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Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Subject:So that was 2013
Time:8:05 pm.
Time for a year end review. I'm late again this year. Ho hum. Anyway...

In the studio

  1. Audrey Horne — "Youngblood"
  2. Battle Beast — "Battle beast"
  3. Powerwolf — "Preachers of the night"
  4. Týr — "Valkyrja"
  5. Motherload — "Black and blue"
  6. Sirenia — "Perils of the deep blue"
  7. Tristania — "Darkest white"
  8. Ancient Bards — "The alliance of kings"
  9. Lacuna Coil — "Dark adreneline"
  10. Civil War — "Civil war EP"
  11. Sabaton — "Carolus rex"
  12. Queensrÿche — "Queensrÿche"

Another year where there are two contenders for the top spot that are too close to separate. As before, this is a list of albums that I first heard in 2013, even if they'd been released earlier. I'd seen Audrey Horne at Sonisphere a few years back, and they'd impressed despite being a bit too close to alternative rock. But the new album is amazingly good. I'd been vaguely aware of Battle Beast for a while and heard rave reviews about the eponymous second album. I picked it up to see what the fuss was about and they were right. Female fronted heavy metal at its best.

In other years, Powerwolf might have been in the top spot with another strong album. Týr have produced the best album of their career. Motherload are a band I discovered at a festival and loved their performance. They have a great debut album. A welcome return to form from Sirenia and another good album from Tristania (although for me, not quite up to the standard set on "Rubicon"). Ancient Bards are fantastic, although I later got their second album which is OK but not as good as this, their debut. Civil War are the band formed by the rest of Sabaton when they split, with Nils Patrick Johansson on vocals. That was always likely to work out well. Sabaton themselves released a solid album, but it wasn't as good as some of their previous efforts. Queensrÿche had finally got around to kicking out Geoff Tate and as a result, they managed to record their first album in 20 years that sounds like Queensrÿche. Again, it's a solid album, but I'd have liked to see a bit more oomph to it. Still, it's a step back in the right direction and new vocalist Todd La Torre is fantastic.

On the stage

All the shows that I rated 4/5 or better in 2013:
  1. Last In Line — Bloodstock
  2. Triaxis — Asylum 2, Birmingham
  3. Powerwolf — The Underworld
  4. Rammstein — Download
  5. Battle Beast — The Underworld
  6. Uli Jon Roth — Islington Academy
  7. Therion — Islington Academy
  8. Accept — Bloodstock
  9. Audrey Horne — The Underworld
  10. Delain — MFVF, Belgium
  11. Iron Maiden — The O2 Arena
  12. Skid Row — The Electric Ballroom
  13. Dalriada — MFVF, Belgium
  14. Dyonisis — The Underworld
  15. Satyricon — Islington Academy
  16. Motherload — Bloodstock
  17. Queensrÿche — Islington Academy
  18. Evil Scarecrow — Bloodstock
  19. Eve's Apple — MFVF, Belgium
  20. Darkest Era — The Garage
  21. Pain — The Borderline
  22. Absolva — Bloodstock
  23. Motherload — The Black Heart
  24. Avantasia — Bloodstock
  25. Uli Jon Roth — Mother Live
  26. Pretentious, Moi? — Nambucca
  27. Triaxis — Fuel Club, Cardiff
  28. Evil Scarecrow — Face Bar, Reading
  29. Tristania — The Underworld
  30. Tigertailz — The Underworld
  31. Grifter — Bloodstock
  32. Gamma Ray — The Forum
  33. The Faces Of Sarah — Mother Live
  34. Primtai — The Black Heart

Last In Line were Vivian Campbell back playing Dio songs again, along with Vinny Appice, Jimmy Bain and Claude Schnell. I was expecting it to be OK but nothing special, but I was very wrong. Absolutely fantastic, and vocalist Andrew Freeman does justice to the man himself. Triaxis are unsurprisingly up there again. They've always a great live experience. But their show at The Asylum was probably the best I've ever seen them. Powerwolf had impressed at Bloodstock a few years back and there was no way I was going to miss them when they returned to the UK. Particularly given Battle Beast were supporting. Great performances from both. Uli Jon Roth put on a show of old Scorpions classics in a performance that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, ably assisted by the vocal talents of Nathan James. Iron Maiden were back on form and gave the best performance I've seen from them for many, many years. Dalriada came out of nowhere at MFVF. I'd never heard of them before but they were one of my highlights of the festival. Similarly, Darkest Era were very good supporting Gloryhammer, and I'd never heard of them before the show either.

