perlmonger: (cycling)
I've allowed myself to get depressingly unfit; I cycled 16½ miles yesterday - about half way to Hornsea and back - and while I wasn't about to collapse in a panting, muscle twitching mess on return, I could definitely feel it. This was on the flat, too (not a lot of choice hereabouts), and checking up past routes on Bikely, I find that this was roughly the same distance as from Long Ashton to Fishponds and back, which I wouldn't even have noticed last autumn. Oh well, there's a simple fix; I just need to get off my arse more often.

We walked to Ennerdale Leisure Centre today, to do the gym induction a carelessly mislaid coach at Beverley Road meant we couldn't do there. Induction, they called it, though £12 a head for somebody to tell me which buttons to press on a cross-trainer seems a little steep. We agreed that "registration fee" would be a more honest description, but whatever: hopefully the occasional gym session along with getting out on the road (or railway path) more often will kick my meat back in gear, as it were.

We'll see how my fault develops.
perlmonger: (revolting)
My MP has a history of ignoring her constituents and their issues almost as consistent as her voting record in Parliament, but still…
Dear Diana Johnson,

I write to you with some urgency, to ask you as my representative in Parliament to make representations to the Ministers and officials concerned with the progress of the Digital Economy Bill to, at a minimum, incorporate into the legislation the rejected amendments opposition Lords attempted to introduce for its Third Reading.

This egregious piece of legislation contains no significant checks and balances, and little regard for anything resembling due process. Leaving aside that it will in any case fail to achieve its stated purpose, it will place an unsupportable burden on Internet Service Providers (already suffering from vanishing margins), and will result in a chilling effect on innovation and international competitiveness in Internet-based business (which today means virtually all business). The operation of shared Internet access facilities will become impossible, whether in libraries, bars or in community-supporting social enterprises like Bristol Wireless (see http://www.bristolwireless.net/); the societal costs of the Bill would far outweigh its intended benefits, even were they to be achieved.

Yours sincerely,

Pete Jordan
If you care at all about democracy, and its latest hijack by business interests (see this post as a useful starting point, from a lawyer who likely knows more about these issues than the entire Government front bench), please do the same.
perlmonger: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] ramtops and I skived off to the cinema on Friday to see Alice.

cut for spoilers )
perlmonger: (kumu)
The True WheelI was going through the photos I took on Saturday, cycling around the wet bits North West of the centre of Hull, and the title for this one just jumped into my head. Trouble is, it won't leave again.

Still, I've had much worse earworms.

Looking for a certain ratio
Someone said they saw it parking in a car-lot

Miscellany

Feb. 16th, 2010 06:46 pm
perlmonger: (Default)
Of possible interest, one way or another, to [livejournal.com profile] hirez and [livejournal.com profile] feorag, City of Sound gifted me a pointer to Australian Design Review and a vision of a Melbourne observation wheel repurposed as a tram depot in the sky for "flying steam-powered punk trams."

I mean, what's not to like? Especially if the same were done to the Eye, and both were also used as moorings for long-distance airships.

Meantimes, and belatedly (I finished it last Wednesday):

Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett2010.6: Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett Pterry does tribalism, class, enclosure of the commons, resistance, subversion, blame, othering and abdication of responsibility. And a whole lot of other stuff as well (even, peripherally, football and my very own horrid memories of the school changing rooms and showers).

There aren't many laugh out loud moments in this one, but there's no shortage of wry chuckles and the occasional snigger: top stuff, and the best DW book since Going Postal.

Triton

Feb. 5th, 2010 10:27 pm
perlmonger: (books)
Triton, Samuel R. Delany2010.5: Triton, by Samuel R. DelanyThis is a tricky one: how to even attempt to do justice to a book as multi-layered and complex as this? A central protagonist who's emotionally crippled and self-deceiving and self-destructive (never mind about his effect on those around him) to an extent unprecedented outside mainstream 20th (and 21st) Century consensus masculine normality lives in a society that, for all his pretense to himself and his contemporaries, is totally alien to him. A society that is about to, and does, enter into a war without soldiers, but with human casualties of a scale and meaninglessness anticipated 25 years ago that only stares into our faces now.

