Tuesday, January 1. 2013
Saturday, January 1. 2011
A simple enough concept - my favourite ten books out of 65 I've read this year (according to LibraryThing). They aren't necessarily published this year, but I will restrict myself to one book for each author.
10. The Blood of Others, Simone de Beauvoir
This book had been sitting on my shelf (or floor, or wardrobe depending on the particular room organisation at the time) for more than a decade since I did an Existentialism evening class at Edinburgh University in the late nineties. I admit I started reading it because I felt the need to read something 'worthy', and it's not exactly a pleasurable read, but I was drawn in by the central theme of the tension between personal freedom and responsibility to loved ones and society at large.
9. The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood
I also read Oryx and Crake this year too, of the two I preferred this one - better and more engaging characters, but I think if you're going to read either you should read both of them.
8. I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett
After Going Postal was on telly at Easter I re-read many of my favourite Discworld books, but this was the only new one I read. I really like the character Tiffany Aching and while I didn't think this was the best of the series, in particular I thought the ending was a bit of an anti-climax, this book was almost worth reading just for the return of Eskarina Smith. Also the whole 'witch-hunt' theme was quite topical.
7. Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
Got this in hardback for Xmas and I'm glad to say it was worth lugging the hardback around for the two weeks it took me to read it. I always find historical novels a bit more engaging than straight up history books, and this period, crucial as it is for religious freedom in England, is fascinating to me.
6. Makers, Cory Doctorow
Another Xmas present - 3D printing lets the hacker culture of the internet infiltrate the world of 'made things'. Somewhat unusual in that the 'evil Corporation' weren't actually completely evil, all in all a completely reasonable seeming extrapolation from current trends into a near future world.
5. Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier
Another excellent historical novel from Tracy Chevalier. The whole idea of Victorian women digging up dinosaurs offers plenty of themes for exploration - women fighting for respect in a man's world, evolution vs creationism, class war, and the nature of science itself, as well as the more personal interactions of the main characters.
4. New Model Army, Adam Roberts
Adam Roberts frequently writes books which make me think about things in a whole new way, the concept of crowd sourcing armies is not one I'll forget in a hurry either.
3. The Children's Book, A.S. Byatt
The liberal movement, the emancipation of women, authors, artists and the Victoria & Albert Museum, all in a beautifully described world - hard to see how I'd not love this book.
2. Surface Detail, Iain M. Banks
Do we need the concept of hell to frighten us into being good people? What if we didn't need to leave it to chance - technology evolves to the level where hells could be created as virtual worlds where people would get what they deserved after their physical bodies die? Fascinating stuff, and an excellent book for Culture addicts especially with the ending.
1. One Day, David Nicholls
I laughed out loud, I cried, I loved this book. Since both of the main characters went to Edinburgh University and later moved to London it wasn't going to be hard for me to identify with them, so many familiar places and moments, and a great story.
Saturday, June 6. 2009
I spent most of the last two weeks of May in County Cork visiting my Auntie and Uncle in Kilbrittain along with my Mum and another Auntie. Aside from the family get together one of the main purposes of once of my holidays is the acquisition of books - ideally volumes published in Ireland, related to Ireland or cheap in that order. After arranging a day in Cork City I then began to search online for the best bookshops in order to plan a walking route, though the best information I could find was a few rather sparse looking city guides and an 18 month old discussion thread. Google was also somewhat confused by the subtle distinction between Cork the city and Cork the county with the entertaining side effect that my walking route would suddenly get 80km longer as I innocently added another search result. I eventually came up with a route which I now share with you (slightly modified from the route I took, since now I have some bags with actual addresses and street numbers, see below for an updated route with defunct bookshops removed).
Vibes and Scribes
3 Bridge Street
+353 (0) 21 450 5370
I was dropped off in the Merchants Quay Shopping Centre and then headed over the bridge to my starting destination, Vibes & Scribes. This is something of a treasure trove of bargain and second hand books along with a selection of popular new books and I spent a good deal of time digging around. In the end I bought three books:
Paul Street Shopping Centre
+353 (0) 21 4222224
Other Realms is a Fantasy and Sci-Fi shop, along the lines of Forbidden Planet, rather than a straight bookshop. There were a large selection of US import books, including some by Irish authors. They also had several 'author guide' sheets attached to the shelves which listed the different series by the author and the order they go in which I thought were really useful (I like to begin at the start!). No cheap or bargain books, and, though I was tempted by the complete set of Discworld books in US covers, I didn't buy anything.
