers that his vehicle confers anxiety rather than freedom. Slight infringements of the driving rules are photographed and he is fined. When he parks he soon discovers that wheel-clamping is the one public service that works with clockwork efficiency. Squeezing money from him is likewise the one task that the State takes seriously, for he cannot rely on the police to protect him, or the schools to educate his children, or the hospitals to succour him when he is ill, or public transport to take him anywhere without hitch. A bloated payroll does not translate into efficient services: on the contrary, it is incompatible with them.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Okay, Julie Crisp gave me a copy of the Feb/March 2009 issue of DeathRay to cast my eye over. There’s an excellent review of The Gabble in there by Guy Haley (who can claim to have done the SFX review of The Engineer, which I copied and put on top of the synopsis and sample chapters of Gridlinked I sent into Macmillan back in 1999). Here’s a highlight:

WE SEEM TO HAVE BEEN saying “Neal Asher is awesome!” a lot recently. Here it is again: We love you, Neal, you and your futuristic hardmen, weird monsters and chillingly pragmatic AI.

So, after allowing me to dribble over that for a while, Julie turned to page 168 … through to page 175 and I nearly wet myself. There you’ll find a full page redition of the gabbleduck, the story Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck entire, topped off with an inteview with me. That’s a bloody lot of coverage. Thanks DeathRay!

More SF Music

Thanks to 'msf' for reminding me. There's a band out there called Gridlink which takes its name from Gridlinked. I'm fairly certain that Jon Chang, the guy on vocals, told me about this at some point in the past. As I recollect he's also got the near full set of signed editions of my books too.

On the Big Screen.

Caroline and I went to Macmillan yesterday, then on to lunch with the new senior commissioning editor for PanMac, Julie Crisp, and Peter Lavery, now retired from everything bar the part he loves, the actual editing, so he can still set writers quivering in their boots whenever he reaches for a pencil. Some interesting stuff, like the huge spread I have in DeathRay Magazine (more about that later), like changing my cover picture and, when the IT guys arrived, setting up a Macmillan-based website for me. But all that’s not the point of this post.

As usual on these visits, we were let into the lobby, signed in, then waited to be collected. Whilst there I gazed at the big flat screen they have up on the wall which has a constant slide show of books, their blurbs and taglines. I’ve sat there many times before hoping to see something of mine come up, but never seen it until now. It’s there, at last! Damn I’m sad.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


As Olaf pointed out in the comments on my post about exoskeletons, the problem is power. In fact that’s a big problem with all our present technology so someone must be researching it. Just a little google brings up some seriously SFnal research. Here’s a few samples:

MIT scientists have harnessed the construction talents of tiny viruses to build ultra-small "nanowire" structures for use in very thin lithium-ion batteries. By manipulating a few genes inside these viruses, the team was able to coax the organisms to grow and self-assemble into a functional electronic device.

The LEES ultracapacitor has the capacity to overcome this energy limitation by using vertically aligned, single-wall carbon nanotubes -- one thirty-thousandth the diameter of a human hair and 100,000 times as long as they are wide.

Like turning straw into gold, MIT researchers have transformed a relatively common material, lithium iron phosphate, into one with handsome potential for the next generation of rechargeable batteries in electric cars and other devices. Among other advantages, the material could make such batteries cheaper and safer.

In March, PNNL engineers reached the first major milestone in development when they demonstrated a full-size,
advanced design fuel processor that converts methanol into hydrogen. Because hydrogen wouldn't need to be stored or carried, the fuel processor would reduce the weight and risk associated with portable power systems.

The researchers believe their breakthrough shows promise that graphene (a form of carbon) could eventually double the capacity of existing
ultracapacitors, which are manufactured using an entirely different form of carbon.

A team from the Laboratory’s Chemistry and Materials Science Directorate and the Center for Microtechnology Engineering has been working for the past several years on a tiny device that can process minute amounts of fuel, such as hydrogen from methanol and water, to in turn feed a miniature fuel cell for powering unattended sensor systems and eventually consumer electronics.