The book, inevitably, suffers from predictive failures that, in the early stages, grated; that's unfair, but it still felt awkward until the deeper flow of the novel rendered them irrelevant; it is, after all, like all books ultimately a reflection of the context of its creation (and the commonality of now with then far outshines the dissonances).

The relationship of the text with its writing, with its reading, is of course at the core of the book: beyond its nature as an SF novel, its exploration of human/societal relationships, of sex, sexuality, gender identity, of race and cultural/metacultural identification, the main part of the book and its final appendix are also the first two parts of Delany's semiotic exploration and analysis (both within and without the book) Some Informal Remarks toward the Modular Calculus, the third part of which also forms part of the Nevèrÿon cycle. I'm not qualified to comment on that aspect of the work, and in any case would need to re-read that third part first, so I'll let that pass for now, beyond noting its existence and importance.

Bron's dissociation, dissolution and final disintegration remains the heart of the novel to me: an utterly dysfunctional human being who for all his background as a prostitute on Mars (where male prostitution is legal and female illegal) and life in the Outer Satellites (where both prostitution and marriage are illegal (outside their Unlicenced Sectors)) is a child of Earth (where, in his time, the Martian situation is reversed) in his ultimate, broken, patriarchal, identity.

I'll be reading this again soon, I think, though a re-read of all the Nevèrÿon books will come first.
perlmonger: (books)
I changed the bed today (hey! that sounds like it should be the first line of a song), and used the opportunity to finally measure the tilt on the bedroom floor, chocking up Mac's side until the spirit she say "level". Turns out the floor tilts just a tooth short of 3cm over the width of the bed, so that's two leg extensions I'm going to have to cut.

This of course takes no account of the other strange distortions in the floor geometry that make going to the toilet of a night feel like I dropped a tab a couple of hours earlier. If there's a single level surface or right-angled corner in this house, I've yet to find it, though the only eldritch sounds in the night thus far have been the responsibility of the Tribe. This may change.

2010.4 Superluminal, Vonda N. McIntyreSuperluminal, by Vonda N. McIntyre
Another re-read after years, and I got a lot more out of the book this time round; I noticed flaws in the writing - beautifully written detail and a fine overall structure, but distinct shakiness in chapter-level execution, particularly in the first third - and the distinctly dodgy dimensional detail description (though how abstractions like those could have been described better escapes me), but the shortcomings were more than made up for. It's a good story, damnit, with excellent characterisation, and what I didn't even notice in previous readings was the transparent inclusion of women and PoC throughout. Not something that should be of note of course, but even now, 27 years later, it's depressingly rare. What's also rare, and achieved here, is a story that forms a beautiful whole; that ends well without in any way either feeling abrupt or awkward (Neal Stephenson take note) or tying events up into an artificial conclusion: the story continues on for all the protagonists, but the reader is left happy with the final period, and free to imagine what might happen next.

The book is refreshingly short of villains too; the characters who behave in unsympathetic ways do so for human reasons, and the Administrators merely behaved as they inevitably would in the real world - the one we meet in the narrative is as human and multidimensional (and even sympathetic) as any other well-meaning person constrained by the structures in which they operate. In fact, the only negative (if glancing) portrayal is of the US, and their relationship to and treatment of the Divers; that one rings true too.

So. Not a profound exploration of the human condition, but an enjoyable novel well worth its re-read nonetheless, and recommended.

In other news, we dragged ourselves to the cinema to see Avatar in its full 3D glory, and glorious it indeed was. The visuals truly are extraordinary, and the structure and execution of the film succeed in transcending the thin story, the multiple borrowings, the plot holes and the racefail. I find myself agreeing with pretty much everything I've read about the thing, positive and negative, but overall it's an incredible experience, and I'm glad that I've experienced it. Roz Kaveney's review sums the whole thing up better than I ever could, articulating my own thoughts and feelings in the process; that, along with this splendid metacontextual analysis (ahem), really say all that need be said.
perlmonger: (Default)
Going forthOn Saturday, we bought cat litter in the rain, and I helped [personal profile] ramtops craft what was quite possibly the best moussaka she's ever made (and that's a non-trivial achievement).

