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Showing posts from 2014


Last Saturday I went to Comicon . It was held in the same place as Worldcon , Excel in London, so it was interesting to compare the two. It was far, far busier (over an hour queue to get in), less well organised, the average age was a lot lower and mainly all about the companies selling stuff. I wouldn't say the latter is necessarily a bad thing, as it's a good way of small businesses selling their stuff, but if you're thinking of going it's worth knowing that. It mainly consists of two of the big halls full of stands.  Costumes  Even if you don't know much about it you may have heard about the costumes. I found that the most interesting thing about it. It started on the train at Amersham. There was someone with a purple jacket and bow tie. It could have just been his normal way of dressing, but the cyberman head fastened to his suitcase was a bit of a giveaway.  The photo at the top shows one I was extremely impressed with. Not only had this person m

xkcd inspired Blackberry keyboard prediction

I did the same exercise as above with the predictive text on my Blackberry Playbook. I got this: Say hello to my wishlist A new report by the way we can help you find  the best way to get the school uniform turned around and see if you  are available in the UK AND IRELAND THE Toto, I've a feeling we're not going to be at Wycliffe! That should be  fun to be awriger 9780749011352 Bond, James Bond with the latest news and information on the screen  and the other day and night and I am hoping to get the school uniform  I'm a leaf on the wind. Watch this space for the first time Monday  morning close to the people who gave him ideas and I was surprised at  how many weren't his own words of the most important thing is that the  information you need to tell you that you can get the gps Goonies never say never been to the people who gave him ideas and I  was surprised at how You have my sword, and my bow, and the other day and night and I am  hoping to get the sc

What I'm reading: 2312

When I finish a book I'm always straight onto the next one, so I'm writing about this book having started it recently. It's 2312  by Kim Stanley Robinson. Here are some linked thoughts on it. It's set two centuries into a future where the solar system is being colonised - planets, moons and asteroids. This is not a new theme, but I've read another book? about this recently so from that unrepresentative sample, it appears to be a popular topic. When I was younger happily read books about hyperspace and faster than light travel, and although I can't remember for sure, I probably assumed that someone would invent a way of doing it, or maybe I didn't care that it was actually impossible. Now that we're well into the 21st Century and physics has got pretty deep into the atom, and far back in time, it looks like nothing's going to happen on that front anytime soon. Travel to the nearest exoplanet is approaching feasible (conference on charlie stross&#

Meeting Maggie Philbin and Stephen Fry in my living room

Tomorrow's World (along with Top of the Pops) made Thursday evening the best TV evening of the week (in fact the best evening of the week, but that's another story). We would be shown some really cool new inventions, many of which had great potential to change things. I don't remember many of them appearing in normal life though. When I worked for a small electronics company I understood about how much is involved in bringing things to market, and making them on a big enough scale to make enough money to make more. I remember when the Walkman was first shown, something which did change how music was listened to. My memory of the way it was presented, which many be flawed, was that the revolutionary part was not the small tape mechanism, but the headphones. The inventors had found a way to get good quality sound from a tiny speaker, because after all, who wants to walk around with a big pair of headphones on? I also remember when the digital camera was first shown. Al

Re-entering fandom

Until I went to Worldcon  I hadn't done anything you could call fannish for many years. The closest thing I got was reading the blog of someone I've been following for years. I discovered them on a blog directory (yes, such things existed) when I was looking for local people who also blogged. I knew them as Coalescent  but I didn't know much about them. The blog was mostly book reviews In hunting around the internet after Worldcon I found that he, for it is a he, is Niall Harrison , editor of Strange Horizons and he lives in Oxford, which is sort of local. The Hugo Awards, voted on and awarded at Worldcon, includes entries for best fanzine. I wrote previously about how doing a fanzine  required "confidence and work". That was in the days of paper, but now we have digital publications a blog counts as a fanzine, for the winner was (look a digital link)  A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher. It has previews of cover art, guest articles, reviews, and other goo

The seventh wave is not the biggest

Listening again to the Ninth Wave suite on Hounds of Love, and inspired by xkcd's graphs I drew this based on searches on Those slightly wiggly lines are drawn with more skill than it looks. Raw data for those really interested. 1 132227 2 105959 3 75735 4 119380 5 71926 6 67014 7 108539 8 74096 9 64234 19 69869

