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A Wizard of Earthsea and CB radio

As I've created accounts on various websites and social media I've avoided using nicknames. (The one exception is eBay, where I feared that a bad sale would mean that someone would track me down, so I hid behind a username based on a work nickname.)

However when I was in my early teenage years we were given a CB radio and when I (briefly) took to the airwaves I chose Sparrowhawk as my handle. I'd forgotten why I chose that, but this piece by David Mitchell (the author) on A Wizard of Earthsea reminded me why. At the time I loved that book, and David's article could explain my love of the book:
Any reader with experience of adolescence will recognise herself, or himself, in Ged’s portrait, and because we identify with Ged’s failings, we worry for him, can hardly bear to look when disaster hits, and afterwards care deeply about his fate. It may reread it now.

Technology needs lights

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This is part of an IBM mainframe that I saw at the Science Museum in London. It's hard to imagine that anyone ever understood what they all meant. I think the reason there are so many lights is because there is so much to go wrong. The lights show when something's working, so no light means failure, or when something fails. These days the FLP BFR (flip buffer?) always does what it's supposed to, so we don't need to have a light for it.

I remember when modems had a full set of lights: TX, RX, DCD, DTR and so on. I also remember using them to try and work out why connections weren't being made. As they became smaller and sleeker they had just a couple of lights to show activity. Then they disappeared altogether.

We need lights for things we can't rely on. Once it's reliable the lights go away. Today I was re-reading the essay from Douglas Adams, "How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet", written in 1999 (I wonder if that distinguished j…

Reading comics - part 1

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A phrase from the latest blog entry by The Reinvigorated Programmer, What I've been reading, lately part 23, has prompted me to get this post out of the mental draft folder.

Speaking of The Complete Harlem Heroes, a reprint of the strips from 2000AD he says
They are full of panels that, forty years on from my first reading, still reach right back into my hindbrain and yank on my neurons. I have the same thing as I re-read a couple of comic books I have from my childhood, a 2000AD annual from 1980 and a Superman Giant Bumper Book:

I must have re-read that book many times, because when I look at it now can remember imagining a cavern with a laugh echoing round it almost as if I was there. With this picture:
I can imagine the slimy and firm-to-yielding texture of that thing, as well as the force it takes to push it down into that container.

When I occasionally read comic strips/graphic novels it's not quite the same. Is it because my imagination has atrophied with age, or because…

My reactions as I read fan fiction

This isn't half badThis is actually pretty goodThis is actually very goodThey know much more about this than I doThis is too shortWhy isn't there much longer stuff?How would I know if it's any good though before I commit to reading it?

My desert island disks

Someone asked on Facebook what our 8 desert island disks would be. I said these, in no particular order:
1. ELO - Wild West Hero
2. Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells side 1
3. elbow - Mirrorball
4. Travis - Sing
5. David Bowie - Heroes
6. Kate Bush - Cloudbusting
7. Genesis - Carpet Crawlers
8. Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman
Pink Floyd is a favourite band, but tracks are better listened to as part of an album

Quotes from Bedsit Disco Queen

I've recently finished the autobiographical Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn, the female singer from Everything But The Girl. I find it hard to review an autobiography without reviewing someone's life. I'd recommend it as a good telling though of someone who you could have been at school with, who went to University with a record contract, became famous a couple of times, and then wrote it all down. Here are some of my favourite bits:

Talking about what it was like around 1984:

I'd grown up in an era of collective thinking, of 'movements'. I was full of political and moral certainties, and the wave of feminism that had taught me so much was a very uncompromising one. ...it was a mindset that had seemed the norm if you were part of the 'alternative' culture. But that was all starting to change. For now, there was simply a sense that we were on our own, as were our contemporaries - individual bands in an age that revered the individual above all thought…

My best books of 2016

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Other people give regular reviews of what they are reading, or pick their best books of the year, which I enjoy reading, so I am doing the same in the hope that you will too.

Hild, by Nicola Griffith I thought this was a book from last year, but I'm glad to say I was reading it at the beginning of this year as it's my favourite book of recent years and I wanted to mention it. It's set in 7th century Britain and follows the early years of Hild who later became Hilda of Whitby. There's not a lot known about her, so it's mostly fictional, though there's a lot of historical detail that Nicola's taken to get right. It follows her from when she was young into her teenage years. She's seen as a seer and so has more power than a child or a woman might have at that time. She needs to decide what to do with it though. Her foreseeing powers are played very straight, there's no magical realism here, yet she impresses others with those abilities.

I struggle with…