On Sunday, the sun shone (surely some mistake?), so we drove to Withernsea and walked, on the beach and along the prom, before retiring to a café for steak and ale pie for Mac, and Yorkshire pudding with sossidges and gravy for me, before returning home and Mac helping me construct a vat of chili from the last of the Dexter shin in the freezer.

2010.3: Long, Dark Tea-time of the Soul, Douglas Adams Long, Dark Tea-time of the Soul, by Douglas Adams
Who first wrote a gods-still-walk-amongst-us-but-forgotten-and-ignored story? I don't know, but this counts as one of the best such that I know (top of the list goes to American Gods, of course). I'll wander out on a dubious and shaky limb, though, to suggest this might be the best book DNA wrote.
perlmonger: (books)
Bringing myself up-to-date, here are my first two books of 2010 )

I'm onto The Long, Dark Tea-time of the Soul now, and having been vaguely maintaining some sort of connection between each books I've read since the end of last year - Švejk and these two - the obvious next step is American Gods. But having just read the bit about whales' songs being silenced by propeller noise, I'm pondering Superluminal. We'll see.

Odyssey 2

Jan. 13th, 2010 05:02 pm
perlmonger: (books)
[ lifts head (still not) gingerly above parapet ]

Yes, I am still alive. Pointless status posts and linkspam are going to Twitter, and thence to Facebook, these days, and what with moving (back for me, forward for [personal profile] ramtops) to Hull and werk I've not had time or brain capacity to write anything substantive.

What I have been doing since the autumn, when the Books app I use on Facebook started offering me the option, is writing a few words (if not anything much like a review) of the books I read. These get lost in the historical maw of FB so, as much for my reference as anything else, I'm going to start reposting them here.

As a start, here's what I read last year )
perlmonger: (sothoth remix)
Still alive, but snowed under with werk (and counting the days till Summer Camp at the Bank Holiday).

I've just disposed of the enblighted upside down tomato plant, which was an arse as it was the only one showing signs of ripening, The other two (in a grobag) appear fine thus far, if green; if they succumb too, we'll likely be digging out green tomato recipes.

Whether the compost I put in the gravity inverter was infested with spores, the variety of tomato was particularly susceptible, or it just didn't like growing in the wrong direction, I don't suppose we'll ever know.

Post tomato destruction, I've just indulged in some therapeutically savage pruning of the Virginia creeper, which made me feel a bit better at least; all this after hitting brick wall this afternoon and having to collapse in a near comatose way on the bed for a while. Too Much Stress.
perlmonger: (sothoth remix)
…it occurs to me that this is quite appropriate listening matter.
perlmonger: (lilith)
Our weekend was bracketed by death.

Friday night, maybe midnight or thereabouts, we were woken by mad scrabbling on the landing. Investigation revealed Ron with a new toy: another mouse was moments away from its end.

There was a degree of oh-buggrit-we-want-to-sleep-clean-up-the-bits-in-the-morning and we subsided; until, that is, Ron brought his prize into the bedroom. No way I wanted to risk the rodent being deposited in several bits on (or worse, in) the bed, so up I got and chased the PoD downstairs to grab hold of him at the foot of the stairs. For a brief moment.

Ron does not like to be thwarted.

He emitted his bloodfreezing scream of fury and slipped away (I wasn't going to try and hold on anyways), but the scream necessitated the opening of the Maw, and the Fangs Therein, and thus the now dead and still miraculously intact rodent was left behind for me to grab - quickly! - to enbag and, given the hour and my naked body, be hurled outside the front door for attention come the dreadful light of day.

This was not the end of the story, for on Saturday Mac went out onto the patio, and lying there, still in its (admittedly slightly punctured) baggie was the mouse. How it got from front to back, given our home is mid-terrace, is left as an exercise for the reader.