Worldcon - the world SF convention

This particular Worldcon is called Loncon3 as it's the third one to be held in London. On the morning before I went I put a photo of my Star Wars T-shirt on Facebook and commented how it would make me fit in. Not that I needed to fit in. I saw: a large green cat like figure several top hats, some with brass goggles several Terry Pratchett hats a spoon headdress (worn by a space scientist) a Tardis dress a dragon on someone's shoulder just the one fez The breadth of the programme is amazing. It runs from Thursday to Monday. There are 600 items which means at any given time there are about ten things to choose from. All sorts of types of SF are represented: literary, film, graphic, TV, young adult, music and science too.  As well as all those items there was an art show, dealers stalls, a games tent, a library and a fan area. What I was looking forward to was seeing some authors I've read or certainly heard of, in the flesh. Like a twitcher I ticked off Cory

APA, Fanzines and publishing in the 80s

A couple of hours ago I booked a day ticket (or "membership" as it's called) for the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention. I've spent the time since digging around on the internet into my past. Let me explain. I went to University in York between 1984 and 1988. From my early teens my reading material was almost exclusively SF. When I went to University I joined the British Science Fiction Association. (A while back when I was doing some vanity searching I came across an index of letters to the BSFA journal. Someone dutifully recorded that I written two letters.) I was also invited to join an Amateur Press Association , or APA, called The Organisation. If you're read the article I've linked to you'll understand how they work. What it doesn't do is explain how things were before the internet, for those who haven't experienced it. In the 80s there were three or four TV channels. There were books and magazines. There was Doctor Who and Blakes 7, and

15 miles from Star Wars

My writing ability is not good enough to convey the excitement I felt when I first watched Star Wars at age 11. Since then it has been a small part of my life in many ways, which I may document at some point. The reason I'm writing now is to say that I'm 15 MILES FROM STAR WARS Day one at @PinewoodStudios . #StarWarsVII — Star Wars (@starwars) May 16, 2014 Episode VII is being shot very close to where I live. I am excited.

How to keep the sound person in church happy

Disclaimer: I am not a professional sound engineer. I am an amateur who does the sound desk at church once a month.  Another disclaimer: Your church may not have the luxury of a sound desk. I read an article recently in a Christian magazine that talked about the role of a "Worship Pastor" as if every church had one. I realise this article may not be relevant, though it may be useful in future. The speaker at a Christian festival starts his talk on the stage with a joke. "What's the difference between a terrorist and the sound guy? You can negotiate with a terr-". The rest of the sentence is inaudible. That's not a good way to keep the sound person happy. Here are some tips. Care of microphones Microphones are like ears. They don't like being banged, or having warm, moist air blown into them (unless it's by someone very special). If you want to check if a mike is working, speak at normal volume, or just tickle it. If you tickle it you shou

An elder reacts to Magic: The Gathering

A word of explanation for the blog title. My children have brought to my attention the YouTube phenomenon of videos entitled "(social grouping) reacts to (meme)", e.g. "teens react to Flappy Bird". It consists of watching the expression of a member of these social groups watching the meme on YouTube. They also get asked questions about it. I thought about recording my own "I react to (social grouping) react to (meme)", which would consist of me with a puzzled expression on my face as I really don't see the point of watching someone else watching YouTube. However I thought it made a good title for this post. The elder is me, because my children tell me I'm old. Magic: The Gathering  has been around for over 20 years and at some point in the past few years I became aware of it as some sort of trading card game. Recently one of my children has bought a set of cards and so I can play it too, after a fashion. It's a fantastically complicated gam

Proteins in a single cell

From Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything", talking about a cell in the human body: Typically a cell will contains some twenty thousand types of protein, and of these about two thousand types will be represented by at least fifty thousand molecules. 'This means,' says Nuland, 'that even if we count only those molecules present in more than 50,000 each, the total is still a very minimum of 100 million protein molecules in each cell. Such a staggering figure gives some idea of the swarming immensity of biochemical activity within us.' In a single cell. Wow.

