Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Twas the night before Christmas

Dave Grohl reads "Twas The Night Before Christmas", on Jo Whiley's BBC Radio 1 show. Quality. Also available: Ja Rule reads The Grinch, Kylie reads The Little Match Girl, and Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters) reads Sleeping Beauty. They won't be there for long (up to 7 days I think), thanks to the BBC's licensing stuff.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

soggy trains


soggy trains
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

I'm standing waiting to be picked up from the station after a mammoth journey home. Torrential rain screwed the trains here in Melbourne. Bloody flies are eating me alive.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tales of the Grand Tour

Ben Bova's novels about colonisation of the Solar System have been grouped together as the Grand Tour series. This selection of short stories and excerpts from those novels serves as an appetiser, or amuse bouche if you really wanted to set your Hat of Extreme Pretentiousness at a jaunty angle, for those novels.

The tales are on the whole fairly standard, astronauts-are-brave, space-is-tough stuff. Classic, hard sf where the science is well-researched and as convincing as possible. They are told in a straight, no-nonsense style that never gets in the way of the story.

A couple of the stories have a more personal, human focus: "The Man Who Hated Gravity" being the most succesful for me, about a trapeze acrobat who loses his nerve, but gains a bionic leg. It's these stories I liked the most, the ones that dealt with ordinary people on Earth and how their lives are affected by the hardcore science going on above them. Astronauts and scientists doing brave things and being clever is just not interesting; for heroes, being heroic is their job. They're spacemen after all: you expect them to be able to wrestle a disintegrating spaceship through the sulphuric acid of Venus' atmosphere.

Has the book done its job, and whetted my appetite for a full plate of steaming Bova? I'd say so. I'll keep an eye out for any of the other Grand Tour books.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Warm

I'm hoping this is wrong, otherwise we're all going to die.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Un Lun Dun

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville is like all China Mieville books (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council): too long, takes ages to get going, but once it does get going it sweeps you along and you find yourself hoping your train gets delayed so that you can read a bit more.

It feels about 200 pages too long, but I can't quite work out which parts you'd cut out. The story doesn't get interesting until about page 125, but you can't get rid of those pages because the rest of the story needs them. The first part of the book is there to make you think the story is of a certain kind, so that your assumptions can be shattered by the rest of the book. Judging from some of the other reviews on LibraryThing, a lot of people don't make it that far and give up on the book. Which is a shame, because the rest of it is a cracking, highly imaginative, thrill ride. It's got ghosts, flying buses, umbrellas, milk cartons and martial arts bins. What more do you need? It's meant for kids, but I loved it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Getting OpenID to work

I used to use AOL as my OpenID provider, since I already had an AIM account and that made things easy. However, delegating the authentication via this blog (one of the cooler things about OpenID) was a bit hit-and-miss. On some sites it would work, others would complain about errors. I managed to work out that this was due to some sites supporting OpenID 2.x, others OpenID 1.x. The AOL OpenID servers only support 1.x. To get 2.x to work you need an XRDS file, which AOL doesn't provide at the moment. You can write your own, but on a blogger website you've got nowhere to put it.

So, instead I've signed up for a myOpenID account. Then it's just a matter of adding the following to the html of this blog:


<link href='http://www.myopenid.com/server' rel='openid.server'/>
<link href='http://nomiddlename.myopenid.com' rel='openid.delegate'/>
<meta content='http://nomiddlename.myopenid.com/xrds' http-equiv='X-XRDS-Location'/>

[Taken from phydeaux3]

Then I can sign in to Movable Type 4 blogs (which was the main problem) with the URL http://nomiddlename.blogspot.com.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Rainbows End

Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End is about an old guy that's not old, a rabbit that's not a rabbit, a take-over-the-world conspiracy that's never entirely explained, but they would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids.

There you go, that's enough of the plot for you. The book is set in the near-future, so people are wearing their computers, Alzheimer's is cured, and cars drive themselves. No word on the personal jetpacks yet. The characters are well-rounded, perhaps a smidgeon too nice to be real sometimes - but hey, it's the future, maybe everyone is nice there.