Note to self: read more science articles and less about politics and you might turn into an optimist.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

UFO Aliens Don't Like Wind Power.

I wasn’t going to bother with this one, but I feel I’ve got to put my tuppence worth in. So, a UFO struck a wind turbine. Let’s get something straight to start off with: UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object. It might well be that a flying pig struck that turbine but until investigators have found the mangled remains of the avian pork it remains unidentified, therefore a UFO.
Ufologists are pretty well convinced there is an extraterrestrial explanation for the incident which saw one turbine blade ripped off and another seriously damaged by a vessel "about 170ft long" following numerous reports of mystery "low-flying aircraft", lights in the sky and, finally, a "big bang".

But of course most people’s understanding of UFO is that it must have been a flying saucer, piloted by greys, zipping around Earth in a flying saucer. And now, since the wind farm has been sealed off by security personnel to keep the loons out, the conspiracy grows.
Alien hunter Nick Pope had a light attack of the Area 51s, telling the Sun: “There may be something they don’t want people to see.”

For fuck’s sake. The nearest star (other than Sol) is Proxima Centauri and it’s 4.3 light years away. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second so to tot up, that puts it at 25,284,000,000,000,000,000 miles away, give or take a few circuits of the Earth. The next star out is half that much again. Now, let’s just consider how a race capable of developing a technology to enable them to cross such a distance might manage to prang their space craft into a damned wind turbine ... driver fatigue?
Damned but there’s some fruit loops out there. But at least Pope redeems himself a bit with:
Pope concluded: “If a stealth aircraft struck the turbine, it may be made of some material which is itself classified above top secret.”
Just a bit of a conspiracy, then.

Science Fiction Music.

As you all might know the sites Facebook and MySpace are crowded with indie bands, professional musicians and the like. Some of these have contacted me and some have obviously found my weird-ass writing inspirational.

One of the first to contact me (on MySpace, but he’s on Facebook too) was one Miguel Vella (guy with the guitar) and he even came along to one of my signings
at Forbidden Planet. He’s now apparently working on a concept track called Jerusalem AI. Love it!

The other one with the freaky hair, called Jazizo Cappucino, based in San
Francisco, has already produced a track called Prador Moon.

If you are on either of the sites mentioned you can check out samples of the music.


Researchers at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology demonstrated a prototype wearable assistance machine equipped with eight motors and 16 sensors. The 25-kilogramme (55-pound) device is designed to assist elderly farmers who need support for their leg muscles and joints when they keep a crouching position or lift their arms high.
I wonder how long it’ll be before stuff like this starts putting the wheelchair manufacturers out of business. What
then with all those legislation enforced widened doorways, access ramps, disabled toilets?
Then there’s the other developments of a slightly more worrying nature. There’s no doubt that we’re living in a science fiction world. Watch out for Iron Man coming your way soon.

Cupid (Stupid) Pose.

I recently had a chat with a friend I hadn’t seen for something like a year, as usual we ranted about the madness that seems to surround us. Being a farmer he’s been at the sharp end of some of the EU and NuLabour madness, red tape and endless ridiculous legislation. He told me first about the tax on plastic bale wrap – a disposal tax they must pay whilst still disposing of the wrap in the usual manner, that is, on a fire; or how he, on a family farm, can’t smoke in his tractor whilst it is out in the middle of a field, can’t smoke in their outbuildings and must put up No Smoking signs. The crap list is endless.

I told him about my blog, but he said he didn’t read blogs. He’s read this one now and has said, “Not sure about the photograph, it looks a bit 'posed' to me, may I suggest the one below as a replacement?” and provided the picture here.

Noting the body warmer, washed out jeans, silly shoes and lack of grey hair, I’d put this in the Eighties or early Nineties. I suspect it was a Mundon ‘Fun Day’, which usually started from the local pub then ended up there.