Half a million views on Flickr in one day

I don't often check my Flickr photo stats, but I happened to the other week and found a massive spike in the number of views. Normally I get around 100-200 views a day, but on that particular day I got 569,829. My theory is that they came from this post on Viralnova about money trees . I reckon that somehow embedding the pictures on that web page caused the view count to go up. It's interesting that as well as the two money tree pictures the ones near it in the photo stream also got a lot of views. I couldn't find anyone else reporting that they've had a similar big jump, so I put this post out there in case someone knows just why the pageviews did go up.

The intersection of two major parts of British SF - Douglas Adams and Doctor Who

I didn't realise until I came across this book that Douglas Adams had written Doctor Who episodes. So what was the intersection of these two major parts of British SF like? Douglas had already written an episode called City of Death  (note requires Real Player - actually it doesn't require it, but I just wanted to say such an anachronistic thing). Then he was commissioned to write six episodes. They got abandoned after three because of a strike. What Gareth Roberts has done here is write a novel based on all he could get hold of with those scripts. Unfortunately I found that the combination was lesser than the sum of its parts. It's well written, but not as brilliant as I might have hoped. The story is quite slow, but not tedious and the ending doesn't disappoint. Maybe just for fans only.

Would I have been a mod or rocker?

Why am I even wondering about this? Let's start back when I was a young teenager in the late 70s. There were four music papers around then: (from memory) Melody Maker, Sounds, Record Mirror and the NME. A friend of mine subscribed to Record Mirror. On the letters page there was discussion about mods and rockers; this was the first time I'd heard the terms. I didn't know anyone who would fall in either camp, but being rural Lincolnshire this isn't a surprise. Another friend was embarrassed to discover that his dad used to be a Teddy Boy. Although his dad was middle-aged then, I did the maths and it was entirely plausible that he was a teenager at the right time. The music I listened to and liked around then was the Specials and Madness, and not Shakin Stevens. If someone had made me choose then I would have said Mod. When we moved to our current house and I was no longer able to walk to work, as I had done for almost all of my previous working life up that point

Work Shop

The year is 1970. It is around the time when a man went into a shop to complain about a parrot, and when there was a Government Ministry of Silly Walks. "Hello there, I've come for some work." "Well you've come to the right place sir, this is a Work Shop." "What sort of work do you have?" "Well, sir, we have some light secretarial, some tedious paperwork, some spurious form filling, some skilled plumbing, a bit of carpentry, and some medium-grade filing." "The light secretarial sounds good. I think I'll have some of that. How much do you pay?" "Pay, sir? I don't understand." "How much do you pay for the work?" "I'm afraid you're mistaken sir, we don't pay you, you pay us. This is a Work Shop, you come in and you buy some work." "Why would I want to buy some work?" "Well, sir, in the future, when machines meet our every need people will be des

1.9 million followers!

It all started when I caught an advert on Radio 4 for a radio play of a book I'd just finished: I just finished the book #neverwhere by @neilhimself and I find it's on Radio 4 soon #fb — Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) December 20, 2013 @neilhimself is Neil Gaiman, the author of the book, and he retweeted my tweet. I was quite excited about it. My children found my excitement amusing, to which I would respond "1.9 million followers!", (that's how many Neil has, not me). I would freely acknowledge that not all of them saw it. 10 other people further retweeted it, 21 people favourited it and I got three new followers. A few people replied to me too. I didn't dare admit it was the first book of his that I'd read (apart from Small Gods which he jointly wrote with Sir Terry Pratchett). Before we visited family after Christmas one of my children said that I was bound to bring it up when we saw our relatives, but I promised that I wou

Wandering among star stuff

Last night I borrowed the binoculars that one of my sons got for Christmas and looked at the moon and stars - the first time I've done that for quite a few years. Wanting to find out more I was looking at I've been wandering through some astronomy related web pages, mostly the International Astronimical Union (IAU) and found that: don't pay to have a star named after you - it's a con there appears to be no single master database of stars as you might expect, though there are conventions on naming there are loads of ways you can take part in astronomy and all sort of other fields science, from analysing things, to letting your computer do work when it would otherwise be idle the IAU are working on the naming of exoplanets (those outside the solar system)