Sep. 14th, 2010 02:20 pm
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
My mother's been a bit under the weather for a few days and I was concerned at the weekend but she absolutely wouldn't let me call the GP. Yesterday she claimed to be feeling better, but when I phoned her this morning she was clearly worse and (worried she might have a chest infection as well as concerned by her now almost complete immobility) I told her to call the GP and I got a taxi over. She was reluctant but eventually did it. GPs came not long after I arrived and they think she may have pneumonia, and she also might have some acute problem with one knee. So an ambulance has been arranged and she is being taken to the Western, for at least some tests, probably to be admitted for a couple of days. *sigh*
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Sideways)
A fairly relaxed, leisurely afternoon/evening out has been curtailed by my muscles, namely some of my leg muscles which were just giving up on me (one tiny little group of them, but enough to throw me off balance) and a chunk of back muscles which decided to go into spasm. So I have cut the day short and returned home to rest. Still, at least I managed to get some constructive stuff done, including picking up my new glasses — varifocals, the first time I have had a pair.  They seem to be just fine, less disorientating than I had feared, and it is very useful to have the option of sight correction which handles near and far vision well. Not having expected to be in tonight I have no plans... I shall find something fun to watch, and relax with some tea, I think.
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Sideways)
I'd thought of going out today, possibly to the cinema (The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Illusionist looking interesting), certainly to Biblo, but my calves this morning were twitchy so taking it easy seemed sensible since tomorrow I am taking my mother to the optician. I'll need a decent sleep tonight too, I think. I have plenty to keep myself amused, anyway.

Fairly random thoughts:

1) I wish there would be a box set release of the Yellow Bird Wallander series. It is so good... so good, actually, I have still not watched the recordings of the BBC series. It's not logical, but I'm so used to Krister Henriksson in the role...

2) Have you seen any of the old programmes being repeated on Yesterday? Some of them look as though they are being broadcast from VHS tapes. Seriously, look at blocks of red on the screen — or what should be blocks of red.

3) It would probably not be good for me, but I have this urge to order pizza. NOT going to, though. Really not going to.

4) Did you know you can get ground coffee from Amazon?

5) Not going to talk about the Labour leadership contest, it is too depressing.

6) So is the popping up of Tony Blair again, but this article is worth reading: Fisking Blair's chapter on Iraq.

7) Caledonia Books (Gt. Western Rd.) has had an influx of SF books recently. Admittedly some of us have had a damn good pick through them for the choice bits, but still worth checking out.

Not going to order pizza. No, definitely not.
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Sideways)
I don't know how long it is since I posted anything. Since my father's death I have been a little... antisocial, you could say. I thought I did quite well at Eastercon, but actually, I think I was a bit stunned. It was good, though, the odd negative effort of the hotel notwithstanding. Even knowing he probably wouldn't survive the year, the speedy deterioration and sudden death — it took me by surprise and was a heavier blow than I had expected. At times, I still don't believe it. 

As well as being a bit hermitty, my ability to make sentences was not brilliant. Twitter was ace for this — when all you can write is 140 characters, complex sentences are not on the agenda. Wasn't really up to dealing with anything like blogging. Or email. Or pretty much anything else.

Just recently things have been looking up, a bit. I am still spending a lot of my time making sure my mother (whose mobility is poor) is OK, and I haven't really got back into having much of a social life as such, but I am feeling a bit more like being social, for certain values of social. I was down south about the time of my birthday, and I had an OK time, but I dread to think how boring I was for the people I saw then. Maybe I'd be a bit better now. Maybe.

I want to try to get back into the habit of blogging at least semi-regularly. Not sure how that will go, but we'll see.

