Monday, April 28, 2008

Lord of the Isles

Another free ebook from Tor finished. This one is the first in one of those high-fantasy epic series that never seem to finish, just spawn off trilogies and trilogies of sequels. "Lord of the Isles" by David Drake reads a bit like someone wrote down their Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It is episodic, divided into Books with no discernible scheme, because fantasy epics have to be partitioned into roman-numeralled books. The characters are all highly competent, powerful people that do the Right Thing because they were all brought up as Simple Country Folk and had no inkling of their Destiny.

Despite the clichés the book is well-written, entertaining enough to keep me reading to the end. It is the novel equivalent of Torchwood: you know it's crap, but you keep watching because it's easy and there's always the chance of it having a couple of good bits in it. I don't think I'll bother looking for the rest of the series, but at least it didn't annoy the crap out of me like Mercedes Lackey's "Outstretched Shadow".

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Latvian Liverwurst


Latvian Liverwurst
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

This weekend's old-skool meat product: Latvian Liverwurst. Made from saturated fat and the broken hearts of lonely puppies. I spread it on toast with lots of melted butter. Brown bread toast, so that's healthy. It tastes a lot like a smooth, peppery paté. Lots of flavour, as is to be expected from something that is almost 50% fat. It's fat that makes things taste nice.

I can thank my mum for introducing me to all these marvellous animal by-products. She used to eat cold black pudding, and loved a bit of tongue. Erm. Cow's tongue. To eat. I haven't gone quite that far down the road yet, but it won't be long before I'm tucking in to a plate of tripe and urging the kids to suck the marrow from the bones of a koala, because that's the best bit.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A piece of history

Act now to buy a piece of history. Quick, before they put the blue plaque up advertising the fact that I spent most of my childhood in this house (apart from a brief 3-year sojourn educating the pygmies in darkest Llandwrog). Once that sign goes up, the price will skyrocket, mark my words.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Conversations with my kids

Ellen: Can we have foxtail and playstation?
Me: It's Foxtel.
Ellen: Yep, foxtail and playstation. When can we have them?
Me: I don't know, they cost a lot of money. Why do you want them?
Ellen: So I can find out if I like them. What is foxtail?
Me: It's more telly channels.
Ellen: For kids?
Me: Some of them, yes.
Ellen: Like in the hotels?
Me: Yes, that's right.
Ellen: How much is playstation?
Me: About $300.
Ellen: Hmm. We need to be rich. Are we rich?
Me: No.
Ellen: Can we have foxtail and playstation when we're rich?
Me: I promise you can have foxtel and a playstation if we ever get rich.
Ellen: How do you get to be rich?
Me: If I knew that, we'd be rich.
Ellen: What if you went to the circus and did the bestest trick ever and you had a hat and people put lots of money in it? That would work.
Me: I'll get right to work on that.

I can remember saying much the same things about our family getting a Soda Stream when we were rich, when I was little. It just seemed straightforward to me that if you kept going to work to earn money, surely at some point you'd be rich?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Small Beer's Hippy Love-In

Small Beer Press are continuing with their Creative Commons sharing, caring, hugfest by releasing Maureen McHugh's short story collection Mothers and Other Monsters as a free download (in various formats).

Here's hoping it translates into sales for them. The idea is that people will come for the free stuff, and get enticed into buying other things - or at the very least, Maureen McHugh or John Kessel will get added to the reader's mental list of "Authors I Like" and the next time they're in a bookshop wanting to launder some money they'll pick up one of their other books.

So, support Small Beer - they publish some great stuff. If you're not tempted by the free things (why not? you got a problem with "free"?), buy Howard Waldrop's short story collection, Howard Who?. It is fudging awesome.

mutt hutt


mutt hutt
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

more strange things visible from our office. this is a giant dog kennel with "Mutt Hutt" written on it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More free(ish) stuff

Scalzi is offering a short story of his as a shareware download.

blue pallet exhibition


blue pallet exhibition
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

yet another strange display seen from our office window.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Crystal Rain

Free ebook number five from Tor, "Crystal Rain" by Tobias Buckell, is a far future SF adventure involving blimps, Aztecs and sailors with hooks for hands.