Emma Thompson & Alistair McGowan

-->Emma Thompson and Alastair McGowan among those who have bought one-acre plot right at heart of proposed development. Land earmarked by Heathrow owner BAA to build a third runway has been bought by a group of celebrities, scientists, politicians and green campaigners in an attempt to severely delay the development. The new runway would make Heathrow Britain's biggest single source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The stench of hypocrisy is enough to make one gag when ‘celebrities’ start spouting off about the environment. We must travel less, pump less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, really, we must all stay at home and watch television (preferably not a plasma screen since that uses so much energy, anyway, the EU will be banning the sale of them shortly). But what should we all watch?

How about Alistair McGowan Goes Wild with Rhinos? Obviously he and a large film crew jetted off to Kenya to film the program but, since it’s about conservation, that’s okay. Or what about, at this time of year, the various award ceremonies in Hollywood, you know, like the Golden Globes or the Oscars, like the ones Emma Thompson flew to Hollywood to collect? Maybe they’ll put on Alistair McGowan’s Posh & Beck’s Special, which he flew to Madrid to film, or and episode of Who Do You Think You Are, which he flew to India to film. Or surely there’s something with Emma Thompson in which she of course did no location filming. I mean she’s a good girl who works for African charities and of course wouldn’t consider flying out there with a film crew – that’d cause far too much environmental damage. And I’m sure she’ll be hang gliding to Los Angeles while she’s losing weight with Madonna’s fitness trainer.

The reality of what these hypocritical pricks are saying, in the cloistered world of Champagne socialism, is that YOU shouldn’t fly, YOU should reduce your carbon footprint. They, being glitterati smooching with our rulers, are obviously our betters, and can fly first class around the world in pursuit of their careers or whilst delivering their sanctimonious homilies.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Orbus Blurb (cover copy).

I've written up three blurbs for the book for the editor at Macmillan to mix and match so what appears below might not be what appears on the book. Here you go:

Now in charge of a cargo spaceship, the Old Captain Orbus, flees a violent and sadistic past, but he doesn’t know that the lethal war drone, Sniper, is a stowaway, and that past is rapidly catching up with him. His old enemy the Prador Vrell, mutated by the Spatterjay virus into something powerful and dangerous, has seized control of a Prador dreadnought, killing its entire crew, and now seeks to exact vengeance on those who tried to have him killed.

Their courses inexorably converge in the Graveyard, the border realm lying between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom, a place filled with the ruins left by past genocides and interplanetary war. Secure in that same place the Golgoloth, a monster to a race of monsters, is recruited by the terrifying King of the Prador into the long cold war between his kind and the humans. It is imperative that Vrell be hunted down and killed, for what he knows and what he might do.

Meanwhile, something that has annihilated civilizations is stirring from a slumber of five million years, and the cold war is heating up, fast.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Theodore Dalrymple

Good if old article here from this guy. I must buy some of his books.

A Gallop Down the Road to Serfdom.

If the citizen should drive, he soon discovers that his vehicle confers anxiety rather than freedom. Slight infringements of the driving rules are photographed and he is fined. When he parks he soon discovers that wheel-clamping is the one public service that works with clockwork efficiency. Squeezing money from him is likewise the one task that the State takes seriously, for he cannot rely on the police to protect him, or the schools to educate his children, or the hospitals to succour him when he is ill, or public transport to take him anywhere without hitch. A bloated payroll does not translate into efficient services: on the contrary, it is incompatible with them.

Consensus -- Mark Twain

Interesting article at NHS Insider, here's a sample:

...[I]n the drift of years I by and by found that a Consensus examines a new thing by its feelings rather oftener than with its mind. You know, yourself, that this is so.…

Do you know of a case where a Consensus won a game? You can go back as far as you want to and you will find history furnishing you this (until now) unwritten maxim for your guidance and profit: Whatever new thing a Consensus coppers (colloquial for "bets against"), bet your money on that very card and do not be afraid.