Before I go just now, have you seen this story? Everything about it is a delight: Man arrested at Large Hadron Collider claims he's from the future.

dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
I'm just posting this to confirm that I aten't dead, just very, very tired and struggling a bit at most things. Trying to build up some strength for a brief jaunt south at the start of June, which I am really looking forward to. I think it would help if I could get back to a normal sleep rhythm. In the meantime, I'm catching up with some things like: watching piles of DVDs, Ashes to Ashes, Doctor Who (was enjoying it until the last couple of episodes, which I found quite tedious), and getting back into a bit of reading. Still not back to normal, and still at times getting caught out by thinking "That's my father" when the phone rings. I am concerned, a little, about my mother's concentration and memory, and slightly thrown by the way she's deferring to me a lot of the time, even about stuff that I think is wholly her business and her choice. Weird.

That's it really. Nothing to see here...
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)

Take the Who Should You Vote For? Scotland quiz

Scottish National Party43
Liberal Democrat36
UK Independence-6

Your recommendation: Green

Click here for more details about these results

Not really surprised by this; in this constituency, given I'd like to see a hung parliament rather than a Lab or Con majority, the candidate to vote for is SNP (the incumbent), despite misgivings about him personally (which are more than trumped by his Labour opponent being one of the politicians in these parts I truly loathe).

dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)

Help tanngrisnir and get your own badge!
(The Livejournal Electioniser was made by robhu)

dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
If you missed it, there's an interview with Ken MacLeod (at Odyssey) on the Morning Star's website.


Apr. 23rd, 2010 04:54 pm
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
It's been interesting, this election. I'm not surprised at the impact that the debates have had, or that Nick Clegg has made a bit of an impact now he is actually getting airtime on an equal footing. I have been surprised at how comfortable Gordon Brown looks in the debates, and astonished at how rubbish David Cameron has been. Whatever one thinks of his politics, it would surely be expected for his education to have prepared him for this sort of thing? Apparently not. The description by a debate analyst (i.e. someone who assesses debates in general) last night of Cameron remaining becalmed seems spot on. It was striking that the only people who have tried to claim Cameron did well were YouGov in a poll for the Sun and Sky, neither of which are disinterested parties. ([livejournal.com profile] loveandgarbage has an interesting post on the first debate showing Sky's initial claims and rapid backpedalling.)

A couple of months ago, thinking about the looming election, I was in a quandary. Labour's period in office hasn't made me enamoured of them, what with their illegal war and their propensity to jump straight to making draconian laws at the slightest excuse, not to mention the ID card business... No, not enthusiastic about their re-election at all. Their recent discovery of something like enthusiasm for some electoral reform is a good thing, if a cynical one under the circumstances. The Tories, though... OK, they would scrap the ID scheme, which is a good thing. That apart, they would be catastrophically bad. And, to focus on just one thing, I really don't want that bunch getting their hands on the BBC. I did think that the best outcome I could envisage would be a hung parliament which would force some inter-party cooperation, moderate the bad policies of the main parties, and hopefully lead to at least some level of electoral reform so that future elections would better reflect the views of the electorate. (The results of first past the post are outrageously undemocratic — see this illustration of how seats might be distributed should the three main parties each take 30% of the vote.) This is now looking a lot more likely, I'm pleased to see. And if you'd like to see a hung parliament, here's a guide on how to vote to achieve it.
dc: (The Doctor)
This week's New Scientist apparently comes with an SF special (well, they call it a Sci-Fi special, but that term always makes me shudder; it's Irene Handl's fault*). Anyway, the special's guest editor is Kim Stanley Robinson, who says that SF tells the stories of now, says very complimentary things about British SF and that, really, SF novels should be winning the Booker. (I have sometimes imagined a future in which spaceships are plying the solar system, space elevators run constantly at the equator, there are permanent colonies on the Moon and Mars.... and the Booker prize is still going to stories of the First World War or the dying days of Empire.) I don't imagine the Booker people will pay the slightest attention to that (they are effectively rewarding authors in a particular genre, but pretending otherwise), but what he has to say about SF, British SF in particular, and its ability to address our lives now is something that's good to see being said outside of the genre's magazines.

There's a pleasant surprise you get when someone mentions approvingly something you yourself have enjoyed; lately I have been telling people about Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia, which is a story about SF writers, alien invasion (or possibly not), conspiracies, and an amusing comedy of life in the USSR. This is the book Robinson suggests should really get the Booker this year.