On the screen

I watched much less this year than previous years. Not entirely sure why.
  • Swordfish (2001)
    A Travolta thriller, with Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. Apparently this tanked at the box office but I always quite liked it. It's not outstanding and some of the IT is cringeworthy. But it's enjoyable enough.

  • Sherlock Holmes (Series 2)
    Cumberbatch is without doubt an amazing Holmes. Probably not quite as good as the first series, but outstanding nonetheless.

  • The devil rides out
    Hammer House Of Horror at its best (or should that be worst?)

  • The X-Files (Series 5)
    Starting to tail off a bit by this point, but still worth watching.

  • Learning Hebrew (2012)
    A "gothsploitation movie". Directed by and starring several people I know. It's quite a bizarre experience watching a film where you know the people and locations involved.

  • The Wolverine (2013)
    Disappointing. Cashing in on the success of the X-Men films rather than making a film about the character because they had a story to tell.

  • Man of steel (2013)
    So so. Cavill makes a reasonable enough Superman. The story isn't fantastic but it creates an OK world and I'll give the subsequent sequels a go.

  • Star Trek: Into darkness (2013)
    Scotty doesn't deserve to be played for laughs like this. Kirk is good and works well. Spock less so. The other characters are average but largely forgettable.

  • Bergerac (Series 2)
    Carries on from where the first series stopped. Celia Imrie works well here and really adds something. I'd forgotten how good it was.

The printed page

  • Paul J. Willis — "No clock in the forest"
    Poor. A sort of Narnia like story of the modern world interacting with some strange goings on in the mountains. I found it very dull.

  • John Wyndham — "Sleepers of Mars"
    John Wyndham — "Wanderers of time"
    A couple of collections of Wyndham's short stories. He came up with some fantastic ideas.

  • David Lee Roth — "Crazy from the heat"
    I have a soft spot for rock star autobiographies.

  • AE van Vogt — "The weapon shops of Isher"
    AE van Vogt — "The weapon makers"
    It's been a long time since I last read this. One of my favourite authors and a couple of his better stories.

  • Kevin J. Anderson (ed.) — "Tales from the Mos Eisley cantina"
    Lightweight fluff.

  • Rowena Cory Daniells — "The king's bastard"
    Rowena Cory Daniells — "The uncrowned king
    Rowena Cory Daniells — "The usurper"
    Not a bad little fantasy series. Nothing outstanding and the writing's a bit lightweight at times, but I enjoyed them.

  • Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Dauntless"
    Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Fearless"
    Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Courageous"
    Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Valiant"
    Jack Campbell — "The lost fleet: Relentless"
    I'd decided I needed to read more science fiction, and found the first of these books in a bookshop and gave it a go. I enjoyed it so I picked up the rest of them too. It's military SF verging on space opera at times (which is a good thing in my book). I didn't like the main character's self loathing, and there were times when I had "but they wouldn't do that" moments. But on the whole, not bad.

  • Robert A. Heinlein — "Take back your government"
    Heinlein's practical advice on running for local government. The world has changed since this book was written. Some of the advice probably still holds. Much of it doesn't.

  • Edgar Wallace — "The council of justice"
    OK, I suppose, but it's over 100 years old and it hasn't aged well. The writing style feels awkward and I think the art of storytelling has improved since then.

  • Melinda M. Snodgrass — "Circuit breaker"
    A nice little story about politics and legal wrangling in the space

  • Mike Hally — "Electronic brains: stories from the dawn of the computer age"
    The book of a Radio 4 series about the beginnings of the computer era. Much of it I already knew, but there was certainly some I didn't. The early Russian computers, for example, were completely unknown to me.

  • Gail Z Martin — "The summoner"
    Gail Z Martin — "The blood king"
    Not bad at all. A promising start to a high fantasy series.