The weekend itself passed peacefully: I went shopping on my bike on both days, for food on Saturday and to Brislington Maplins for a can of airduster, Roomba, switches, for the cleaning of. The A4174/A4 junction really is a miracle of Bristol Cycling City planning: the only practical (for unusual values of practical) way of turning right on a bike is to filter between two narrow, car filled, lanes through one set of light and to another. The filtering bit is fine; the pedalling down the white line with vehicles overtaking on both sides mere inches away after the first lights change to green is less so. That the shedpark on Bath Road is entirely bereft of Sheffield racks (at least anywhere near my destination) just provides a little shining jewel of experience before the return, stopping at the lights heading straight on into Brislington, and feeling the rush of traffic again in a fine intimacy as the turn left filter goes green.

I'd decided to return via the Sweet Mart in Easton, to pick up the 5 litre can of olive oil I lacked carrying space for on Saturday. Taking a scenic route for a change, I diverted through the pastoral joys of St Annes, down to the river before crossing same next to the charming and friendly sight of the Village Centre. Thence to Barton Hill where the skies opened and I got as soaked as a very soaked thing. I dripped into the shop, bought my oil and a bunch of spring onions, and headed home. Pausing briefly by the Floating Harbour to tramline, tip over elegantly, and land on my arse. Was bound to happen one day, and no significant harm ensued (I'm too old to have retained any dignity).

Sunday night, The Aliens (being Mac and I, and friends Pat and Dave) acted as quizmasters for the first time at the monthly village quiz night at the Legion. The consensus seemed to be that our questions were too hard, but I think most had fun; we certainly did and might contemplate doing the same again in the unlikely event of being asked.

Oh, and I promised death after: that came at around 6am this morning. Mac got up to go bathroomward and discovered a cloud of feathers, an observant Henry, and a Ron, who was whacking the very ex blackbird in his jaws against the banister rails. That murdered sleep (as well as the bird) quite effectively for both of us. By the time I got to gathering up the remains, the part-chewed, feather-denuded bird was in Henry's jaws in the kitchen, being whacked against the floor and the fridge as H. leaped and swivelled in the air. I added the Bits to the bagged mouse from before, still awaiting final disposal, and vacuumed up feathers from the kitchen, hallway, stairs and landing.

Ron and Henry, or maybe Ron and Reggie, or possibly Doug and Dinsdale: I expect they were good to their mum.
perlmonger: (plugh)
Our Roomba has been developing signs of what appears to be madcow: wandering vaguely, getting stuck, hooting mournfully; the final symptom being an inability to dock. The poor thing would approach in a decisive fashion and then, just as it hit the ramp, get confused and back off again, whirl a bit, and trundle off in the wrong direction.

Sunday, I stripped a beast long overdue for a full decoke, and not before time. It's been [mumble] since I cleaned out its geartrain and it was quite clear from the teeth that Insufficient Flossing has been taking place. Yuck. Much gunk elsewhere under the covers, of course, and I stripped the buffer assembly for the first time ever on the educated guess that close-range navigational difficulties might be down to sensor issues. What I found under there certainly seemed to support my hypothesis.

I couldn't help feeling that there were some sort of dodgy cross-species relationship issues with using the little hand-held vacuum to go suckety at the internals of the Roomba.

Reassembled, I pressed the button. Sadly, if anything, the thing was even more confused: it actually worked now, after a fashion, for some time but then got into a snit and decided it had an invisible (invisible to us anyhow: I expect the Tribe could see it) barrier in front of it, and reversed first one way, turned, reversed another way, turned again, and finally mounted the armchair base and stopped.

I finally got round to further investigation tonight. It was clear enough that the buffer sensors were the prime suspects; one of the microswitches sticking down intermittently would cause exactly the navigational symptoms that were now distilled into unambiguity in the newly cleansed machine. Sure enough, closer inspection showed that one end of the spring metal strip that the buffer acts against had come adrift from its little plastic entrapment: it's not obvious, as the strip was still in the right place and sproinged pretty much as it should to the touch, but the lack of proper location was enough to börk the fine balance of reality avoidance.

