Friday, December 30, 2005

And like that it was all over

Blah blah twelfth night blah, but it feels all over, doesn't it? Maybe it's working part-time that does it. I'm not on holiday, I haven't taken any extra time off over Christmas, and the fact that it all fell on a weekend makes it even stranger. I get a total of one extra day off work for the holidays, which somehow seems wrong.
Not that I haven't been sitting on my ass, mind you.
This year I revived the childhood practice of actually telling people exactly what I want for Christmas, and it has paid off handsomely. Books with pictures of ships on the front (a special mention here to the lovely Folio Society edition of Thomas Cochrane's memoirs from Eoghan) and new beds for the dogs were the favourites, as well as my own virtual dog on the Nintendo DS. I haven't quite figured out how to work it properly, and it turns out you can't really use it on the train because you have to talk to it in a loud voice, and my real dogs don't like it very much, but it's a good thing to have around. It reminds me that I don't always have to be doing something useful with my time, or worrying about not doing something useful.
Nice to see no major natural disasters this year either.
New year's eve will see me and Mister Monkey settling down with a full haggis dinner and a nice bottle of ice wine in front of the new Bose speakers (another favourite present) before having an early night. Start as you mean to go on, I say.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What's a blog for, if not to complain about UPS?

I ordered a package from the US. I didn't know it was coming by UPS, no-one told me. "By Air" it said on the company's website. I guessed, you know, pixies or something. So I was quite surprised on Monday evening to come home and find a UPS InfoNotice in the hall telling me that the driver had tried to deliver the package at 9.40am. Surprise surprise, I was at work. There was nothing on the notice to tell me when they would be back to deliver again, because Irish delivery guys never like to tell you anything, because then you might expect some fucking level of fucking customer service from them.
Anyway, mea culpa, I forgot to bring the InfoNotice to work the next day and didn't call them. Sure enough, the driver had been and left another one, this time at 9.10am. Again, no clue as to when this masked stranger might turn up again, but I had a pattern to work from so I guessed it would be today. So I rearranged my morning and reckoned I would go into work a little bit late.
And I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited.
At 10.30 I called UPS and was told that the driver had left the depot with my package and that if I didn't want to wait for him I could always feel free to drive over to Ballymount Industrial Estate and get the package myself. I declined.
And I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited.
At 1.30pm I called UPS and asked if they had any idea when I might get my package. The girl on the phone said no, they don't give times, but it would "probably" be before 5pm. I pointed out to her (in a much more polite way than I am doing now) that shipping companies with far less sophisticated networks can at least tell you within three hours or so when they're likely to deliver. Mighty UPS, one of the biggest delivery companies in the world, apparently, can't do that. I asked, very politely, if there was some way I could register a complaint. The girl said yes, she took my name and phone number and said she had registered it.
So I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited.
At 5pm I phoned them again and got someone who could be based in Ireland, but let's face it, is more likely to be based in a faraway land. She left me on hold for 15 minutes while she checked where my package was. It turns out, right, that the driver had to return to the depot early and couldn't complete his deliveries today. So I would get my package on Friday.
Good thing it's not important, I told her. I then apologised to her for being abrupt, but said that I was pissed off and even though I wasn't pissed off with her, she was the one on the phone. She laughed and said that the despatch centre was very busy at the moment.
It amuses me that some poor woman who is possibly on the other side of the world is trying to make amends for the fact that Irish delivery guys just don't change. Just because White Van Man is now Brown Van Man doesn't make him any happier about sitting in heavy traffic on a rainy day.
All this over some stupid Christmas present that the person may not even like or want.
My humour is not good today.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fat comic and the forces of sodomy

Post titles like that make me glad I don't have Adwords on my blog.

We went to see Dara O'Briain in Vicar St. last night. Whatever its limitations when seeing bands, Vicar St is a great place to see comedy, especially if you've got front row centre seats on the balcony, where you get to look down at the full house below you. Dara really is just a quality performer. Two hours of varied, hilarious, well-observed, clever comedy that never understimates the intelligence of the audience is hard to come by, but he delivers it.
My particular favourites are the image of some young person jogging along beside technology asking "what have you got for me today, technology?"
"Well, I've got a phone that you can carry around and call people from anywhere in the world!"
"That's brilliant! What have you got now?"
"I've got a phone with a camera attached, so you can take pictures of all your friends!"
"That's brilliant! What have you got now?"
"I've got an iPod that plays your music and stores your photos!"
"Oh shit, I've got a stitch. You carry on without me, I think I've gone far enough."
He breaks up the second half of the show very cleverly too. Having been invited on to the BBC's Room 101, he spends some time thinking about all the things he hates (opining that comedy is the ideal art form for petty things you hate. Broad strokes of emotion? Leave that to music. Irritating people you met on the train? Comedy!) but of cours they only used a few. So he has made a list of other ones, which he gets someone in the audience to read out. It's a good plan, because as soon as the interest in one topic starts to flag (assuming it does), he can just switch to the next thing. Smart.
He is just class, bless him.