A decent read; well-written, engaging and interesting.

pustulating bananas


pustulating bananas
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

oozing with vitamins.

furry apricots


furry apricots
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

mmm... lick my furry apricot.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Iorwerth a Guto

One of my friends from school has made a really funny video and put it on YouTube. Well, it's funny if you speak Welsh. I found it via a convoluted trip through Friends Reunited - isn't the tinternets brilliant!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Soon I Will Be Invincible

You know, I could have been an evil genius if I wanted to. Just like Dr Impossible in "Soon I Will Be Invincible" by Austin Grossman. I could have had the island, the death rays, the robot army. If only I hadn't sucked so much at High Energy Physics, I too could have had some sort of exotic energy accident and be wearing a cape and mind-control helmet, grinding the world beneath my heel.

I just didn't apply myself to the task. Doctor Impossible never gave up, not after twelve thwarted attempts to take over the world. That's his thing, after all - he's an evil genius, or a sufferer from Malign Hypercognition Disorder to give it the medical term. He battles heroes from all times and places, never once forgetting to taunt them theatrically.

Grossman's love for comic-book superheroes and villains shines through in this book. You can't lampoon a genre so thoroughly without being a fan. If you've ever read a comic, seen one of the marvel films, or just like to wear tights, you'll enjoy this book. Me, I'm using it as a blueprint for my plans to take over the world. You'll rue the day you ever crossed paths with me. You shall all kneel before me, or I will destroy the sun! Mwuhahahahahahahaaaaaaa!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Man With The Golden Torc

"Do you expect me to talk?"
"No, Mr Jones. I expect you to review this book."
"'The Man With The Golden Torc' by Simon Green. Sounds like some corny parody of James Bond, but with some fantasy creatures as the baddies."
"You would think that, Mr Jones. That's why I've always despised your kind, and why I will take great pleasure in watching you be devoured by my army of rabid guinea pigs. But first, I must monologue. Comfortable?"
"The leather wrist-straps are beginning to chafe, so if you'd just hurry up that would be lovely."
"That book you just disparaged is all those things you mentioned. It's also a lot of fun, if you switch off your brain and let yourself be swept along you'd enjoy it. Sure, there are parts that are a little clumsy: infodumps, stilted conversations-"
"Like when I last fought you, breaking into your underground bunker, and fighting hand-to-hand with your bodyguard, Mr Snuggles. It was a titanic battle and we nearly ended up destroying the world. You wore a red, crushed velvet suit and I lost my hand to the robot sharks. Happy days."
"As I was saying: stilted conversations intended to convey backstory by relating past events that both parties recall completely. Don't worry about those parts, there's plenty of flippant one-liners and amusing repartee. You way wish to take notes. Oh, wait. You'll be dead. Mwuhahahahahaaaaa-"
"Oh, just release the flipping guinea pigs, wll you?"

Saturday, November 17, 2007

pimms


pimms
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

The first Pimms of the season. Slurp!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dr. Mukti by Will Self

Gareth slipped the slim selection of short stories into his bag, and it felt like his whole life had been a depressing series of events designed entirely to make him miserable. Boredom took a seat next to him, and stared slack-jawed through the window. If he'd been a character in the book he'd just perused, he'd have gone mad by now, and something awful, violently virulent would be about to happen but not before he'd had some utterly empty sex with someone for whom he no longer had feelings.

Slightly absurd situations plodded along next to him, well described in beautiful prose, like catwalk models asked about the latest trends in civil engineering. A wonder to look at, but lacking in compelling, competent, components. Artful alliteration danced over the bones of plots that never had any meat.

In short, the stories depressed me, the characters annoyed me, but Will Self sure can write purdy words.

what a lovely pear, missus!


what a lovely pear, missus!
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

mmm... furry fruit.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The programmer's fear of the pollen count

I'm dribbling snot out of my nose. The flow of mucus has backed up to my eyes and my ears are starting to fill up. I sleep with my mouth open, it's the only way I can breathe, and my own snores wake me up. In the morning the inside of my mouth feels like an old leather sofa that's been chewed on by a slobbering beagle. Small children are scared by the things that come out of my nose when I blow it. Hooray for spring!

I only ever got mild hayfever in the UK. Sneezes, itchy eyes that would last a week or two and then not bother me for another year.

Australia has decided it hates me, and has dispatched floral agents to disable me. They've replaced all the anti-histamine in the chemists with placebos, none of it makes any difference. I've tried Claratyne. No effect. I tried two tablets of Zyrtec yesterday, and all that did was make me dizzy. They don't sell Piriton here, so I'm going to google for the active ingredient and see if there's anything similar. It used to work in the UK, but who knows if it will be able to fight off this evil plague.