So, with the buffer assembly reassembled in a reverse of disassembly sort of way, a final trial. And with a metaphorical w00t! at least, the Roomba headed across the floor into Ron, then trundled under the armchair and with an air of insouciance over the base where it would normally get stuck; not just that, but lifted into the hallway and dock button pressed, the machine headed straight toward its power base, gave a little wiggle, and settled with a satisfied and melodious little toot.

Success! But a final note: if you're tempted into more and deeper surgery of your Roomba by this, please remember that the Roomba is mostly held together by screws into plastic. If you have any lack of mechanical empathy, or have a tendency to give screws just a little bit more torque to make sure they're properly tight, I respectfully suggest you leave well alone and find someone who's at least read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to do the job :)

Legs

Jun. 27th, 2009 07:01 pm
perlmonger: (cycling)
Coo. After cleaning Mac's keyboard and persuading the library that giving me my reserved copy of Children of God last Friday meant that it's state should change from "reserved" to "borrowed", I nipped (or popped) out to the shops this afternoon, and found that my legs are a metric shitload stronger than hitherto. Hills stormed up without dropping gears, zooming away from everything at traffic lights, generally having huge fun in spite of the heat. Looks like going to Wales last Saturday was good for me after all.

I got most of the Things We Needed in spite of forgetting the list: koi sticks from Bedminster Down; muesli, malties, tamari, breadflour and juice from Gloucester Road, and, even better than that, a bunch of English asparagus. Just because. Forgot the crispbread, but I wouldn't have had space in my pack for it anyhow. I nearly came back with nowt, mind, as the card machine at Scoopaway was playing up and I was cash challenged; I certainly wasn't going to pay whatever gouging rate the Yorkshire currently chooses to charge for credit card cash withdrawals. All was well, though, and home beckoned.

Got surveiled by Sustrans acting for BCC (or possibly BCC acting for Sustrans) by the old railway bridge over the New Cut: hopefully that'll be one more datapoint against running buses over that bridge and up the chocolate path. Not that it'll help: the WOEP have the power of central government behind them, and I doubt that opposition to any of their plans, whether from councils or ordinary punters, will have any effect.

Time to stir fry that asparagus now. Nom.

Bridge

Jun. 21st, 2009 05:47 pm
perlmonger: (cycling)
EastI went shopping in St Werberghs yesterday, via Wales as you do. Only just Wales, mind; over the bridge to M48 J2 and back again, but it was still Forn Parts, and 45½ miles in all.

Down the Avon, up the Trym, and then balked at the Hallen railway bridge, which is still down; back to Henbury and detoured up to Catbrain and Hollywood Lane, thence to Easter Compton. I missed my turn after Pilning Station and ended up on the Tockington road, so another detour as I didn't realise until I hit the turn off at Awkley. So to the bridge, after an unexpected hill on Passage Road: what was that all about then, Ted?

I headed in an Austerly direction on the way back, but turned back (for fear of what I might encounter) for Olveston and an appointment at the Post Office with a couple of cereal bars. All this had consequences for this badger of little and occasional exercise: I ground to a halt on Washingpool Hill and had to push the bike up to the A38, and my leg muscles went into spasm on the rise into Filton past BAe on Gloucester Road North. Most unpleasant; I has to sit on my crossbar until things calmed down, and I could push again up to the crest. Thankfully, things were mostly flat or downhill thereafter (Muller Road! Wheee!!11!).

Farm Pub Path to St Werberghs, and washing up liquid, nettle shampoo, Greens cheddar and Cornish brie, then home through St Pauls, the Centre and the North side of the Floating Harbour.

Today, I'm still aching, but biked down to the farm shop for bacon, chipolatas, Axbridge strawberries and cream, so I don't think I've broken myself. Big Grease for brunch, then grass cutting and gardening this afternoon.