All change

To the delight of people like Simon and Mr. Monkey, I've made the switch from PC to Apple. It didn't seem like such a big deal now that Apple will sell you a keyboard with a delete key on it, but it has meant big changes in other areas. I now use Safari for my web browsing, and my old blog provider does not fully support it. Sure, I can write a post, but I can't include italics or bold text and other basic, fun things. So I'm testing out Blogger to see if I like it.

This could take a while. I fear change.

Moving house

All the stuff from here down is in the process of being moved over from this blog:
Perfectly cromulent

It might take a while.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide is the book I've been waiting for all my adult life. Explaining the zombie phenomenon from start to finish, Brooks explains where zombies come from, how to tell the difference between the genuinely undead and the voodoo'ed unfortunates who were the first to bear the name, and, most importantly, how to deal with four different levels of zombie attack (everything from one or two wandering zombies to a complete infestation).

So, I now know that my preferred weapons would be a hunting rifle and a machete, that I should get a bicycle, spend all my spare money on a safe compound in the tundra somewhere, that I should keep an axe under my bed and use it chop up the stairs if I ever hear zombies at the front door. Be warned! Don't be tempted to set your stairs on fire, even though it's a quicker way to get rid of the stairs, but there's a big risk of you burning down your house.

I should point out that halfway through reading this book I became convinced that there were zombies on Laytown beach and they were going to shamble towards me in the dark at six am. I am not looking forward to the dogwalking next week. This book has not made me any less scared of zombies, is what I'm telling you. So if you see a large red-haired woman lurching out of the darkness towards you with an axe, well, just don't make any moaning noises or I'll have your head off in moments.
Posted Nov. 03 2005, at 9:26 PM
Comments (1)
I'm glad you warned about not burning down my house. Lesley hates it when I douse everything in petrol.
Posted by Stevie on Nov. 04 2005, at 10:53 AM Delete

49: Easy reader

Sometimes when you're having a hard week at work you want to read something easy that doesn't make you feel as though your brain has dribbled out your ear. Stephen Fry's Making History is such a book. There is much about it that is not good. If you do not think of Stephen Fry as a national treasure who should have his own plinth at the V&A, then you probably would find the authorial voice in this novel a little oppressive. If you know a lot already about the early years of the Hitler family and Adolf's part in World War One you will probably find much of the actual narrative a little dull. The characters are quite lame. The plot is ludicrous. Okay, okay, it's just not a good book. But readable, you know?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

48: Mighty War in the mind

I will fight anyone who does not love Jon Ronson.

With that out of the way, I thought that The Men Who Stare at Goats might make a good palette cleanser after all the girly time travelling my reading's been doing recently. And it does. It's only a short book - three train trips from my house to the city and it was gone - but there's a lot of information in it.

After the Second World War, the American army became more open to trying to new techniques to, well, control the physical and mental chemistry of its own soldiers and the enemy's soldiers in an attempt to either prevent a war or win one, depending on who was in charge of the military programmes at the time. Experiments included, but were not limited to, staring at goats and other animals to try to remotely stop their hearts, playing discordant sounds and music at the enemy to disrupt brainwaves, hypnotism, the administration of LSD, and so on. Some of these tactics are still in use. Some are credited with limited success while others are openly laughed at for several years, yet resurrected periodically when a new wave of commanders tries to revamp the army and its image.

Jon Ronson is a good journalist to have working on such a project. He is open and willing to be convinced, but not gullible. He is sceptical and grounded in reality, but not sneering and cynical. He doesn't reallly seem to have an agenda except to find out what's going on, maybe tell a few funny anecdotes along the way, but mostly get to the bottom of an interesting question.