If that doesn't work I'm going to invest in some industrial decongestants and ride out the spring on a wave of snot.

UPDATE: The active ingredient in Piriton is chlorphenamine maleate. To the Pharmacy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

melons


melons, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

Firm, ripe, juicy. Available as a redbubble t-shirt, with all profits going to charity: National Breast Cancer Foundation. You know you want them.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Days when it is good to be a journalist

You get to write stories like this:
The deputy mayor of the Indian capital Delhi died on Sunday after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys.


Obviously, a sad thing to happen to the man, but still makes a great read. It's also the "most read" story on the BBC News site at the moment, so I'm not alone.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

furry strawberries of doom


furry strawberries of doom, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

yummy. like the man said: "that which does not kill me can only make me stronger". he meant these things.

Friday, October 12, 2007

trolley carnage


trolley carnage, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

tim tam fingers


tim tam fingers, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

sounds like an obesity-related disease.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

(not) evermore


(not) evermore, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

We went to see Evermore at the Hallam Hotel last night. This isn't them, this is one of the support bands (there were four). We don't know their names. Evermore were good, but Children Collide (another support band, not above) were rock-tastic. Keep an eye out for them, they're good.

howard out now


howard out now, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

a demonstration passing by our office. they want howard out now, but they could just wait a couple of months until the election. oh well.

jekyll

Last night we finished watching Jekyll (downloaded, bad person, straight to pirate hell, too impatient to wait 2 years before it gets shown on the ABC). Absolutely fantastic. You don't need to read the rest of this, just go and watch it.

I sold this to my wife with "it's written by the same bloke that did Blink and The Empty Child" (Stephen Moffat). That was enough, but the fact that it also has the man from Cold Feet (James Nesbitt) as Doctor Jackman/Jekyll was a bonus.

Also, it's got Gina Bellman in it and Michelle Ryan (who is now the Bionic Woman apparently). If you could see me now I would be doing the Vic Reeves thigh polishing gesture.

It is a perfect example of all that's good about British TV. Great acting, a willingness to take risks, 6 episodes of excitement and edginess with no filler. If it had been an American production for one of their big networks, it would have been at least 22 episodes long, all written by different teams of 5 writers, and 19 of those episodes would not have advanced the story one bit. They would have been very glossy though. The last episode of the "season" would have been forced to end on a cliffhanger to set up season two, which would then be cancelled.

Anyway, watch it if you get the chance. It kicks the arse off anything else on the telly and then eats their ears.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

It's Every Cuss Word We Know

Not safe for work, with children present, or if drinking unless you happen to like stuff snorting out of your nose.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

corner desk view


corner desk view, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

I've got a nice new corner desk in the office. Here's my view.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tie Shirt

My son made me a laminated paper tie to wear around my neck on a piece of elastic for Father's Day (Sept 2, here in Australia). I thought it would make a great t-shirt. So I did.

Friday, August 31, 2007

another perk


another perk, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

sensis is 5 years old today. we got cupcakes. blue ones.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Good advice

b3ta's Rob Manuel on writing teh funnies on the interwebs. Lots of useful tips, the main one being: "Crank it out as fast as you can, don't worry about perfection". Not everything you write will be funny, so improve your hit rate by increasing your output.

This links in to an article about creativity on Marc Andreesen's blog:
Quality of output does not vary by age... which means, of course, that attempting to improve your batting average of hits versus misses is a waste of time as you progress through a creative career. Instead you should just focus on more at-bats -- more output. Think about that one.

Marc Andreesen was one of the founders of Netscape, back when they were a browser company.




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perks


perks, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

My job has benefits. I work on Citysearch. Mmm... free chocolate, the tastiest kind there is.

Monday, August 06, 2007

20 Years of Pixar


sully, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

Yesterday we took the kids to the Pixar exhibition at the ACMI in Melbourne.

They had loads of artwork and models from the Pixar archives, and you get to see how the characters and films evolved from their initial ideas. It's also a great demonstration of how talented their artists are. There's this perception that they don't have to do much, that because they're using computers the artist doesn't have any input. Once you see their story boards and how much detail and thought goes into the whole process, you can't help but be impressed.

