katsmeat: (Default)
Overheard in a Norwich bookshop about an hour ago by YT.

First bookshop staff member - "I found another Tony Blair in crime"
Second bookshop staff member - "Heh, not fantasy fiction?"
katsmeat: (Thoughtful)
I'm currently doing my best to absorb the contents of two books on British airships in the First World War, though I'm not entirely sure why.

The German Zeppeins are famous/infamous. But the much smaller British ones are only known about by airship geeks, even though several hundred 211 were built. The early ones, like the SS Class, were literally just an airplane, minus wings and tail, slung under a hydrogen gas bag although they quickly got larger and more sophisticated; they were mostly used for anti-U-boat patrols and were quite successful.

I'm just amused to read that ground crews, when working on them, were ordered to sing continually so they would be warned of hydrogen leaks from the change in voice pitch.
katsmeat: (Smug)
I want onto campus this evening to hear Simon Schama. As per u. when somebody notable comes to the UEA, he was pumping his latest book. But he was at least interesting and entertaining about doing it. In fact, the way he rambled on about anything that occurred to him, digressed frequently and tortuously, and and never bothered to mention the book except in passing, must've left the publisher's accompanying publicity person quite dispairing

I only knew him as an art historian and the person who did the 'History of Britain' TV series, so it was slightly surprising to see his focus was American history and American contemporary politics. Brief precis - he thinks the new era of limited resources will bring about great upheavel, but Americans happen to be good at dealing with, adapting to and profiting from that sort of thing. He also seems to think Obama is a fortuitous example of the cliché, "cometh the hour; cometh the man."
katsmeat: (Thoughtful)
Currently reading The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt; I'm liking it and being annoyed by it in equal measure.

It centres around the Kingdom of Jackals - which the author seems to have borrowed from Terry Pratchet's current, steampunky iteration of Ankh-Morpock. The humans seem quite hobbit-like in character. They like to quietly tend their allotments, drink beer and smoke their pipes - though they are boisterously fond of a good public hanging and have the charming tradition of pelting the condemned prisoner with rotten fruit.

They share a continent with an insanely-genocidal, hyper-Stalinist, communist regime and an equally genocidal theocracy. Luckily, despite the nation-of-shopkeepers thing, and doing petty-bourgeois in bucket-loads, Jackals is not to be messed with - they have a monopoly on lighter-than-air gas and so have a large airship fleet that's had a fair amount of practice at obliterating other nation's cities with explosives and poison gas. Jackals also has a centuries-old alliance with the Steam-men - a nation of sentient steam powered robots who tend to have a quiet, philosophical manner. But who include amongst their number plenty of mecha-style walking tanks.

Too good to be true - you just know Jackals is heading for a fall.

Unfortunately, the plot-line is that old chestnut of a boy and girl who've had ghastly upbringings but who don't know their true birthright or their full powers and are due to save the world. Also, as a reviewer mentioned, the author is addicted to global search and replace. So the gas-miners don't have a union, they have a 'combination'. The Jackals historical civil war which replaced an absolutist monarchy with a constitutional one was won by parliament's "New Pattern Army". The Stalinists next door don't call themselves a commonwealth, they're a 'commonshare'. "Card sharps" are the programmers who deal with Jackals' giant mechanical computer systems, which seem to have been lifted straight from "The Difference Engine". Plentiful neologisms, whose meaning you have to figure out from context, are a crude way of rubbing your nose in the fact this is a strange different world and become annoying and tedious very fast. Also, the author spends about two pages describing how guns work in this world but doesn't bother describing the two non-human races that make reasonably frequent appearances - after a while, you figure-out from context that one-lot are like human-sized crabs and the others are giant rodents (possibly, I'm still not sure).

Generally however, the author is effervescing with wonderful ideas that make the world he's made quite a delight - like a parliamentary chamber traditionally staffed with club-toting heavies, ready to beat the stuffing out of MP's (sorry, Guardians) on the frequent occasions when debate turns into a full-blown riot.

As I said, a wonderful world. I just wish he could have thought of something more original to have happened in it.
katsmeat: (Windy)
Reading Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898) ...

One year after the events of The War of the Worlds. Astronomers notice strange developments on Mars - it looks like the Martians are coming back. Presumably this time with supplies of Beecham's Powders, Benelin and other cold cures.