As an atheist, though, it is refreshing to see someone make the link between the New Age hippy practices of spoon bending and remote thinking and mass prayer meetings. Yes, it's pretty stupid to think that you can stop a goat's heart from the next room just by staring at it. Is it any stupider than thinking you can influence some deity in the sky to make the Iraqis surrender?

I was also interested in the stories of collateral damage, of what happens when the easily influenced come into contact with military "experts" feeding them "facts" (step forward the Heaven's Gate crew, remember them?) and when people on the inside of these projects decide they want to get out.

I'm not sure I'd recommend it to any ofyour paranoid friends though. If you think they were bad after reading Them, you won't want to go drinking with them after reading this.

47: Buckingham? Bummingham, more like

I know, I know I said I wasn't going to read any more Philippa Gregory after the awfulness of The Wise Woman, but I couldn't resist Earthly Joys, which is the first of her two books about John Tradescant, the great British gardener, and his rise to fortune during the fun and frolics of the reign and death of James I (except for viewers in Scotland, who were watching the reign of James VI) and the beginnings of rumblings of Mighty War.

Alert readers may notice that I read the second of these books earlier in the year and loved it, and that it was, in fact, the book that got me hooked on Gregory's own brand of research 'n' rumpo,. They are the ideal in historical fiction. The characters are more than just vehicles for her research, the stories are interesting, the historical backdrop is fascinating, and you can polish them off with amazing speed and feel you've learned a little something at the end of it all. Of course I now have to go and read some proper history books about the period in order to confirm some details. Did the Duke of Buckingham really sleep his way to the top by shagging not one, but two kings of England? Did the Duke's mother really poison James? I don't know. But I suspect C.V. Wedgwood probably does. I shall ask her.

Posted Oct. 27 2005, at 10:36 AM
Comments (2)
On Buckingham: I think so, but unfortunately CV Wedgwood kicks in after he leaves the scene so she can't help you. If you can track down the Pelican history of 17th-century Britain that'd be a good place to look.
Posted by wwhyte on Oct. 27 2005, at 2:21 PM Delete
We have a copy somehwere at home (if none of the animals has eaten it) but i can't remember it covering that.
Posted by Keith on Oct. 28 2005, at 3:59 AM Delete

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

46: chicky book alert!

About ten years ago I saw a sketch on a short-lived comedy show with an all-female cast. The sketch starred Terri Garr as the hostess of a book group that was getting together to discuss The Bridges of Madison County. Terri Garr wears a big denim shirt and a bandanna. She fusses about the livingroom. The other women in the book group arrive and they are also wearing denim shirts and bandannas. Not having read the book, I didn't quite get the joke, but it became clear as they discussed the book, with the whole thing degenerating into a fistfight over who was most like the woman in the book.

The Time Traveller's Wife is one of those books too, I suspect. Not satisfied with simply reading it, some women will try to find themselves in it because the lives of the people in it are kind of imaginable in the similarities to us, but impossibly remote and desirable in their differences.

And yes, it is a very chicky book. Which is not to say there's a lot of kissing in it (although there is) and nothing to interest the blokey reader. But it taps into exactly the same romantic desire as the film of Last of the Mohicans and Truly, Madly, Deeply - namely, the desire to have a man who will always find you. Who will always come back to you and do everything he can to make sure that you're okay, no matter what's happening or where he is. And if he ever can't get back to you, you can be damned sure that he is bloody well trying.

My only problem was that I found it a little hard to throw myself fully into the romance of it all because Henry (the Time Traveller), kept reminding me of Eoghan Barry at odd moments. The obsessive running. The playing of loud music. The wearing of t-shirts with band names on them. The love of spending hours in the kitchen making elaborate meals. The overachieving family. The swearing and drinking. You get the picture.

Still, don't let that put you off. Oh. It has. Well, if it has to be in my head...
Posted Oct. 19 2005, at 9:55 AM
Comments (6)
Read this one and really enjoyed it. Passed it on to Marshall who sobbed like an infant while reading it as we sat waiting for a flight to check-in. Chicky, yes. Thankfully our enjoyment was un-sullied by associating anyone we knew with Henry. I don't know any obsessive runners.
Posted by StevieB on Oct. 19 2005, at 10:29 AM Delete
There you are, you see. And Stevie is a boy, who likes football and everything!
I too had a big cry at various points throughout the book. I suspect this might be partly due to two external factors. One, my husband is away and I miss him. Two, I cry at bloody everything.
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Oct. 19 2005, at 11:56 AM Delete
That...could describe anyone. Well, almost anyone.