What? You need more detail? The Aztecs and hook-handed adventuring not enough? It is good fun, with sympathetic characters (even the turncoat Aztec spy is likeable), with plenty of exciting twists and turns. Just read it.

Like all the Tor freebooks it sets up a whole series of sequels (damn their clever marketing ploy! They've snared me good!), and I'll be keeping an eye out for the next one: "Ragamuffin".

Good job, Mr. Buckell. Carry on.

Baum Plan for your downloading pleasure

The nice people at Small Beer Press have made John Kessel's short story collection, "The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories", available for download (and re-mixing via creative commons). Get reading, people.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

OS X Samba server problems

I had problems setting up a networked hard drive that would talk to my Mac OS X laptop. I could copy about 50Mb of data and then the whole wireless network would crash and nothing would work at all. The fix turned out to be this obscure setting. Now everything seems to be working...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Farthing

Jo Walton's alternative history of Britain just after World War II is the third of the Tor free ebooks that I've read on my phone. Thankfully, this one is a good quality read cancelling out the hideous arse-candle of "The Outstretched Shadow".

It is part Wodehousian (shut up - like you would know how to spell that) country estate comedy of manners, part Agatha Christie murder mystery, with a dollop of the old "what if Hitler won?" sauce. Obvious comparisons are to Phillip K. Dick's "Man in the High Castle", and Roth's "The Plot Against America". There's even a nod in the book to Roth's work with references to President Lindbergh. Walton's book, like those two, manages to be convincing in its depiction of a world gone slightly wrong; a "horseshoe nail" story, as it is put in the book, referring to the children's song where a kingdom was lost due to a chain of small events.

The plot is convoluted, like all murder mysteries should be. The characters are well drawn, believable, and earned my sympathy. They are given no easy ways out of a situation, and the conclusion is jam-packed with compromise and moral greyness. The British government's slide into 1984-style fascism is handled smoothly, setting up further novels in this milieu. Orwell's classic is name-checked amusingly in the book by one of the characters who thinks a bit of science fiction will cheer up her persecuted husband.

I just wrote the word "milieu", and what's worse I couldn't think of an alternative. What a ponce.

Like all of the Tor ebooks so far, this book has a sequel "Ha'penny" (= two farthings). This free book has done it's job well, and I'll be keeping an eye out for more work by Walton.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

the presets


the presets
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

they're somewhere in that big fuzzy cloud. sound good so far.

hungry like the wolf


hungry like the wolf
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

bit old, though.

qotsa


qotsa
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

queens of the stone age rocking out.

giant pie


giant pie
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

all hail!

roisin murphy


roisin murphy
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

looking very fetching in a purple hat.

this is a bag


this is a bag
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

it looks like a cassette. you don't have one of these. I do. they're giving them away at the v festival. you wants it, precious.

cut copy


cut copy
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

local melbourne electropop tiny people at the v festival

hot hot heat


hot hot heat
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

really tiny little canadian band at the v festival melbourne.

Throne of jade

Quick review of the second of Naomi Novik's dragons and Hornblower mashups, "Temeraire: Throne of Jade". Good stuff, better than the first one, but there's still something missing for me.

Maybe it's the characters' constant worrying about manners and etiquette, or the occasional lapse in the dialogue where a British character uses an American phrase ("I must go see him now", instead of the more British "I must go and see him now", or "go to see him"). I'm nitpicking really, it was a good read but I've yet to read a tale of a long sea voyage that wasn't at least as dull as 7 months at sea. This was no exception to that rule, but worth sticking through to a cracking ending and a great set-up for the next book. If you liked the first Temeraire book, you'll enjoy this one.

Friday, April 04, 2008

no fee


no fee
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

how kind, this man will buy your house and not charge a fee.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

working from home


working from home
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

yes, his head is on upside down, due to a communication error between the two artists.