Oh, NS have come up with the novel idea of having a pub meet with Robinson on Friday, for anyone in London who is interested: you need to book (free) and take a copy with you.

[*I can't see it without hearing her talk dismissively of Sky-Fi on a BBC 2 programme a long time ago; it scarred me, I tell you.]

dc: (The Doctor)
A little while ago I asked if anyone recognised a book, with desertification, WWIII and aliens. Success! [profile] dan_golem correctly identified it as Cold Allies by Patricia Anthony. :)


Sep. 7th, 2009 10:01 pm
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
OK, so I decided in favour of the cinema (didn't decide until I was in the city centre, though). Good choice. Being wedged in that seat helped my back no end (on the other hand, the wait for the bus didn't help, so a bit of swings and roundabouts there), and the film (L'ennemi public No. 1) was good. Not exactly a film to describe as enjoyable, but gripping. Rather more wobbling hand-held camera work than in the first part (L'instinct de mort), I think, and not always to good effect. Didn't spoil it, though.

Although Mesrine was a brutal character, there's humour in the films and some touching scenes. The problem with films about real people is the impossibility of really getting inside their heads and understanding what made them tick; even more so with someone like Mesrine, who was acutely aware of his public image and played to it whenever possible. Vincent Cassel's performance is superb, the depiction of someone who is capable of tenderness and good humour and vicious brutality is completely convincing, without ever letting you think "the guy's all right, really." The most troubling things in the films, though, weren't the actions of Mesrine and his accomplices, they were the behaviour of the authorities: the special detention unit in Canada seems to have been basically a torture unit if part one is accurate; and then there is the assassination of Mesrine by the police in Paris (the way the films are structured, this is really not a spoiler for anyone who doesn't know the end of his story) — I would like to think things are different today....
dc: (The Doctor)
An acquaintance is trying to find a book he read some time ago. He thinks it was published in the early 90s and that it was the author's first published novel. It features:

  • widespread desertification as a result of climate change
  • World War III results from that, as Africa & the Middle East invade Europe
  • aliens appear and do inexplicable things (they are seen as lights on the battlefield)
  • the story is told from multiple viewpoints.
Does anyone have any idea what novel this might be?


Aug. 24th, 2009 04:29 pm
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
I might not have been online much in the past couple of weeks, but that doesn't mean I haven't heard some of the grotesque rubbish coming out of the USA about the NHS. You try to ignore it, but the stupid seems to seep through. Of course, the NHS is not perfect; what large organisation is? It certainly wasn't helped by Thatcher's determination to apply the market metaphor to every aspect of life (I recall a new hospital manager, who had come from a supermarket chain, being shown round the theatres while I was there: he didn't have a clue what was going on, and it reminded me strongly of Monty Python). But a flawed realisation of an idea doesn't mean the idea is wrong....

Having said that, the guff that is coming out of the USA doens't seem to relate to any realistic appraisal of the NHS's[*] characteristics. Even allowing for the low standard of the "debate", it was astonishing that Investor's Business Daily said, People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K. where the National Health Service would say the quality of life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless. Er.... What? (That editorial has now been altered: it says that This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK. This rather misses the point, which is that Hawking, as he has said himself, would not have survived without the NHS.)

Without the NHS, I would almost certainly not be here. I would very likely have died last October without the rapid, free treatment I received, first in the ambulance and then in the Royal's resus. room and subsequently on its medical and respiratory wards. It wasn't as extensive as it might have been, because I responded to the nebulised and IV treatment; but if I had not, and I had needed more aggressive intervention in ITU, I would have gotten it. Thinking about it, without the NHS — which allows me to see my GP as often as I need, and get the medication I need at a reasonable[**] price — it's very likely I wouldn't have lasted until the ambulance arrived, since I might well not have had an inhaler at hand. Of course, all this is assuming that I survived to last year in the first place: without the NHS, without free access to medical care, would I have had the long-term maintenance therapy which kept me largely free from life-threatening asthma attacks, or would I have had a fatal attack sometime in the early 1980s? That's always assuming, of course, that asthma would be the thing which killed me. Without the NHS, would I have died in 1975 of peritonitis and septicaemia following a ruptured appendix?