But not to worry! Thomas Edison has been busy reverse-engineering captured Martian war machines. He's developed an electrically propelled space-ship armed with resonant-frequency desintegrator guns. At an international congress in Washington, Queen Victoria, President McKinley, Czar Nicholas, the Japanese Mikado, Kaiser William and the Sultan of Turkey agree to stump up the cash to build a war-fleet that will take the fight to Mars, with Edison in charge and Lord Kelvin as his second in command.

Meanwhile, in England, HG Wells spits nails after reading a letter from his lawyer saying that under the then copyright laws, there's not much that can be done about it.

Possibly the world's first fanfic. Fun, in a bizarre way.
katsmeat: (Default)
I'm currently working through some late 19th/early 20th century fantasy and science fiction, courtesy of Gutenberg.

I'm interested in finding the point when authors stopped including lengthy, pointless, preambles about the obscure, convoluted manner in which they'd acquired the enclosed manuscript. And how, notwithstanding the outré nature if the narrative, they had felt duty-bound to place it before the public. They're simply presenting the facts as they have them and are making no claims as to the manuscripts veracity, leaving that to the sage judgment of the reader.
katsmeat: (Default)
Book 7 done, so I can go back online without fear of spoliers.

< Phew >

In other news, the Venus Fly Trap is having a go at auto-canabalism - one of it's traps has glommed onto one of it's own stems.

Silly thing.
katsmeat: (Default)
Just bought HP7.

Curiously, when buying books I tend to go for the local shop I like the most. But since it's so insanely discounted, everybody's making a loss and it seemed to make sense to buy from the chain I hate the most.
katsmeat: (Default)
For once the brain is in gear.

Around 8ish last night, I became aware Lindsey Davis' new Marcus Didius Falco book was out. The urge for immediate gratification made me run round the corner from the city library to Borders, the only bookshop open until late, to get it.

It was only when I had the book in my hand that I realized - new hardback fiction from a reasonably well known author, it must be discounted somewhere.

I waited until this morning and lo - the book was £5 off in Norwich's ex-Ottikars, now a Waterstones. It's not the saved money that concerns me so much, it's the slight feeling of relief that I'm not going to spend the rest of the day kicking myself on the rear for buying the more expensive copy.
katsmeat: (Default)
Currently reading "Who Wrote Shekespeare" by John Michell

I was expecting the author to be some literary Erich von Däniken, writing ludicrous conspiracy nonsense. But so far, he's being quite even handed.


One of the attractions of writing a Shakespeare biography is that the known facts can be learnt quickly, and imagination can then be given full rein.

katsmeat: (Velma)
So... yesterday I was in Cambridge again, mainly to go to Galloway and Porter's academic book sale. They really should say computer instead of academic. As always, the place was stuffed full of O'Reillys that were current edition - 1. But at two pounds each, who's complaining! Anyway, my mother's just bought a MacBook so I bought a bunch of Mac books (I've made that joke before - you can tell). It was worthwhile because they were surprisingly up-to-date, I got a couple of O'Reillys on OS-X Tiger.

Then I took a wander round the Fitzwilliam, though not before making double sure my shoelaces were firmly tied. I'd not been in since they refurbished it about two years ago. Also I wanted to drop the stupidly heavy book-bag somewhere and by then I was pissed off with having to snarl at the tourists as I tried to push through the hoards clogging up the streets.

As a result, I can now tell the difference between a stamnos, a bell-crater, a column-krater, a calyx-crater, an oinochoe, a hydra, an amphora and a lekythos.

Seriously, I'm good. Go on... test me!

Although what was embarrassing was I got so absorbed in the Greek pots that I didn't notice I was leaning on some fourth century BC Athenian's grave marker. This was despite the greatest concentration of Do not touch signs I've pretty much seen anywhere. Anyway, I rightly got a sharp reprimand from the gallery attendant. You see, I was cynically sniggering at the red-figure stamnos who's card described as having a hoplite warrior arming himself on one side and a man making love to a youth on the other... guess which way round it faced in the display case. Yay! Victoria lives!

On the train back, I was playing with my Palm's Bluetooth and noticed some unknown person on the train carriage had a Bluetooth phone called "Young Bi Boy wants to Play".