  • John Varley — "Steel beach"
    John Varley — "The hall of the Martian kings"
    John Varley — "The Ophiuchi hotline"
    "Steel beach" is a novel, albeit a somewhat longwinded and rambling one that didn't really work for me. Varley is much better at short stories, and the other two showed that perfectly. I'd avoided his work for a very long time, largely because he'd been given the "cyberpunk" tag, which is a genre I really don't like. But it turns out that Varley is exactly what cyberpunk should be, not the clumsy writing of Gibson. The only blot in an otherwise excellent collection was "The persistance of vision" which I found to be a very weak story. The rest, though, are superb.

  • Vernor Vinge — "The children of the sky"
    "A fire upon the deep" is one of the finest novels ever written, and its sequel "A deepness in the sky" was fantastic as well. This is the third in the series, and as such I bought it as soon as I became aware of it. It's by far the weakest of the three, and for me focuses too much on the human interaction (or should I say, character interaction) rather than the technology and loses out a bit because of it. I want to read more about the zones of thought, but this is entirely set in the slow zone.

  • Alexander Tchaikovsky — "Empire in black and gold"
    Wow. Another impulse buy and a very successful one. The strongest start to a fantasy series I've read in a very long time. I'll definitely be buying the rest of this series. My one complaint is that certain races are claimed to be incapable of operating even the simplest of machinery, which seems unlikely. But other than that, it's excellent.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Subject:So that was 2012
Time:6:19 pm.
Another year end review while we're still in the first month of the
following year. Clearly I'm getting good at this :-)

Read more...Collapse )
Comments: Read 3 or Add Your Own.

Subject: The UpGoerFive text editor
Time:5:09 pm.
From major_clanger via bibliogirl:

Can you descrive your job using only the 1000 most common words in the English language? The Up Goer Five XKCD comic inspired the Up-Goer Five text editor, which tells you if you've entered allowed words. Here's my attempt (it's not exactly right, but it's not too far off):

I tell computers how to let people place money on which team they think will lose a match before it ends, or how many times the ball will cross one of two lines and go between two bits of wood. I take some of that money for helping them out. I tell computers how to decide which team will lose a match. Other people don't agree with that. I take their money. Also, I tell computers how to place money on both teams in a way that lets me make money no matter which team loses or how many times the ball crosses the line.
Comments: Read 7 or Add Your Own.

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Subject:Oh to live in a free country
Time:10:03 am.
Mood: annoyed.
This is *extremely* worrying. I don't care how offensive his joke may have been. He should be able to say what he wants. The USA has a corrupt society with many, many problems. But right now, I am extremely jealous of their written constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech.
Comments: Read 1 or Add Your Own.

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Subject:Hysterical literature
Time:5:25 pm.
Apparently there's a part four: Stormy


Comments: Read 1 or Add Your Own.

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Subject:Buying music
Time:2:09 pm.
The music industry isn't what it used to be. It's increasingly hard to sell albums, and bands are becoming more and more reliant on selling merch at live shows. There are some upsides to this. I'll leave out T-shirts for now and just talk about CDs. The most obvious upside one is that the band gets a much higher percentage of the sale than if the customer had bought the same CD in a shop or online. I don't know the exact figures these days, but it used to be that a band would get maybe £2 (and that's an optimistic figure) from a CD sale, of which half went to the songwriter(s) and half went to the artist(s). However, when selling a CD at a gig, there is no distributor to pay, no retailer to take a cut and so on, so the band directly get the sale price, less whatever it cost to make the CD (or buy it at trade price from the record label).

So, it's in the band's financial interest to maximize the number of in person sales at shows. I have personal experience of this in a slightly different field, selling Ferret's book. We discount it 25% when selling in person, because it encourages sales and we still make more than when people buy it through other channels (retailers and distributors typically only pay 50% of RRP or less)[1]. So I find it baffling when I look at bands' pricing of CDs. Last night, for example, Ensiferum were selling their latest album for £20. Huh? I can buy the same album (including the bonus DVD) for £10 online, including free shipping. Why would I pay you twice as much for the privilege of buying it in person? I'm happy to buy in person as doing so supports the band and makes it more likely that they'll make more music in the future. But doubling the price? Seriously? If you'd priced it at £8, I'd have bought one and you'd still have made significantly more than you'll get when I buy it online. Hell, I'd probably have bought it at £12, and you'd almost certainly have sold many more copies. I just don't understand the logic behind the pricing here.

[1] That's not strictly true. We make the most when people buy through Amazon, but only because we're exploiting a loophole in the process. We're making the most of it while it lasts, but I'm sure they'll close the loophole at some point.
Comments: Read 1 or Add Your Own.