Mind you, Celeste loved it.
Posted by Eoghan on Oct. 19 2005, at 2:19 PM Delete
I read it and finished it, but I thought it was a pile of maudlin chickylit. For the reasons that you outlined. What is it about women that they need to have a man like that? We're not that fantastic that some bloke should spend his eternity looking for us. I wouldn't do it for a bloke. Having said that, I really liked the male character. Well written.
Posted by Queenie on Oct. 22 2005, at 2:07 PM Delete
Is it also like The Last of the Mohicans in that it features lots of lovingly rendered 18th century battles?
Posted by ian on Oct. 22 2005, at 6:33 PM Delete
Ooh, now we want a film with Alan Rickman in the role of Henry. I could take Sam to that and I'd be SO in.
Posted by Myles on Oct. 25 2005, at 11:05 PM Delete

45: I wouldn't wait underwater

Gun, With Occasional Music is a detective novel set in the near future. Do you like a bit of Raymond Chandler? Did you like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep but find it all a bit serious? Well then, this is the book for you. Funny and gunny.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The pope offers you this bounty

I forgot to take my camera with me to dinner on Thursday night, but here is a small photo of the Pope room in Buca di Beppo's, where Keith's manager, Russ, and all the other guys from his team brought us for dinner on Thursday night. It was your typical nerdy Italian dinner. We spilled food on the table and talked about beards. But no-one could escape the beady eyes of Pope Benedict in the centre of the table on the lazy susan, turning slowly and sweeping the table with his beams of holiness.

When we left, Russ gave us these lovely flowers as a present for our wedding. Bloody Googlers. They're just so nice.

Palo Alto United Methodist Church

Not merely the most interesting building I've seen on this entire trip to the south bay area (or whatever the hell they're calling Silicon Valley these days), but one of the best buildings I've ever seen. It looks like it should move around. Shame we weren't able to go inside.

In these days of having it your way

It's nice that there's one place that doesn't offer you chicken zinger ranch salad box options with low-fat carb free dressings or a piece of fruit for the kids. No. Hamburger, cheeseburger, or two cheeseburgers stuck together.

But there is a secret extra that they don't advertise on the board. Oh yes. The 4x4. You know it makes sense.

That's what a hamburger's...

...all about!

Sorry Stevie, it's all gone.

Posted by StevieB on Oct. 10 2005, at 9:21 AM Delete
but whitecastle have the best fries
Posted by on Oct. 21 2005, at 3:35 PM Delete
Ah-ha! Anonymous has issued a challenge. I've never been to White Castle, so I don't know.
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Oct. 21 2005, at 3:37 PM Delete

Thursday, October 06, 2005

43: No spice is worth this

At this stage I consider myself something of a connoisseuse of popular history books concerning ships and the sea, and Giles Milton's Nathaniel's Nutmeg is right up there with In the Heart of the Sea as one of the best. Telling the story of the spice trade from the British point of view, Milton has great anecdotes about the beginnings of the wars between Britain and the Netherlands, the formation of both the British and Dutch East India Companies, the reasons for the high value of spices, and some lovely stories about the lives of the people who explored, fought over, and traded with the natives on these remote and hostile islands.

And yes, these books do follow a pattern, as the LRB says. They invite you to imagine a world without the thing the book is about, in order to build up its importance and make you believe that the main subject of the book (invariably some person of great character who has been consigned to the fringes of history in a way that makes you wonder about the fate of Neil Armstrong (especially given that there are already twenty year-olds who don't know who he is)) is a greater historical figure than Nelson or Magellan. Which of course they aren't, unless you're a chemist or a cartographer or lexicographer or whatever kind of specialist the author is.

The most interesting thing about this book, though, is that it starts off being about one thing and ends up being about something else entirely. And for once - hats off to Sceptre for this - the blurb on the back doesn't give away the whole point of the book, so there is actually a nice surprise at the end. Top notch.

Please upgrade me to a better film

Fair fucks to Jodie Foster. At an age when many women are moaning about there being no decent roles for them in Hollywood, she's reinvented herself as an action hero. Trouble is, this is her second maternal protection mayhem movie and neither of them is a patch on Aliens. And this one isn't even a patch on the last one. The description of the story as being Hitchcock on a plane is a good one, but what that doesn't tell you is that it's one of the ridiculous twist-turny Hitchcocks that just has you saying "what?" and "why don't they just..." all the time.

