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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…

It's a good time to like SF, TV and cinema

In his (mostly) spoiler free review of Rogue One (I just typed Rouge One - that's a very different film!) John Scalzi says:

In fact, for two films running the folks at Disney have produced two really top-notch Star Wars films, a feat that has not been managed in thirty-five years — or possibly ever, depending on whether you believe the original Star Wars, as epochal as it undeniably was, is actually good, which given its pastiche-heavy, merely-serviceable plot and script, and leaden acting and direction, is debatable. Picking up on his remarks on the original - yes it was pastiche-heavy, but George Lucas brought SF to the cinema, and for that I am eternally grateful. Since then we've had plenty of effects heavy SF films, but we've also had some more subtle ones - Bicentennial Man, A.I., that one where the guy is on the Moon in an all white moonbase. On TV there seem to be a number of US based TV series which involve space travel, but for a really good programme which has s…

How to write an article

If you search "How to write an article" on Google there are 293,000,000 results.dictionary.com defines an article as "a written composition in prose, usually nonfiction, on a specific topic, forming an independent part of a book or other publication, as a newspaper or magazine".Dave Barry said:
"In the past decade or so, the women's magazines have taken to running home-handyperson articles suggesting that women can learn to fix things just as well as men. These articles are apparently based on the ludicrous assumption that men know how to fix things, when in fact all they know how to do is look at things in a certain squinty-eyed manner, which they learned in Wood Shop; eventually, when enough things in the home are broken, they take a job requiring them to transfer to another home."This YouTube video is a song about articles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIJt_A0JVtsHere's a personal anecdote: I once wrote an article.Not everyone gets irony.Sho…

Like a metaphor

I remember learning about metaphors and simile in English at school. It didn't take long to learn the difference (similes use the words "like" or "as" in them), yet it felt like we kept on having tests where we would have to work out which one a particular phrase was. I checked whether the phrase had "like" or "as", ticked the appropriate box, and moved on. "I've got this already", I thought.

At the time I considered them overrated. I was reading a lot of Science Fiction and I liked ideas that tickled the imagination and a clever plot. All this flowery metaphor and simile didn't add to the story, and I could do without it.

As I grew older and my literature tastes expanded I began to understand the appeal of language that painted a picture with words. Like a maturing tree I spread my branches into different genres - the classics, historical detective stories. There I found phrases that were sugary on my mental taste buds and…

Dara O'Briain's Go 8 bit - more fun that I thought it would be

Lately I've hugely enjoyed watching Go 8 Bit, an original programme on the Dave channel. It's like sitting on the sofa watching your friends play a console game or sitting next to them as they play on a PC, but on TV. I thought it was worth checking out, but it turns out that watching people on TV play games is more fun that you might think.

It's billed as Dara O'Briain's show, but it was created by Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon, who have done it as a live show. They are joined by Ellie Gibson, a gaming journalist, who does a bit on the history of the games they play. Each week they have a couple of guests, usually comedians, who join Steve and Sam's teams and play video games each other.

They usually start with some sort of retro game in the first round, like Galaxians. For the next two the guests each play their favourite game against the other team captain. The fourth round is pretty random. The last one is the big finale. One week they had a level of Litt…

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I'm thinking of designing a University course...

I'm thinking of designing a University course covering the following modules: The growth of home computers in the pre-PC era. The rise of punk and indie rock in the 80s and the rise of the New Romantics. Lincolnshire rural life between recessions. The Grammar School system and exam-based qualifications before the introduction of GCSEs. The role of the eldest child in the nuclear family. I'll call it
My Life as a Teenager

Yes in concert at The Royal Albert Hall

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I put this on Facebook before I went:
In the year of my 40th birthday I went to see Genesis, my favourite band. Since then I've been to see Kate Bush, one of my favourite artists. Tonight (in the year of my 50th birthday) I'm going to see Yes with Ben, another of my favourite (old) artists. ELO is another favourite, but I'm not so fussed to see Jeff Lynne. In the year of my 60th birthday I think we can expect to see Pink Floyd reunite and then that will be a full set of (old) favourites. We were a bit late so the support act had started before we sat down. I didn't know who they were, and my initial thoughts were that they might be Marillion. I'm not familiar with anything but their first album, but I did know they'd gone on to release several more. After they'd back announced one of their songs I search engined it, and found out they were Moon Safari. They seemed like a young prog band, so a good fit for being support.

As a fan I'm pretty rubbish. The…

Top twelve albums

In the spirit of owning your own words here's something I put on Facebook (but then this is living on Google's servers, but at least it's away from a walled garden).


List 12 albums that have stuck with you. 1 album per artist only (yes, I know, difficult). No compilations (also difficult). Don't take too long; don't think too hard.
Tubular Bells - Mike OldfieldTime - ELOClose to the Edge - YesSensual World - Kate BushSo - Peter GabrielThe Seldom Seen Kid - ElbowWish you were here - Pink FloydJoshua Tree - U2Genesis - GenesisThe Invisible Band - TravisKingdom of Rust - Doves and one compilation to break the rules
Pure Moods Since then I've thought of another album which could go in at number 12 - Keane, Hopes and Fears.

Would you like For the Win by Cory Doctorow?

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"Would I like For the Win by Cory Doctorow?", said no-one to me, ever. Book reviews are useful as such, but the most useful thing is for someone to give me enough information about the sort of book that a book is that I'd know if I'd like it. It may be lacking in depth of character, but if it's got spaceships in it, or mind-expanding travelogue (I'm looking at you Iain M Banks) then that's enough for me.

So would you like it? I think you'd need to know a bit about gold farming, or at least read up on it before you start. I think you'd need an interest in video games, but not necessarily. You would have to enjoy, or not mind, explanations of economics as applied to the virtual world. They are sprinkled throughout but avoid being not too patronising.

What I'd like to know about it is how much is made up, without having to do the tedious work of typing stuff into search engines to see, for example, if there really is an MMO called Mushroom Kingd…

How to get books you really want from the library every time you visit

Get old.While you're getting old develop a like for a variety of fiction styles: SF, historic detective stories, fiction that wins literary prizes but isn't too wierd, magical realism.Read about a book a month. Go to the library every three months.(And this is the important one.) Keep a list on your phone of authors you've liked previously, or that you've heard about on TV, radio, newspapers, book blogs or book podcasts.Visit the library and work through that list.