There's also the 3-D zoetrope which is just incredible. Well worth the price of admission on its own.


I've found a video on you tube which gives you an idea of what it's like. The quality is not brilliant, but still...


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

hold me, thrill me...


hold me, thrill me..., originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

soggy


soggy, originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

I'm sat in my car waiting for the next train into the city. It's pouring with rain, and I'm messing about with my dodgy cameraphone to amuse myself.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Educating Owen

I've been introducing my kids to the high-brow entertainment that is The Goodies. This is yet another programme I loved as a kid, but wasn't sure was going to live up to my memories. I bought a four DVD box set a few weeks ago. Turns out, it's still brilliant. Kitten Kong, the Lancastrian Martial Art of Ecky Thump, and the Saturday Night Grease episode are all still really funny. Owen loves them, and so will you:



There's pretty much every episode on Catastrophegoodies' You Tube channel.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Infestation

My laptop seems to be full of ants. No, really. They keep crawling out of the keyboard, and across the screen, and out from the vents at the back. We keep squashing them, but they keep coming. I don't understand how my ibook keeps working, there must be a colony of the little blighters in there somewhere. I blame Australia, it also seems to be full of ants.

Teh Awesome

Dame Shirley Bassey covers Pink's Get This Party Started.



[via John Rogers]

Also, Alanis Morrisette does "My Humps". More of teh awesome.



[via the comments on Rogers' post]

Friday, July 13, 2007

ScribeFire

I've installed an add-on for Firefox called ScribeFire, for handy blogging without having to go to Blogger's site. One problem so far is the dodgy wysiwyg editor, which wouldn't close the link above so I've had to manually edit the html.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Idiot

Technology such as cloned part-robot humans used by organised crime gangs pose the greatest future challenge to police, along with online scamming, Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty says.

Idiot. [From The Age, via [Schneier]

UPDATE: BoingBoing weighs in, with insightful commentary and kittens.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Spinal Tap - Live Earth

Every bass player in the known universe...


[via Scalzi]

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Passengers 6

He is short. His suit is too big, he looks like a child dressing up as Daddy. Okay, so it would be a sinister, wiry child who looks as if he could force your nose out through your ear with one punch from his gold sovereign decorated knuckles, but you get the idea. Parted in the middle, his dark, wavy, bobbed hair gleams as it undulates to his shoulders.

He used to be an enforcer for the local Mafia, a job at which he excelled. Due to his small size he was often dismissed as an opponent before a fight. Few made this mistake twice. A midlife crisis made him re-evaluate his situation and he returned to school to pursue his first love, accountancy.
[also posted to Ficlets]

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Passengers 5

The 7:45 is on the platform already. Suits are bleating their way on board as she walks briskly towards the last carriage. She's bent over to one side slightly, her bag is weighing her down. Her heels clack-clack, her flowery print dress ripples and sways in her wake, her sensible overcoat and cardigan keep her warm.

She finds a seat, near the aisle, not too far away from either set of exits. Her bag clanks a little as she sets it down between her feet. It's the hunting knives. Normally they'd be strapped to the inside of her coat, but she's running late and barely had time to put the sawn-off in the sleeve holster before leaving the house. The knives, the Glock, and the piano wire she scooped off the dining room table into the carpet bag.

Most unprofessional, she thinks, but there's plenty of time to sort it out at the other end before starting work. She also decides to have a muffin and a coffee after the job is done. She gets off at South Yarra.

[Also posted to Ficlets, in the hope that someone can make use of it.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Best. Purchase. Ever.

About two weeks ago I managed to pop the little rubber cover off one of my Apple in-ear headphones. It pinged off into the middle of the open railway crossings we have here in Australia, during a collision with one of my more indecisive fellow-pedestrians. These little rubber doobries have to fit your lughole snugly otherwise they sound shithouse.


I tried using the medium sized ones (the headphones come with three different sizes; my giant canals need the large size), but it was no good. I journeyed far and wide in search of replacement whatsits, but no-one makes them. Not even Apple.


In times of crisis I find it helps to turn to a higher power. Google found me an article where someone recommended the use of the foam sleeves for the Shure E2C in-ear headphones. These happen to be a perfect fit for the Apple ones.


