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Everything posted by dog-days

  1. An alcoholic at the shared house I live in who's 95% nice, 4% dodgy, 1% completely crazy decided to set the fire alarm off and go on a screaming rant after a disagreement with one of the tenants that he'd apparently brooded and got drunker over. Things escalated, the neighbours came round and he made to attack one of them, they phoned the police. Things are quieter now. The police say he's calmed down, the other tenants are sounding calmer too, and maybe the rest of the night will be quiet. Unless he has more to drink and goes for an encore. Sigh. Things have been fairly decent here since Nightmare Tenant from Hell moved out at the end of last July. But it's not too bad. A few more months, and I'm off. Just feel sorry for anyone stuck in places like this with no other choice. ETA: And he went off again, this time with a hammer. Only a window was hurt thankfully. I'm staying the night in a hotel since he disappeared before the police arrived a second time. Glad I finished my book before all this nonsense.
  2. Will be interested to see how this and the trials in Wales develop.
  3. Loved Children of Memory the second book to follow Adrian Tchaikovsky's 2015 Children of Time. I still haven't read the latter, and must go back to it, if only to encounter Avrana Kern as a human. This book is told for the most part from the POVs of Liff, a child descended from the colonisers of a partially terraformed new world, of Miranda a reformed killer fungus, and of Gethli and Gothi, a pair of hybrid crows with a symbiotic mind who decline to be sentient. It's carried along by carefully laid hints at mysteries and by a timeline that starts out vanilla before elaborating. Oh yeah, and by plot, character, engagement with some big concepts, and humour. There's a line I'd love to quote, but it's a bit too spoiler-heavy for the review thread. One of the reasons I love Tchaikovsky's science fiction is that it's never only sci-fi: you can pull the threads apart and trace them back to multiple genres. Here he drew hard on Grimm's Fairy Tales and Norse myth. The hybrid corvids Gethli and Gothi come from a species that evolved to have an extraordinary divided intelligence as a result of environmental pressure. And then again, they're Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory, riding on the shoulders of a dark god. I don't think any writer is going to fill the hole in the sky that Terry Pratchett left, and Tchaikovsky's writing isn't very much like Terry's, but sometimes it seems to shine with a similar radiance. Checked Amazon and noticed that Tchaikovsky has no new books scheduled for release. WTF. Man normally writes as fast as if he gets up before dawn and drinks five espressos. Afterwards I immediately went to his Twitter account, and to my relief he does appear to be okay.
  4. That's my MP. Glad I didn't vote for him. His record in the expenses scandal is lousy too. I feel like I bring some kind of curse down on Labour MPs when I live in an area, given that Chris Matheson resigned (also for making unwanted sexual advances) last year.
  5. Not related to Lost, but the Guardian did a good article on Akinnuoye-Agbaje's background. His Nigerian parents paid for a family to bring him up in Essex.
  6. It's very sad to read about in detail, but I don't think I'm surprised – even when I watched it in 2010, the abrupt writing out of black characters wasn't lost on me. Plus other weird choices. The behaviour on all levels of the writers' room still shocks me though.
  7. That does explain why dogs have such a fraught relationship with vacuum cleaners. They know a rival when they see one. And those robo-vacs have moves.
  8. Thanks for sharing. A blog entry from Clarke made in February gives some context for his corner of the industry: A Concerning Trend.
  9. Bret Devereaux takes a break from real and fantastical military history to talk about what kind of heroes society needs. Hope he turns the Tweets into a full essay!
  10. Finished The Broken Crown, the first part of Michelle West's Sun Sword series as recced by Lord Patrek and others, and found in it much to admire. The style is clear, slightly detached and put me most in mind of Guy Kavriel Kay. Dialogue is on a less high-flown level than, say, the elves of Tolkien; however, the characters – cautious and verklempt by reason of the solid world building, and as bound to the mores of courtly expression as they are to their social position – speak indirectly, and formally; they're a long way from Abercrombie, say. The characters – at least those from the Dominion, I was less sold on the ones from the Empire – had a pleasing sense of otherness. They really felt as if they had been brought up in a culture with a strict and different sense of what was valuable and what was not. As regards the former: warrior aristocrats and power. And the latter: everything else, but especially women and slaves. But it never seems as if the author wants you to think that they are just terrible people full stop, or that the people lower down the hierarchy are only of interest as victims. Instead you see them creating their own connections within the limits set for them. Or – as in Teresa's case – using their prescribed role and expected traits as a shield to give them space to pursue their own goals. The paperback edition runs to 754 pages, making me glad for the sake of my arms that I read it on Kindle. It was a strange book in that whenever I was reading it, I enjoyed it, but I also rarely felt compelled to pick it up when I wasn't. Will I read the rest of the series? Probably, yes, though not right now. I'm listening to the last book in Hobb's Rain Wild Chronicles, and playing Witcher 3. I feel I'm fantasy-epic'd-out, and will be looking for a shorter, different kind of story in the immediate future.