The film tried very hard to distract you from this with lots of footage of Jodie climbing around the insides of a superplane, so that you think you know how a plane works. And the music helpfully tells you from the very beginning that something very bad is about to happen. But this is a slight film and even at an hour and a half it seems too long.

Good thing I bunked in to it and didn't pay. Man, it's so easy to do that in the US.
Posted Oct. 06 2005, at 6:37 PM
Comments (1)
OHMYGOD is that Sean Bean in the photo?
Posted by Queenie on Oct. 12 2005, at 3:41 AM Delete

My gangster's got no nose

I did just type in a proper review of this film, but then stupid blog thing gave me an access denied message, so I'm not doing it all over again. Here's the picture again for Queenie's sake, at least.

Okay, let's try it again. Because I can't be bothered to type it all again, let's just say that the violence is bone-crunching and seriously non-cartoonish and the whole film is dispatched cleanly and efficiently. Like, er, a good contract killing.
Posted Oct. 06 2005, at 6:27 PM
Comments (1)
Gee thanks

I don't like his look in this much. Except for his nice 'smile lines' around his eyes. I think he's the only person in Hollywood that hasn't had surgery.

Although I like some bits of him in the film!!! noo-nee-noo-nee-noo, tum-ti-tum

Posted by Queenie on Oct. 12 2005, at 3:45 AM Delete

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

42: Don't die, poor brown dog!

No Great Mischief is one of those books that's often knocking about in our shop, looking like a quality modern literary read, but not really exciting much interest among the punters (including me). However, since my trip to Nova Scotia I've been actively seeking to keep the spirit of Canada alive in me and so I sought out this story of Scottish immigrants and their experiences in the land across the water.

It's a beautiful book, dealing with a wide range of subjects including family, oral history, dogs, cars, racism, the decline of the agrarian way of life, the camaraderie of men who do impossible jobs, the borders between countries old and new, and the dangers of alcoholism.

And it has a bit with a brown dog that caught me completely by surprise and made me cry on the train on the way into work one morning.

I will certainly be reading more of Mr. McLeod's work.
Posted Oct. 04 2005, at 12:03 AM
Comments (2)
I don't remember any of that and I have that book and that edition (wot you have on blog). very annoying will have to read it again.

Am reading the Deptford Trilogy at present. Early twentieth century Canada. Very funny, and very very illuminating about the Canadian soul.
Posted by Queenie on Oct. 04 2005, at 4:54 PM Delete
Is that Robertson Davies? Those books come into the shop a lot too. Must look out for them.
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Oct. 04 2005, at 4:59 PM Delete

Monday, October 03, 2005

It's the place to stay in Mountain View

This is the hotel where Keith is living during his six weeks in Mountain View, and the room really does look like this. I think it's great for him to be staying in a hotel room that looks like the kind of studio apartment you'd actually look forward to coming home to, instead of a crappy beige standard business hotel room. And there's an excellent bus service, and an Albertsons right across the road and an In-n-Out Burger just up the road. All in all, it's a good spot to be in.

There's also a very swish looking hi-fi lounge full of the kind of furniture I WANT TO HAVE. We discussed the fact that we're just not collectors. We don't have the stick-to-it-iveness that accumulating collectables requires. If we did, we would have bought that wonderful 1950s table and chairs in Halifax for $150 and paid to have it shipped back home. But we didn't.

Maybe I can get Queenie to do it for me.

Posted Oct. 03 2005, at 11:54 PM
Comments (3)
In-n-out, In-n-out, that's what a burger's all about. I hate you both!
Posted by StevieB on Oct. 04 2005, at 9:31 AM Delete
I saw it the other day I think! So it's still in the shop. I wondered at the time why you didn't buy it, but you were busy.

I'll do it for you no probs if you like.
Posted by Queenie on Oct. 04 2005, at 4:56 PM Delete
I know exactly where the hotel is.
Posted by Columbo on Oct. 27 2005, at 7:11 PM Delete

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sunday drivers

I got caught in a tidal wave of Tyrone supporters on my way home from Swords on Sunday. Average speed on the M1 between Swords and Balbriggan was about 40kph.
Posted Sep. 27 2005, at 7:58 PM
Comments (4)
If you don't mind my saying so, this is a mysterious picture.
Posted by wwhyte on Sep. 28 2005, at 2:21 AM Delete
All explained! See above.
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Sep. 28 2005, at 7:29 PM Delete
Did Tyrone win?
Posted by Queenie on Sep. 29 2005, at 3:05 AM Delete
Tyrone did win. Apparently it was quite a close game though.
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Sep. 30 2005, at 4:27 PM Delete

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Another return

I always like to ask the big questions. Questions like "where the hell did Ricky Martin go?" regularly pass my lips in the pub. I've asked all the gay guys I know (two of them) in case he was spirited away to some secret place that only they know about. But no-one seemed to know where Ricky was. Some people suggested he might be in Vegas, but no-one was sure.