So, how was your Solstice?
perlmonger: (skydancer)
reflex
A week ago last Friday was 29th May, and the tenth anniversary of [personal profile] ramtops' and my wedding; the start of a marriage that nobody (and least of all ourselves :) expected to last over a year. TWOTY+10 was both an arbitrary date and yet a milestone; we were planning to have a major celebration: Boston, to echo the start of our honeymoon, or a weekend in Paris. The TSA stopped the first, and lack of funds really scuppered anything remotely exotic, so we just took the day off work and headed to the Exmoor falconry (a favourite place we first visited just before our 5th anniversary) and points nearby.

We stopped for a greasy spoon breakfast in Burnham on Sea, then headed on to Porlock (stopping and buying some asparagus, with some anticipation, at a farm shop along the way). We had a wander, then tea and scones in Porlock, before finding our way through the mesh of country lanes to the Falconry. Two flight displays - buzzard, vulture, owl and hawk, then after a break, an eagle - in the blazing sun. One day, we'll book ourselves a day there working with the birds.

We drove on to Porlock Weir in the late afternoon and had a wander on the beach and around the village before beer and (excellent) fish pie at the pub, before finally heading home.

A very good day indeed.

perlmonger: (Default)
We've spent a splendid long weekend away at SummerSpring Camp in Pembrokeshire; more later about that if I can be arsed, but as usual I won't be trawling back through four days' worth of Dreamwidth or LJ. If you've said or seen anything you think I should see, please let me know.
perlmonger: (cycling)
So. Not only did Ron bring in a pigeon on Friday, and (when finally induced to drop it) left it such a state that I had no real choice but to break its neck - not one of my favourite things to do - but, on Friday night as I was drifting into sleep, I heard screaming from downstairs.

It wasn't quite the full high-pitched horror of a trapped frog and, indeed, when I tracked down the source by the front door, it turned out Henry had caught himself a toad. Truly, Spring has come to us with the start of May. The toad I deposited by the pnod in the hope that it escape to croak in life rather than death for a while longer yet.

Yesterday, I finished the initial clearing of the garage. It's by no means finished, but there's a lot more space; specifically for both bikes to be accessible through the main door. Mac has ordered hooks, bikes, for the hanging of: when they arrive they'll be installed, one set on each side, to further improve matters.

Later in the afternoon, I went out for a short bike ride. Well; I intended it to be short, but kind of got carried away in an it's-only-a-bit-further-to sort of way for 32.6 miles. I felt like a bit of hill-climbing practice (look at the elevation profile on that Bikely link), so up Wild Country Lane and Hobbs Lane to the A38, finding I'd forgotten just how steep Hobbs Lane actually was. Having climbed that far, I thought I'd just go a bit higher up to the Airport perimeter, which was High Enough, so straight back downhill-all-the-way to Brockley and the A370, which would be a lovely run if it weren't for the appalling state of the road surface. Thence via Chelvey to Nailsea West End, and having got as far as the Blue Flame, there seemed little point in not going the extra few miles to Clevedon.

This is where things went a bit awry: I thought I might take the coast path to Portishead, something I've wanted to walk for a least a dozen years now. Was fine for the first few miles; a bit narrow, but no problem to cycle along. Later, it got narrower, and rougher, and (occasionally) steeper, culminating in a sense of balance error and investigation of the attributes that gorse bushes share with kittin extremities. I have a lovely collection of scratches along the length of my left arm now, including down-not-across my wrist and a goodly few punctures in my hands. Thereafter I showed greater respect for the lack in capability of my road tyres, and pushed (occasionally carried) the bike where the track was less than flat and clear.

All this, of course, ended up taking several times as long as I had expected. No problems thereafter, though: I stopped to phone Mac with an I-aten't-ded phone call on my way out of Portishead and then via Sheepway, Portbury, Pill, Ham Green and the Avon cycle path to home, with my end point coincident with my start point but (by Bikely's/Google's calculations) 13' lower down. Long Ashton is Sinking: I fear the Belgians down there may be digging again.

Today I am mostly aching.
perlmonger: (Default)
Just seeing if logjam will post to DreamWidth: can't see why it shouldn't, but we'll see…

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