  11. Watched Y Sŵn (The Noise) about the Plaid Cymru politician Gwynfor Evans and the creation of S4C, the Welsh-language television channel. I did want to like it, but in the end found it too self-congratulatory and tonally uneven, the dialogue so clumsy that I wondered if it had been written by an intern hired on the strength of family connections. The film half-wanted to be a playful political comedy with the well-known, very Welsh actor Mark Lewis Jones playing eighties Chancellor of the Exchequer Willie Whitelaw with a hyper-careful upper-crust English drawl; folk singers/collectors/academic Meredydd Evans and Phyllis Kinney seem almost to have walked out of a Wes Anderson film, while apparitions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King appear by a windswept Llyn Pencarreg. The scenes in Westminster are played in black-and-white. Everywhere in Wales is shot in colour. At the same time, Y Sŵn was a deal less cartoonish about Gwynfor Evans himself, and took the drama of the threatened hunger strike very seriously, as shown in his scenes with his loving, exasperated wife of many years. But as a drama about sacrifice for a political cause, it's a damp squib, because the Tories gave in and set up S4C before Evans needed to forego food or drink of any kind.
  12. A boiled egg and reasonably-priced love to anyone marking the Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May. : )
  13. Funny! Though now I think about it, I'd really like to watch a short film where Eddie Marsan as himself goes for a speed awareness course, only to find that the course leader is his character from Happy Go Lucky.
  14. This article from Fortune.com about the huge loans China has issued to developing countries (Zambia and Sri Lanka among many others) on secretive terms sounds blood-curdling, and my grasp of economics/economic history isn't solid enough to do a dispassionate assessment. I assume that for the poor countries it's more or less business as usual. They're broke and in debt and corrupt politicians have spent the loans on white elephant projects. Hopefully at least some of the infrastructure created will be of us. But for them it probably doesn't matter that much if you owe a tranche of your GPD to China or the West; if China wants you to pay its engineers to build you a high-speed railway or if the USA wants you to accept huge imports of food aid from its own farmers. For China, I guess it knows it can use the debt as leverage to acquire more power. If Chinese companies build a port with Chinese money in Sri Lanka, at that point de facto national sovereignty in the port must get rather fuzzy.
  15. A number of times you've described your mother belittling you and undermining your confidence in your ability to function as an independent human being, and it's sounded very much as though this is not something new, but something she has been doing for many years. Imagine if you had a female friend with a father that regularly put her down and acted in emotionally abusive ways. She talks about saving up her money for several years, possibly neglecting opportunities and support that could help her, in order to buy a larger house that she and her father could live in together. How would you react?
  16. I can't say I recognise the critical-thinking-driven Platonic ideal of a workplace that some have been describing. The ones I've seen have often contained nice, smart people, sometimes in management positions, but with decisions driven by budgetary constraints, office politics and rivalries, personal ambition, organisational hierarchies (grade xx wants z, better give it to him) government regulation, local culture, and by what everyone else in the sector is doing. None of which you need a degree for. Possibly the critical thinking bubbles arise only once your salary passes the £50/60,000 mark. I don't doubt that the modern economy needs highly-skilled people. In the way that the 1870 Education Act helped create a literate population, the UK needs to give its population the means to fill the type of jobs that are now available. The stuff about degrees not being for work but for an individual's moral and social edification sounds very nice on paper, but in practice for anyone that would like to be building a life for themselves in their twenties rather than taking more top-up qualifications to try and get an entry-level position paying peanuts, reality can mar the high aspirations. This applies especially to women who think they might want children, but aren't prepared to risk it until they know they have a solid career and salary to count on. I would discourage any daughter of mine from taking a humanities, languages or arts degree. Not because I don't believe they're worthwhile, but because they aren't enough on their own in the modern economy. Confidence, charisma, connections are necessary to get anywhere with them. In the UK, following the fading-out of the polytechnics and specialist colleges, the universities seem to have fallen into the roll of providing all kinds of HE-level training along with some support from further education colleges, which often work in partnerships with universities, doing the teaching and letting the university approve the award. In my experience, having done a postgraduate qualification aimed at a particular career that was once provided by a specialist body which got merged into a university a number of years before I started, the dominance of universities isn't necessarily a good thing. A group of lecturers who've spent the last decade focused on their REF results aren't necessarily the best people to teach about trends in the modern-day profession, even if some of the theory they covered wasn't without value. Just over-represented. But that was just one course, and UK universities are diverse. The 'Russell Group' band are what people generally mean when they talk about universities, offering full-time courses running on the traditional academic calendar for eighteen-year-olds with A-Levels. e.g. University of Manchester course list. Compare that to the offerings of somewhere like Newman University (ex teaching college), serving a principally local population, and offering three-year BAs, yes, but also various Foundation courses, top-up degrees, and 'accelerated' i.e. short degrees. Degree apprenticeships at Aston. Are these valuable? It could vary hugely from location to location and subject to subject. And from student to student. If you can sell yourself, the certificate is a useful key to open the doors to interviews. If not, maybe you should have chosen to study an area that would have made employers chase after you. That's before getting onto the topic of marketisation in the UK HE sector, which means that in many cases a degree proves fuck-all about the graduate except that the university awarding it needed money. I've seen an undergraduate dissertation that was only one-third complete given a passing mark because that's just how things rolled. Ever since then, I've been pretty suspicious about what happens on a lot of degree courses. Also: essay mills, AI assignments, and who has money and is willing to spend it... So it goes. But it's probably always been that way. This is perhaps more of a return to the status quo than anything else, thinking of the days when universities were largely a finishing school for the upper classes.