There was a strong temptation to Bluejack his phone with a message asking if he was any good at backgammon.
katsmeat: (Default)
Yaaah!!!! 2am on Saturday morning. And I'm in the lab. Admittedly, they do pay me quite well, but not _this_ well. I'm tired and I hate most things in the universe right now, including my life.

The code is finally working and I ought to have results when I come in first thing tomorrow. Yes, my life is that pathetic.

Anyway, I'm off home. I've got an 1852 edition of Juvenal to read, which I bought at a bookfair this morning for a pound, reasonably OK condition - I guess the dealer just wanted rid. It was translated by a Rev. so I'm assuming all the good bits got left out. Either that or they were left in Latin so only the educated would get titilated.
katsmeat: (Default)

A meme which requires thought, time and effort, damnit! Watch with amazement its snail-speed propagation*!

*Edit: change from "Snail-like propagation". This has nothing to do with mating snails!

Tagged by [livejournal.com profile] hekaskively

1. One book that changed your life?

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn. I just like the main character; he's a decent sort who's been dumped into one of Stalin's Gulags. A soldier whose 'crime' was being captured by the Germans then escaping back to the Russian lines, something that would have made him a hero in another country.

He's in an appalling situation, yet he just deals with it. He doesn't complain, he just gets on with surviving, one day at a time. Of course he's devious, crafty and mostly out for himself - anybody who's not simply wouldn't live through ten years in a camp - but he does down the system, not other inmates. He shares an intense loyalty with his work-team. He's just an ordinary guy I'd like to think I could emulate.

There are some resemblances to The Shawshank Redemption, though I think it's vastly better. Some people seem to have watched that movie about a million times because they see religious allegories and themes of redemption and hope in it - I found it rather mawkish. Shukhov is certainly no Christ-like figure, he's very human and you can identify with him. Nothing like Andy Dufresne, who comes across as nauseatingly too good to be true.

2. One book you have read more than once?

I frequently re-read books I like, though it tends to be favourite passages - I'll dip-in rather than re-read something from start to finish. Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat is probably the one I've re-read the most, historically, though I've currently not looked at it in about two years. I've always had the idea it'd be fun to re-create the book and row a boat up the Thames from Kingston to Oxford, camping out at night. That's been done an awful lot, though.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

Does a three-volume, unabridged version Gibbon's Decline and Fall count as one book? :-)

I've got the set and it's been waiting about four years for me to read it. Being alone with that on a desert island is probably the only way I'd ever get round to it.

4. One book that made you laugh?

The first Pratchett, the first time I read it, made me laugh so much it hurt! Though he's getting very samey now. One book short story that makes me laugh consistently is Saki's "The Open Window". I like Saki a lot.

5. One book that made you cry?

Jeez.... Well some have, though it's hard to think of one right now.

6. One book you wish had been written?

I suppose this means the sequel to something. You can't know whether or not you'd like something original that doesn't actually exist. Another twenty Lord Peter Wimsey stories would be nice - if a genii offered to zap into existence some unwritten books I should probably choose something more worthwhile than those - Shakespeare's "King Arthur" or something. But DLS is all I can think of right now.

Also, it would be nice to know what that "Giant Rat of Summatra" business was all about. < shrugs > But hey, that's why we have fan-fiction!

7. One book you wish had never been written?

For political reasons, it'd be nice if Janice Raymond had never written any of her books. And if she had been quietly dropped down a mineshaft when nobody was looking.

8. One book you are currently reading?

I’ve got to admit to it being a comic book. The last thing I read was the entire Y the last man series that's been printed in paperback to date. Currently, I should be reading “Level Set Methods” by JA Sethian.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

I can't say "See answer 3" because "a vague inclination to read sometime before senility" is not the same as "meaning to read". I've been seriously meaning to read the Lemony Snicket books.

10. Now tag five people.
[livejournal.com profile] myjesusisbetter [livejournal.com profile] snigl3t [livejournal.com profile] rowan_leigh [livejournal.com profile] norwegianblue47 [livejournal.com profile] ashavah
katsmeat: (Default)
Up betimes and to setting in order of my bicycle. I did change the bearings on the back wheel. Though discover the bearing cones were pitted, which did vex me mightily as I am sure spares are going to be a swine to source.