I simply don't believe that without the NHS I would be here. I'm from a working class background[***], we didn't have a lot of money; private health care would have been beyond our reach. However, with the NHS I got good medical care whenever it was needed, and it's worth noting that I was also able, as a result of the policies of various enlightened governments between the 1940s and 1970s, to go through school and then to university and come out with a medical degree without a crippling burden of debt. The education system which allowed that has been wrecked by right-wing governments of both parties, but at least the NHS is still recognisably the NHS.

[* It's worth noting that there isn't one NHS; the NHS in Scotland is a separate entity from the English one; it operates in basically the smae way, but it is distinct.]

[** And I believe in Scotland the plan is still to abolish prescription fees entirely within the next couple of years.]

[*** I was, literally, born in a Glasgow tenement. And for some years we had no inside toilet. There's a whole Python routine there. You wouldn't believe how my paternal grandmother lived.]

dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
It seems there are evil plans afoot to develop (or, in other words, totally wreck) Otago Lane.

Lost for words.... Well, printable ones. To do justice to what I am thinking, I would have to invent new swearies....
dc: (Satellite 2)
I seem to have been pretty much hibernating since the end of Satellite 2. The Dead Dog ended when we left after 1am on Monday morning, I got back and slept for a while, waking up at some point (there was daylight) to snaffle some food and then crawled back into bed. Yesterday, woke up early, got up and had breakfast then crawled back into bed... Bit of a pattern there. While having breakfast, I watched the Lugosi Dracula, a secondhand DVD I got from At the Sign of the Dragon, the dealer we had at the con. (I have a small passion for the Universal horror films of the Thirties/Forties.) Its pacing was ideal for my tired brain; I wasn't too tired, though, to appreciate that Lugosi was actually rather impressive in the role, allowing for the different style of acting of the time. It has been quite some time since I last saw the film, and I had forgotten the way Browning makes it look as though Lugosi has walked through a web without disturbing it: simply done, but very effective. However, I would really like to get my hands on a copy of the simultaneously filmed Spanish version: the actor playing Dracula may be less skilled than Lugosi, but from the clips on the disc's extras, the direction is much superior.

Anyway, not really what I set out to write about. After all my banging on about it to everyone I met for the better part of eighteen months, we finally got Satellite 2 to the launch pad on Saturday morning. There was an odd moment when I looked at the registration desk — laden with leaflets and booklets — and thought, Oh, shit! I haven't brought any Satellite 2 flyers! And then I remembered this was actually it...

The opening ceremony started with a film of Apollo 11 launching to the accompaniment of Also Sprach Zarathustra[*]; then a big pink foot came down and the Python theme started[**], which is when we walked in and took our places. The Python bit seemed to go down very well, as did the choice of a white waistcoat to mark the DCM: a fair number of people got that.

And then we were into the con, with a programme which seemed to be well-liked. Certainly there were times when it was hard to get gophers because everyone wanted to go a programme item, and Ken MacLeod commented on how much of the programme he wanted to see. Iain M. Banks was a superb guest of honour, approachable and enthusuastically taking part. (With him and Ken at Satellite 1, we have been very lucky with our guests of honour.) The oddest comment about the con I have heard came from someone who did not come to it. I am told that someone was attempting to persuade a media fan to come along and got the response that it was a space advocacy convention masquerading as a science fiction convention. Um, no, I don't think so. Yes, there were some items in the science stream which could fairly be described as space advocacy (and I don't see a problem with that at an SF con), but it wasn't by any means a majority of the programme. Of the programme items I saw (either whole or in part), the ones which were highlights for me were Inadvisable Rocket Science[***] and Iain Banks's Room 101. I particularly loved his diatribe against Michael O'Leary, the boss of Ryanair. He referred to one of the ships in Matter, The Hundredth Idiot: the source of the name is a quotation. ‘100 idiots make idiotic plans, and carry them out. All but one justly fail. The hundredth idiot, whose plans succeeded through pure luck, is immediately convinced he’s a genius.’