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Subject:Hysterical literature
Time:10:37 pm.
Mood: curious.
An interesting experiment. What happens when you get a woman to read literature while an assistant applies a Hitachi magic wand to her nether regions under the table? Clayton Cubit did just that. It seems you get porn, without any actual porn. It's NSFW for the prudish.

Session 1: Stoya:

Session 2: Alicia:

Session 3: Danielle:

Stoya gives her thoughts on the experience.

Comments: Read 1 or Add Your Own.

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Time:9:22 pm.
Mood: tired.
I wish the US Republican party were the one Clint Eastwood seems to think it is. They'd be quite electable were that true. I worry that they'll be electable given the current state of the party anyway...
Comments: Read 2 or Add Your Own.

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Subject:The Washington Post
Time:11:34 pm.
Mood: hot.
Today I learned that The Washington Post is so called because it's published in Washington, not Washington. In hindsight, it was obvious. But that's not the association my brain first made when I heard about the paper, and I guess it stuck. FWIW, I made exactly the same incorrect association when it came to the Washington Redskins.
Comments: Read 1 or Add Your Own.

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Subject:On the merits of redundancy
Time:1:07 pm.
Mood: nervous.
Some people think I'm paranoid. I wouldn't say so. It's just that I pay more attention to the potential worst case outcome that some. So when it comes to storage, I have a mirrored RAID array in my home server. The contents are backed up to a separate disk in the same machine. I also have an offsite backup in a datacentre.

My offsite backup machine died, and is now sat at home waiting for me to rebuild it. So it was somewhat alarming when my backup drive also died. Uncomfortable about running with less redundancy than normal, I immediately went out and bought a replacement drive. When checking the drives in the machine to see which one I needed to pull out, I noticed that one of the mirrored drives had also failed and the array was running in degraded state. Eeeek! Of my four levels of redundancy, three had failed. If I'd had fewer, I'd be screwed right now!

I'm not sure why I wasn't notified about the RAID failure. Normally I automatically get an email when the array enters a degraded state. That's something I need to look into. For now, the array is rebuilding. I'll fit the new backup drive when I get home this evening.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Time:6:36 pm.
I'm starting to wonder if I've made a mistake planning to go to Italy. The current weather forecast says 37 degrees on the day I arrive. I'm going to die.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Subject:My weekend
Time:8:54 am.
Mood: tired.
I'm shattered after the weekend, but finally I made it to the top step of the podium. That win also leaves me leading the championship. Pretty great weekend all in all :-)

Comments: Read 4 or Add Your Own.

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Subject:Heimdal, 1998-2012
Time:2:36 pm.
Mood: melancholy.
And then there were five :-(

Comments: Read 4 or Add Your Own.

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Subject:Overheard on a train today
Time:9:29 pm.
Mood: okay.
Two people were looking up directions on an online map via a smartphone. One read out to the other "it's a 500ft walk from the station". The other replied "Feet? That's a bit archaic, isn't it? How far's that? Why don't they use standard units?"

This pleases me. The country was just starting the transition to metric units when I was born, so I've grown up with metric units. I embraced metric units wholeheartedly, but many of my generation (probably in part due to parental influence) didn't. But time passes, and now it seems that imperial units are seen as archaic. About time too.
Comments: Read 1 or Add Your Own.

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Time:12:54 am.
Mood: sick.
Dear Mozilla developers. I know you're a bunch of incompetent morons, but would it really be so hard to change that and release a decent product? Please?
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Subject:So that was 2011
Time:1:52 am.
Mood: okay.
This time around, I'm less than a month late! A year end overview in January. Who'd have thought it? Read more...Collapse )
Comments: Add Your Own.

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Time:1:49 pm.
A paperboard Red Bull RB7:

Very impressive.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Subject:20 years ago today
Time:12:09 pm.
The greatest frontman there has ever been, and probably ever will be. I doubt we'll see his like again.


Comments: Add Your Own.

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Subject:On coding
Time:9:14 pm.
Object orientation and code readability are mostly mutually exclusive.
Comments: Read 1 or Add Your Own.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Subject:Air Space
Time:10:24 am.
A trip through an airport detention centre.
Comments: Add Your Own.

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