There was that primitive steam engine -- ages back, in Greek times: a Consensus made fun of it. There was the Marquis of Worcester's steam engine, 250 years ago: a Consensus made fun of it. There was Fulton's steamboat of a century ago: a French Consensus, including the Great Napolean, made fun of it. There was Priestly, with his oxygen: a Consensus scoffed at him, mobbed him, burned him out, banished him. While a Consensus was proving, by statistics and things, that a steamship could not cross the Atlantic, a steamship did it. A Consensus consisting of all the medical experts in Great Britain made fun of Jenner and inoculation. A Consensus consisting of all the medical experts in France made fun of the stethoscope. A Consensus of all the medical experts in Germany made fun of that young doctor (his name? forgotten by all but doctors, now, revered by doctors alone) who discovered and abolished the cause of that awful disease, puerperal fever; made fun of him, reviled him, hunted him, persecuted him, broke his heart, killed him. Electric telegraph, Atlantic cable, telephone, all "toys," of no practical value -- verdict of the Consensuses. Geology, paleontology, evolution -- all brushed into space by a Consensus of theological experts, comprising all the preachers in Christendom, assisted by the Duke of Argyle and (at first) the other scientists.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Atheist Bus

This is amusing and of course the 'offensive' word is once again rolled out to try and shut people up. Seems the world is full of people getting all offended which is great for governments wanting to bring in more legislation to control every second of our lives:

The advertising regulator has received almost 150 complaints that an atheist ad campaign, proclaiming "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life", is offensive to Christians and other religions that believe in a single God.

Thing is, religions are allowed to advertise with their 'Jesus loves you', 'God is great' and some of them even have television channels dedicated to promote their ridiculous Bronze Age nonsense. I find that extremely offensive but don't expect it to stop any time soon and would defend their right continue. So why shouldn't atheists be allowed to advertise? In fact let's have a TV channel and make the message a bit stronger than the rather bland one on the side of that bus. Anyway, I'd love to be a fly on the wall during this investigation:

Hanne Stinson, the chief executive of the British Humanist Association, which launched the campaign, said she "pitied the ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of god's existence. However, if they do investigate we will be very happy to respond.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Playmobil Security Checkpoint

My thanks to Phil Edwards at Live For Films for pointing this out to me. It's the Playmobil Security Checkpoint sold on Amazon. Read the comments below - they're hilarious. Here's a sample:

I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said "that's the worst security ever!". But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.
The best thing about this product is that it teaches kids about the realities of living in a high-surveillence society. My son said he wants the Playmobil Neighborhood Surveillence System set for Christmas. I've heard that the CC TV cameras on that thing are pretty worthless in terms of quality and motion detection, so I think I'll get him the Playmobil Abu-Gharib Interogation Set instead (it comes with a cute little memo from George Bush).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Green Man Review.

Very nice review of The Gabble over here and Greenman Review:

Best story? I really can't say, for much the same reason that I can't pick out the best novel of the entire Polity series. Having read eleven novels and one collection comprising over ten thousand pages of reading, I can only say that all of it is excellent, all of it well-worth reading. If you haven't yet read your way through this series, I envy you; if you have, go get your copy of The Gabble and Other Stories right now before it sells out in hardcover!

Cat Eldridge.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Over the last two days we sat and watched a film in two parts called Flood, starring amongst others Robert Carlyle and David Suchet. The first half was good (everyone enjoys a disaster movie) but for the latest fashion of, “Let’s shake the camera about to make it appear more exciting,” then the second half lapsed into bathos through to plain daft at the end. Robert Carlyle gets all emotional with his ex-wife and his estranged father, Tom Courtenay, who in turn sacrifices himself at the end to save London in a piece of televisual silliness. Yeah, you’re going underwater into a room that will close off and trap you in there until the city is saved, well, take some more air bottles you prick. But I guess the thing that completely shafted the whole film for me was that, Courtenay, the hero who sacrifices himself, was a climate modeller: “I inserted your data into my model with the result that I, and only I, know that disaster is on the way.” Not particularly credible now we know how climate models don’t work. And not particularly credible that a climate modeller would be seen anywhere away from a computer or press conference and actually out in the ‘environment’.