  17. I'd be worried that starting with the first book could put them off the rest of the series...
  18. I found the earliest Discworld books weaker than the later ones, so wouldn't recommend Colour of Magic/Light Fantastic as a starting point. TBH, I never liked the Rincewind books as much as the rest. I think reading the first couple of books in each sub-group could be a good idea, then catching up on the standalones and continuing to the very good but slightly darker/more serious later Discworld books. Later on (especially in Lords and Ladies, one of my favourites) the characters tend to crossover more, even if it's just in cameos. So: Mort and Reaper Man (Death books. Though Death might say: EVENTUALLY, YOU KNOW, I CROSSOVER WITH EVERYONE ) Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms (the Watch books) Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad (the Witches books)
  19. No experience dealing with anxious children, but I was an anxious child. My dad tended to either reinforce my worries (he was an anxious adult; it runs in his side of the family) or try to distract me from them. I still rely on distraction methods a lot, and it does work, but tends to work in quite a superficial way, going round a problem rather than addressing it. One option: talk with her about what she's worried about and imagine that it happens, that the thing she's afraid of comes to pass. Then help her to see that it wouldn't be that bad, could be manageable, might even be something good seen from different angles. As with Terry Pratchett in Hogfather, you don't tell the kid that there's no monster hiding under the bed, you tell them that it's there and give them a cricket bat. If your daughter tends to spiral over everyday problems, the above could be useful. If she worries about nightmare catastrophic events like her family dying in a car-crash, less so. @Toth, I really hope you try therapy before buying a house for you and your mother. Otherwise to me it sounds as if you're planning to go to prison, lock yourself in and throw the key out of the window.
  20. I thought the female characters were pretty disappointing in the Alex Verus series, and have a bit of an ick reaction to some of the author's comments on his blog. The books were fun reads when I went through them in lockdown, starting on them as audio-book then jumping to Kindle when they ran out. At the same time, I find that I like them less and less in retrospect. (And having said all that, I'll still be buying the first instalment in Jacka's next series when it appears this autumn.) Re: Aaronovitch. I enjoy the collaborative nature of the books, though I do think the author's conscientiousness about checking in on the regulars has been causing plot bloat. I liked the What Abigail Did That Summer spin-off novella more than a lot of the most recent Peter books since it felt like more of a real adventure. Fingers crossed Aaronovitch will engineer some ways to put our hero in situations of more than just very mild hazard in future. ETA: Terry Pratchett managed it with Vimes. Re: the Met. I imagine that the reality of it is very patchy with a few teams being almost as good as the RoL ones, others being nests of snakes and most in-between. No evidence, just based on my experience of moving through a lot of different jobs and seeing how different the atmosphere/organisational culture of places within the same sector could be. I don't think the RoL books go in for realist depictions of the non-fantastical aspects of London, or are interested in being driven by social issues. (Or more of the characters would be sharing poky flats and working as cycle couriers on top of their full-time jobs). For me, the books always feel like a comfort read. Peter lives in a fantastic apartment and free feasts are laid on at his job every day, then he lives in a fantastic house with a beautiful river goddess lover. So it makes sense that the version of the Met he works with is the best version, not the lousy one we've all been reading about recently. Lesley's character is at least a nod towards the dark side.
  21. I'm thinking about making potato salad for dinner. Dunno why, but it's been on my mind lately.
  22. Who knew that potato salad would be so important to so many on the board? We need to create the Brotherhoods With and Without Mayo.* *One of these groups will be an evil heretical death cult.
  23. Looks like Erdogan's back in. I can't see him losing the run-off. In Thailand the opposition parties have won big at the ballot box, but the establishment may block them from forming a government.
  24. Remember at my last place the day after I broke up with my partner there was a sudden plague of houseflies. They were all over the place in the kitchen and living room. It was alarming to start with, like suddenly finding yourself caught up in a B-horror movie. To my relief, they were quite willing to fly out of the window without much encouragement. Some good news: actress Siân Phillips turns 90 today. I think of her as the Empress Livia in I Claudius ("There is nothing in this world that occurs to you that does not occur to me first. That is the affliction I live with"), as the Second Voice in the BBC's 2003 radio adaptation of Under Milk Wood, and as Gwyn's Nain in the TV version of The Snow Spider. Her voice is one of the most beautiful I've heard – up there with the late Alan Rickman imo. Siân Phillips on Wikipedia.
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