And it was genuinely bugging me. Maybe not all the time, but it was there in the back of my head and would come to the fore whenever I reached "Livin' La Vida Loca" on my iPod.

And then this week he turned up on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and he really has been out of the public eye for four years or so. The relief was huge. Not that I was worried about him, I was more worried that I was out of touch with the world around me. If Ricky Martin could have a thriving career without me knowing about it, who knows what else I might be missing.

But it turns out that he has been travelling around the world and collecting new musical influences for his new album (his new single sounds a little like a man singing a song by that mad woman (Shabiya? Serena? What the hell was her name? And whatever happened to her, while I'm at it?) anyway, you know the one I mean).

He has also been busy setting up and administering The Ricky Martin Foundation and its offshoot charity People for Children, both of which are trying to stop trafficking of persons and modern day slavery.

Of course, as with all pop stars who claim to be trying to save the world, you wonder how much they're really doing and how much more money they could be giving and still live comfortably themselves, but Ricky seemed pretty serious about it. I was only annoyed that Jonathan Ross stopped him from talking about it. In fact I was very annoyed about it. Ricky wanted to say a little something and get the word out there, but Ross stopped him and asked could they talk about something else, as it was kind of depressing.

RTE should have invited him to come on The Late Late Show (actually, they might well have done, I wouldn't know, I don't watch it). It might be a bit rubbish and flat as a pancake, but at least it's a major Friday night entertainment show that's willing to recognise that Friday night entertainment can be, well, a bit more serious.

Certainly it turns out that Ricky's not very funny, bless him. But he does own four rescued dogs, which makes me like him even more than I did before.

SHAKIRA! That's her name. I knew it would come back eventually. What the hell ever happened to her?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I even pulled out my good boob!

Imagine if Raising Arizona was a sitcom, and instead of Nicolas Cage, it had Jason Lee in it. Clearly this is how My Name is Earl was sold in the first place, and it almost kind of lives up to it. Okay, there isn't a laugh every minute, but the first episode has an awful lot of story to get through. We shall see how well it goes.
Posted Sep. 24 2005, at 8:57 AM
Comments (2)
This really is quite fun. it works only because Jason Lee is in it but then he is great so that't not surprising. I hope it stays good and I hope it lasts more than a single series.
Posted by Keith on Sep. 24 2005, at 7:23 PM Delete
Are you sure that's not Harry Enfield in disguise? When and where is it on btw?
Posted by Mark on Sep. 26 2005, at 1:55 PM Delete

41: Plain wrapper please

James Morrow's This is the Way the World Ends is part of Gollancz's yellow sci-fi series. I'm not sure whether that's the same series as the other Gollancz one, but with different packaging, or if it's a completely separate and somehow more lofty series. In any case, the design catches the eye and is old-fashioned and makes the book somehow more appealing with its plainness and lack of dodgy cover art.

And the contents? Well, the blurb on the front comes from the NYRB and claims that if Kurt Vonnegut and Jonathan Schell had collaborated on an anti-nuclear novel, it would be like this. WIthout knowing anything about Jonathan Schell, I'd say that's a far more accurate description than most blurbs I've read. This book has the same Vonnegut weary humour, the same silly quirks that are sometimes great and sometimes not so great, and the same overall desire to see people do the right thing and not make the same mistakes every time.

The book is slightly too long, and there are some episodes that I just wanted to skip right over, but on the whole it's a thumping read with some very moving moments.
Posted Sep. 24 2005, at 8:01 AM
Comments (1)
I'm up early too!
Those Gollancz yellow-jackets have been around for decades, they were always a good way of finding SF in the library.
Posted by Ray on Sep. 24 2005, at 8:10 AM Delete

Friday, September 23, 2005

It's back

It's back

I finally figured out how to get the PC to do its magic, and there it was. And all's right with the bubble I live in, at least for 45 minutes until that one white word punches up onto the screen and makes me shout at it.