Rory Gallagher Pl
off Paul Street
+353 (0) 21 427 5366
Connolly's is a second hand bookshop and features books of all vintages piled floor to ceiling on shelves and any other spare, flat area. I could have spent a long time in here but instead concentrated on the Irish Interest section, and bought one book:
69 Patrick Street
+353 (0) 21 427 6522
A fairly typical Waterstone's, lots of three for two offers and a large section of Irish/local interest books. Since most of what was available I could get at any Waterstone's in London I just bought the one book:
71 Oliver Plunkett Street
+353 (0) 21 427 0899
A small second hand bookshop, also sold second hand CDs, tapes and records. Not the same variety as Connolly's, I didn't buy anything.
Liam Ruiseal Teo
49-50 Oliver Plunkett Street
+353 (0) 21 427 0981
Saving the best till last, Liam Ruiseal Teo has new and bargain books, academic titles and a wall full of Irish interest books including several shelves of books in Irish (not that they were any good to me, of course). I spent a lot of time browsing around and ended up buying three books:
If you're visiting Cork in the near future (and it's well worth a day out) here's my updated bookshop walking route. I didn't have time to make it to the last one on my list, Shelf on Georges Quay, but I'd spent too much money by then anyway! Since I didn't get started until nearly midday I shouldn't think you'd have to hurry to fit it all in if you got started a bit earlier. If you know of any other good bookshops in Cork then please post a comment and I can check it out the next time I'm over.
Sunday, July 8. 2007
One week since smoking was banned in enclosed public spaces in England, as a non-smoker and non-drinker living in London what practical difference has it made to my life? Mostly it seems to mean breathing a lot more cigarette smoke than I was before. Previously smokers were mostly confined during the day, now it's hard to walk anywhere (to the station, out to lunch, up to the shops) without having to maneuver around crowds of smokers standing in the street exhaling fumes, as they're not allowed to do it inside any more.
I'm sure the legislation was well intentioned, but I'm not sure if the government was expecting millions of people to give up smoking overnight as a result of it passing. For people that were happy killing themselves through liver cancer (or some other alcohol related disorder), they can now do it without putting themselves at risk of lung cancer, that's not really a big win...
Saturday, May 12. 2007
HBO: DRM is enablement, not! Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 21:05
I just read an article quoting HBO's Chief Technology Officer, Bob Zitter which perfectly reflects the schizophrenic attitude required to argue for digital rights management. He starts off with the idea that the issue over DRM is merely a public relations issue, rather than a fundamentally untenable technology:
[DRM] is the wrong term for [the] technology ... since it emphasized restrictions instead of opportunities ... Zitter suggested that "DCE," or Digital Consumer Enablement, would more accurately describe technology that allows consumers "to use content in ways they haven't before," such as enjoying TV shows and movies on portable video players like iPods.
Never mind that most people that want to are already enjoying TV shows and movies on portable video players and iPods, those people are actually missing an opportunity, apparently. It turns out that HBO have all the technology in place, and have run successful trials, to provide people with these opportunities that they're not missing, but have chosen not to go forward and launch the technology. Why? Because people might steal it through the analogue output of their high priced HD equipment:
But the fact that current high-definition set-tops still output unencrypted analog video through their component video outputsa problem known as the "analog hole"---makes it too much of a piracy risk to widely offer high-definition HBO content on-demand today ... Theoretically, says Zitter, those analog outputs could be disabled, forcing consumers to use a secure digital connection to watch HD content. But current FCC rules don't give HBO or cable operators that power, in order to protect consumers who bought early HDTV sets that don't support digital copy protection.
Ah, the pesky FCC stopping HBO controlling their customer's hardware, controlling it in order to give them more opportunities. It's a shame all of HBO's customers are such a bunch of thieves that can't be trusted or they'd all be given the opportunity to pay HBO to control their home video equipment for them.
Monday, March 12. 2007
I came across this SciFi book meme at the weekend. At first I thought I was a month behind the crowd, which is nothing unusual, but then I discovered the source and find that was over a year ago, which is a bit more my usual speed
Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror?
SF, though increasingly I'm reading Fantasy these days - there seems to be so many more fantasy books and, on average, they're longer.
Hardback or Trade Paperback or Mass Market Paperback?
If I can't wait to read it and I can afford it then I'll get the hardback, otherwise paperbacks are much easier to deal with on the Tube.
Heinlein or Asimov?
Erm... neither. I did read a Heinlen book once, a long time ago, I wasn't inspired to read any more.
Amazon or Brick and Mortar?
Brick and mortar, the online savings aren't enough to make me deny myself the pleasure of wandering round a bookshop for half an hour. Plus, Amazon managed to really, really annoy me a few years ago...
Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Hitchhiker or Discworld?
Even though H2G2 is one of the main reasons I got into SciFi in the first place I'll have to side with the Discworld series.
Bookmark or Dogear?