Then by train to Cambridge, to call upon the booksellers, Galloway and Porter, at their ware-house in Cherry Hinton where a great multitude of books were, this day, in sale to the publick for little very money. From thence to the house of Mrs [livejournal.com profile] snigl3t to take coffee and admire the new motorcycle helmet her husband has bought for his birthday.

Then together to see "Snakes on a Plane", a strange conceit though it did please me mightily. Then, after a fine dinner at CB1, home and to bed.
katsmeat: (Default)
From my LJ - June 7th...

But on the other hand... a few weeks ago I picked up a book on the department's "Free! Take whatever you want; deposit whatever you don't want." shelves of old books.

It's an odd item... that's what attracted me. A book of futurology, published in the mid-20's, that did it's best to predict what was then on the horizon. Very much HG Wells, Shape of things to Come in tone but trying to be fact rather than fiction. Trying to be exciting, modern and teckie (for the 20's), it had been uniquely bound using a thick, transparent plastic like substance. I passed it on to a bookdealer I know, who owes me a favour, and yesterday he got back to me. He's putting it on ABEbooks for £100 and is confident it'll make that. It turns out to be rather a unique item. The author is well known as a Jules Verne editor so the Verne collectors ought to be drooling, plus there are certain book collectors more interested in bindings than the contents - something oddball is sure to excite their interest. It's probably a rare survivor as sunlight tends to rapidly massacre the early plastics this book's been made from.

Just found out an American dealer bought it for £90. So I'm due 75% of that. Damn, I'm having a good day.
katsmeat: (Default)
So... stuff that's been happening....

Rather a lot of stuff, in fact.

Read more... )
katsmeat: (Default)
Here are the current top 50 books from here. Bold the books you have read. Italicise the books you might read. Underline the books you probably won't read. Pass it on:

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter 6) - J.K. Rowling
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
1984 - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) - J.K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) - J.K. Rowling
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter 5) - J.K. Rowling
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Book 1) - J.K. Rowling
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) - J.K. Rowling
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Ender's Game (The Ender Saga) - Orson Scott Card
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Atonement - Ian McEwan
The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert
katsmeat: (Default)
It's odd how tasks that seem nightmarish usually turn out to be easy. OK, I spend my time developing Matlab code for modelling waves. Mostly in 2 dimensions. For about 9 months, I've been thinking I ought to have a crack at 3D but kept putting it off. When my supervisor made the suggetsion/issued the command last week I just swore to myself. It turned out to take about a day and a half. And that included throwing in the code to allow reflective surfaces. All in all, I'm feeling pretty silly.

See the pretty picture behind the cut.

Read more... )

I'm now wondering about running 4D models. It should be straightforward, aside from taking 256 times as long to run on the computer. < Checks wikipedia > and the fourth dimension equivalents of left/right up/down are ana and kata. So at least I know what to call my variables.

Of all the attempts to invent a new holiday as an alternative to Christmas, this has got to be the coolest!


Richard Stallman Says Don't buy Harry Potter books.

He's pissed off about the injunction over the books that were accidentally sold early inb Canada. From a freedom of information POV, he's got a point. But sorry, RMS, it's a bit late. < eeek >

Perhaps he should check out the fan scene. Does fan-fic count as open source literature? Perhaps I should GPL my attempts?

Speaking of which, my latest is now complete. Please review nicely.

What is disturbing, is that I appear to be doing the Dorothy L Sayers thing and falling for my own main character. If that's not an indication I should get out more, then nothing is.


Jul. 16th, 2005 01:10 am
katsmeat: (Default)
I was surprised at the queues. The local TV news cameras were out but I managed to dodge them.

Goodness! The woman has produced another two pound deforestation special! I think I'll read it sometime next week. Well, you see, when I was in the shop, I saw the new Lindsey Davis book is out so I got that as well.

< shrugs >
katsmeat: (Default)
I'm going to cycle into town and pick up a copy of Half Blood Prince at midnight (sad, I know.) But, as I've been hanging around at a loose end this evening, I did this:


Yes, my Friday evenings are so interesting, I spend them writing Wikipedia articles on obscure aspects of the Cold War.

Enjoy! :-)


katsmeat: (Default)

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