Bloody telly. It's great sometimes.
Posted Sep. 23 2005, at 10:45 PM
Comments (3)
Damn, this is a great show. The first five minutes are almost worth the months of waiting.
Posted by Keith on Sep. 23 2005, at 10:51 PM Delete
When are the "I'm spry!" t-shirts arriving?
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Sep. 23 2005, at 10:51 PM Delete
Speaking of great telly, my housemate Marissa hasn't seen the last episode of SATC (not great telly but some of the earlier episodes were) and I completely spoiled it for her last night.

Posted by Queenie on Sep. 29 2005, at 3:07 AM Delete

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Defence against zombies

This is about as close as I can get to actually putting up a picture of zombies on my blog. I'm primarily posting this to assure Keith that I'm remembering to lock the doors at night while he's away. Other precautions include:

* Making sure there's a phone and a torch by the bed at all times. There's a sort of ESB strike on at the moment, so you can't be too sure the power isn't going to mysteriously go out.
* Carrying a big stick when walking the dogs round the estate at night. This also comes in handy for bopping that annoying black and white dog on the head, although I've discovered that the best way to deal with him is to change my route so as not to disturb him.
* Lighting the candles in the living room every night, so that I don't have to do it if the power goes out. Of course this is a bit of a double-edged sword. If I do light the candles, I can see, but the zombies can also see that the candles are lit. Perhaps I will have to get blackout blinds. Oh great. Now I'm thinking about that creepy Dr. Who episode.
* Ending each night with a Horlicks and Kahlua. For guaranteed sleepiness.

Defence against zombies

This is about as close as I can get to actually putting up a picture of zombies on my blog. I'm primarily posting this to assure Keith that I'm remembering to lock the doors at night while he's away. Other precautions include:

* Making sure there's a phone and a torch by the bed at all times. There's a sort of ESB strike on at the moment, so you can't be too sure the power isn't going to mysteriously go out.
* Carrying a big stick when walking the dogs round the estate at night. This also comes in handy for bopping that annoying black and white dog on the head, although I've discovered that the best way to deal with him is to change my route so as not to disturb him.
* Lighting the candles in the living room every night, so that I don't have to do it if the power goes out. Of course this is a bit of a double-edged sword. If I do light the candles, I can see, but the zombies can also see that the candles are lit. Perhaps I will have to get blackout blinds. Oh great. Now I'm thinking about that creepy Dr. Who episode.
* Ending each night with a Horlicks and Kahlua. For guaranteed sleepiness.


There isn't anything external for me to photograph at the moment, so here I am, pondering. I suspect that this t-shirt I've bought looks like scrubs. I'm wondering if I should get a new, more text-friendly blog. No-one really uses their Newbay blog for writing, it's all for taking pictures of their mates - here we are on holidays, here's the baby walking, here's a stage far away which may or may not feature a band, here we are all drunk - but then I remember that I have nothing really to talk about. I have only three topics of conversation - dogs, shop, er... (I'm sure I have a third! I have a third, don't I?) and they're fairly well covered here.

I fear turning into Roisin Ingle. Difference is, I'm not expecting anyone to pay to read what I have to say. And if I did, I think I'd try harder to have something to say. What I didn't mention about her book is the thing that annoyed me the most. Saying "but I can only write about myself" is the journalistic equivalent of saying "but I'm a bastard and I'll cheat on you". Just because you admit to it doesn't make it okay.
Posted Sep. 21 2005, at 9:01 PM
Comments (6)
Books is the third thing! You do good books!
Posted by wwhyte on Sep. 22 2005, at 2:39 PM Delete
Ah gwan would ya! Telly, books, film, music, your family, your friends, politics, zombies, blogging, the interweb, mailing people, there's some things you talk about. That everyone talks about. You're just focusing on your thoughts cos you're on your own. You get used to it after a bit...... if the zombies don't get you!!!
Posted by Queenie on Sep. 22 2005, at 10:42 PM Delete
I pledge multiple airstrikes in support of a new, more text heavy regime.
Posted by oldrottenhat on Sep. 23 2005, at 1:57 PM Delete
Your hair looks great btw. I went to the gorgeous Gabe for highlights and he charged me a fortune for them. Naughty boy!
Posted by Queenie on Sep. 23 2005, at 5:32 PM Delete
What a weasel! See, he sucks you in with the promise of well-done hair at a low cost, and then he hits you big for the highlights. I hope they're suitably autumnal, anyway.

