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


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='' rel='openid.server'/>
<link href='' rel='openid.delegate'/>
<meta content='' 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

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!