When I read Matter, Michael O'Leary was exactly the sort of person I thought of at that point.

I'm not quite sure exactly how the balance falls between scary and gratifying, but there were quite a few people asking about a Satellite 3.... Gulp.

I feel like going back to bed... I lasted quite well through the con, despite that awful bout of neck pain last week (it really buggered things up, although I got a lot of rest I was trying to catch up from quite a spoon deficit because of that). Admittedly, I had to use some Red Bull, but I lasted the con. Flopping at the Dead Dog was needed, though. I am hoping that by tomorrow I will be back to something like a normal sleep/wake ratio. Friday morning, of course, I need to get my father to the Beatson. (He's eating much better, by the way: the stent has really helped.)

Oh, while I remember: if you have any con reports from Satellite 2 (or see any), could you point me to them? (No, I haven't caught up with DW/LJ. Don't be silly.)

[* Which brought back memories: the BBC used it as the theme for their Apollo 11 coverage.]

[** This year is also the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of Monty Python's Flying Circus, if you didn't know.]

[*** A nuclear ramjet, planned to fly at low altitude at Mach 3 with an unshielded nuclear reactor spewing a radioactive trail behind it? As Phil Wellings said, the capacity to delivery nuclear bombs would have been almost redundant.]

dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
Two days to go until Satellite 2; I was digging out something for the con last night and came across my folder from Satellite 1, with my notes for the closing ceremony at the top. (Most of the notes are on the lines of Thank X.) That was a good day; I expect Satellite 2 to be much better.

I think I am almost back at where I wanted to be this week in terms of preparation. I got seriously knocked down by neck pain (much the worst I have ever had) on Tuesday night, which left me out of it for most of yesterday. Bit of luck it hit after I got the new analgesic prescription; it definitely helped.

Anyway, I have now spent five minutes doing this, which is long enough; I have more to do, so better get on with it.

dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
It's 4 days until Satellite 2, which is definitely going to be the best con in Scotland this year! Latest news is Ken MacLeod is definitely coming; he was the GoH at Satellite 1, and frankly the sort of GoH a concom dreams of, really throwing himself into it. He'll probably be having a deservedly more relaxed con this time. It's good to see him coming back.

Among all the various con preps, CAPCOM asked me a while ago if I'd mind being on one of the panels. I said OK, not thinking too deeply about it, only realising in the past week or so this is going to be a panel on the Culture, on the main stage, with Iain M. Banks on it. No pressure, then. (I had already snaffled a copy of A Few Notes on the Culture for my PRS, probably a good thing.)

One of the good things about not being directly involved in the programme organisation is that I can look at what is being lined up and honestly say this is a con I would good to even if I weren't involved in organising it. There is some interesting serious stuff, and some fun silly stuff. 2009 is not just the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's flight, there's another 40th anniversary this year, too, and we're going to be nodding (or possibly, stomping) towards that.

Apart from the con....

I may have mentioned this before, if so, apologies. My father's got his date to be admitted to the Beatson for assessment: a week on Friday. This is going to be fun, since he has to go to the Western first to have a cardiac monitor fitted, then go to the Beatson (which is no longer on the Western site, of course). The good news is the stent is helping him eat and it seems to be benefitting him.

I have had a very rough few days, so I managed to see a GP today. I have new analgesics (which may or may not make a difference) and some antibiotics; there's a possibility of oral steroids if I need them. I guess I'm not going to be taking much of the real ale at the con.

Interesting DVD releases just now. Carl Sagan's series Cosmos has just been released; it says, digitally restored and remastered, but not sure if this is new restoration, etc., since the copyright info on the box suggests this was produced in 2000. A completely different release, about which I can only say it really is about bloody time, is Tutti Frutti (which is now more than 20 years old, hard as that is to believe).


Jul. 15th, 2009 04:22 pm
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
I finally got around to watching Torchwood: Children of Earth. I was very surprised to find that it was pretty damn good. )

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