Great! Only problem is that there are only two places in Australia that distribute them. One charges $35, with free shipping. The other charges $25, plus $7 shipping. The headphones themselves only cost me $60. Sod that. Ebay to the rescue: there's a company in America that sells them for $16 US (about $20), free shipping to Australia. Hooray for the Internet.


They arrived in less than a week, and they sound fantastic. They really improve the bass, and they're a lot more comfortable than the original rubber thingummies. If, anonymous Internet reader, you have a pair of the Apple in-ear headphones, get these foam sleeves (the same size as you use for the Apple ones should do).

Monday, February 12, 2007

I feel ill.


I feel ill., originally uploaded by No Middle Name.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cheer up

I had some bad news about a friend this morning. She's found out she's got some horrible disease that could mean impending, although without a definite timetable, wheelchairyness followed by dribbling from all orifices concluded with death. I sent a "buck up, old bean, worse things happen at sea" email (I fear I may have been cramming a trifle too much Wodehouse into the old noggin over the last week or so).

I have the choice between writing this entry and reading Orwell's 1984 on the train this morning. Orwell's book is not exactly crammed with hilarious set-pieces. Quotably pithy one-liners, yes, but also soul-crushing misery. Would it have hurt the story at all to have some more jokes? To give Winston Smith a wisecracking sidekick? Or a talking dog (this was supposed to be the future after all)? I don't think so.

Anyway I thought I would write down all the cheery things I thought of but didn't put in my email.

1. We're all going to die anyway. (not on first reading the most cheerful, but think about it for a while, you'll soon have a smile on your face. Suit yourself.)

2. At least it's a non-communicable disease, so people will still talk to you. At least until you start looking a bit weird. Nobody likes a weirdo.

3. There's always someone worse off than you. Find them. Laugh at them.

4. Wheelchair races.

5. Free licence to be as grumpy as fuck to all and sundry. Damn this cursed disease, it makes me say the most awful things, you horse-faced harridan.

6. Perspective. You will realise the pointlessness of most of the little things we do. Like making sure our socks match, wearing ties and getting up in the morning. Go wild, wear mismatched socks.

7. Cripples are a shoe-in for heaven (it's in the bible, go on, check), so you can do all those things you've been holding back from: covetting you neighbour's oxen, questioning the existence of a merciful, benevolent God, etc.

8. You can finally take up smoking, eat fatty foods, smoke crack. It's not like it's going to shorten your lifespan.

What do you think? All cheery thoughts, every one.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bowen Therapy

I sauntered past the pharmacy at lunchtime and noticed a small, blue sign that read: “Bowen Therapy – enquire within”. My rumbling stomach precluded indulging my curiosity, so I fear I will never find out what is involved in Bowen therapy. Several definitions presented themselves, all involving the only Bowen that I could picture.

 

At first, I thought it must be a programme of help for people whose Sunday teatimes have never quite recovered from the cancellation of their cherished, darts-based, game show. They can be found wandering forlornly around speedboat showrooms, muttering “Look at what you could have won” to themselves. A normal game of darts holds no interest for them, for they have grown accustomed to the heady exhilaration of a quick-fire general knowledge round.

 

Alternatively, Jim Bowen may have branched out into alternative healing, developing his own branch of acupuncture. Patients are strapped to a giant, rotating dartboard while a heavy-drinking, chain-smoking, blindfolded ex-professional darts player hurls surgical needles at them. Points are totted up using an abacus, in accordance with the ancient Chinese principles regarding the flow of chi around the body and the law of “You Get Nothing In This Game For Two In A Bed”.

 

The other option was that it was therapy for Jim Bowen, or people that think they are Jim Bowen. It would probably also cover Ted Rogers, Larry Grayson, Tarby, Kenny Lynch and Dusty Bin. Perhaps even Isla St Clair, at a push.

 

The truth of the matter is that Bowen Therapy is some sort of Australian-invented massage that sounds like it involves wiggling the flesh gently while removing uncomfortable wodges of cash from the wallet. What do I know, though? I’m not a doctor, and wouldn’t know an “all embracing vibrational energy therapy” if it bit me on the bum.

 

 

Sunday, January 14, 2007

VanderWorld (under occupation): READING STORIES

VanderWorld (under occupation): READING STORIES - That nice Mr. VanderMeer, author of my favourite book (City of Saints and Madmen), lays the smack down on lazy writers.