Bookmark! Bookmark! You did not just fold a page my pristine book! (I have to look away when someone does it to a book that doesn't belong to me, if someone does it to one of my books they could well be in for a serious bout of passive-aggressiveness huffyness)
Magazine: Asimov's Science Fiction or Fantasy & Science Fiction?
Alphabetize by author Alphabetize by title or random?
I use the Unordered Pile Organisation Methodology (TM).
Keep, Throw Away or Sell?
Year's Best Science Fiction series (edited by Gardner Dozois) or Years Best SF series (edited by David G. Hartwell)?
Keep dustjacket or toss it?
Read with dustjacket or remove it?
Short story or novel?
Novels, they seem to be more compatible with train journeys. I used to read more short stories back when I had more free time.
Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
It has to be Potter, since I've not read Snicket.
Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
Either the chapter break, or a section break or wherever I am when I have to get off the train. Generally I won't start another chapter if I can see I won't hit a convenient break before the end of the journey, but sometimes I just get too wrapped up to stop and find myself squinting at pages under streetlights as I'm walking back from the station.
"It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"?
It's quite possible that, should any book I pick up start with either of those two sentences, it would be put right back on the shelf in the bookshop.
Buy or Borrow?
Buy, buy, buy!
Buying choice: Book Reviews, Recommendation or Browse?
Browsing round a bookshop is a unique and special experience.
Lewis or Tolkien?
Hard SF or Space Opera?
Hard SF. If it isn't Hard SF then it's probably just fantasy in a futuristic setting.
Collection (short stories by the same author) or Anthology (short stories by different authors)?
Don't read many short stories these days, but the ones I buy are in collections.
Hugo or Nebula?
Don't really care.
Golden Age SF or New Wave SF?
New Wave SF.
Tidy ending or Cliffhanger?
Morning reading, Afternoon reading or Nighttime reading?
Morning and evening usually, as I read on my daily commute.
Standalone or Series?
Not too bothered.
Urban fantasy or high fantasy?
New or used?
Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
This is obviously a trick question, the moment I mention a book I'm sure the SciFi mafiosi are going to leap out and say "Everyone's read that, you noob!" So I'm going to stick to somewhat safe ground by choosing a SciFi book not by a SciFi author: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.
Top X favorite genre books read last year? (Where X is 5 or less)
1. Singularity Sky by Charles Stross
2. The Algebraist by Iain M Banks
3. Learning the World by Ken MacLeod
4. The Snow by Adam Roberts
5. Natural Hisory by Justina Robson
Top X favorite genre books of all time? (Where X is 5 or less)
1. Neuromancer William Gibson
2. The Cryptonomicon Neil Stephenson
3. Diaspora Greg Egan
4. The Player of Games - Iain M Banks
5. Elvissey Jack Womack
X favorite genre series? (Where X is 5 or less)
1. Bridge Trilogy - William Gibson
2. Baroque Cycle - Neal Stephenson
3. Ambient Series - Jack Womack
4. Night's Dawn Trilogy - Hamilton
5. Otherland - Tad Williams
Top X favorite genre short stories? (Where X is 5 or less)
Haven't read many recently, but here are some short story collections I really liked.
1. Patterns by Pat Cadigan
2. Axiomatic by Greg Egan
3. Burning Chrome by William Gibson ("Red Star, Winter Orbit" I really liked)
Thursday, February 22. 2007
Blairing lack of understanding Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 22:34
Bill Gates thinks it's useless, amazingly Steve Jobs agrees with Bill, sadly the only person who does seem to think DRM is a good idea is Tony Blair. He is either parroting what the media execs have told him or he doesn't really understand how it works:
However, DRM does not only act as a policeman through technical protection measures, it also enables content companies to offer the consumer unprecedented choice in terms of how they consume content, and the corresponding price they wish to pay.
How does a technology who's one and only feature is to limit what a consumer can do with content be offering the consumer unprecedented choice?
Tuesday, February 20. 2007
Microsoft has a new advert, it features a succession of harried call centre staff and other corporate peons apologising to various people - "I'm sorry, it's not on the system" and "You have to call this other number." Then it ends with the voice over:
What can people do with the right software?
Quite funny really. Surveys put the Windows market share at between 86% and 97% of users, so if the current state of business software is crap, who's to blame for that?
Friday, January 12. 2007
Hypertext dictionary Posted by robertc in Life, the Universe and Everything at 23:04
I stumbled across this dictionary website today, after I installed a new 'dictionary search' Firefox extension. Once you've got to a word, double click on any other word in the definition to be taken to the definition of that word. A true hypertext system! Even more cool, you can install their script on your site to add the same functionality.
Friday, January 5. 2007
Disney: Home of torture, forced ... Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 22:52
ABC/Disney acted only when they lost revenue. Then they went after ME with a cease and desist letter.
Read more at the Daily Kos blog.
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