Thanks for good thoughts, all. I don't really fear turning into Roisin Ingle, (that's another mention of her that will surely get the Bungle fans out in force. Hey, Bunglors!) I highly doubt that La Ingle spent her day fantasising about Hugh Laurie while trying to pin down the finer points of double-blind controlled trials and watching the wind blow through the long, long grass in the front garden which SOMEONE ELSE should have cut before they went away.
I wonder how many more times I'll have to cut the grass this year.
Ah crap. I can hear Dennis from next door with his mower out. The guilt stirs within me. Time to open another pack of Walkers, text in to win an iPod (just how much are vodafone charging me for these short-code texts, I wonder) and watch My Name is Earl.
Posted by on Sep. 23 2005, at 5:44 PM Delete
My Name is Earl is quite good really. Someone else would definitely have cut the grass but his family insisted on seeing him that weekend and everyone knows you can only cut the grass on a weekend. Also, about the Hugh Laurie: Oi, none of that!
Posted by keith on Sep. 24 2005, at 12:31 AM Delete

Monday, September 19, 2005

40: An utterly pointless book

Oh man, is this book ever not my choice of reading material. Thing is, it's hard to see whose choice of reading material it possibly could be. Even if you liked Ingle's weekly column in the Irish Times magazine, you couldn't possibly want to read 400 pages of it in poorly-produced book form, could you?
Posted Sep. 19 2005, at 11:36 AM
Comments (6)
400 pages?? Is the font 40pt?!
Posted by davem on Sep. 19 2005, at 2:24 PM Delete
God, Dave, I wish. Believe me, I was embarrassed to be seen reading this in public. I'm also amused at how the cover design makes it look like she's a witch trapped in a chick lit novel that also somehow looks like a Rough Guide. Well done, Hodder.
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Sep. 19 2005, at 5:48 PM Delete
have you seen the wonder of this yet:
Posted by angela on Sep. 20 2005, at 3:27 PM Delete
Roisin Bungle is fab.
Posted by Queenie on Sep. 21 2005, at 3:14 PM Delete
Ingle watch out, Bungle is coming.
Posted by Bunglefan on Sep. 23 2005, at 2:40 PM Delete
Dont want to read it-hate the column. Boring....
Posted by critic extraordinaire on Sep. 30 2005, at 9:46 AM Delete

39: The sea port of Slane

Daphne du Maurier is best known for her stirring romances set in Cornwall. She should, perhaps, not have strayed so far as to try and set one of her romances in Ireland, because she clearly never came over here. If she had, she would know that Slane is not a major sea port and there aren't many places in Ireland called Doonhaven.

Poor research aside, Hungry Hill features an Anglo-Irish family who were granted the land in previous generations and have now set up a copper mine on Hungry Hill, much to the consternation of local family the Donovans, who claim to have owned the land all this time. Family generations rise and die and the mines produce and dwindle and still the feud between the English and the locals carrys on, the only constant in a world where politics and technology should be changing everything.

38: Not so wise

Back to normal after the excitement of trips abroad and weddings and all. I only read two books on holidays this time round, and I'm only sorry that one of them was Philippa Gregory's The Wise Woman. A wise woman would avoid it, is what I'm saying. Paul Verhoeven could probably do a lot with it, but the story is boring, not on of the characters is remotely sympathetic, the sex scenes are more nauseating than anything else, and the magic, yes, magic, is annoying and forced. I think I struck it lucky with the first two of her books I read, it's been downhill ever since.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Did anyone else see this?

I thought it was pretty funny.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lovely Lunenberg and Peggy's Cove

Today we hired the biggest car I've ever driven and we drove to Peggy's Cove (home of the most photographed image in Canada, according to Queenie) and Lunenberg. We saw many salty things as well as old-timey houses and friendly dogs. Good day all round.
Posted Sep. 05 2005, at 3:37 AM
Comments (2)
Is that a braclette I see on Keith's right arm?
Posted by caelen on Sep. 05 2005, at 2:39 PM Delete
No idea what a braclette is but the wristband is the Canadian makepovertyhistory one.
Posted by watchdog on Sep. 06 2005, at 5:02 AM Delete

Friday, September 02, 2005


At about 2.15 today, Atlantic time, under a tree in the Public Gardens in Halifax. Thanks to Gary Dockendorff, who married us and gave a lovely and entirely god-free ceremony, and made a little souvenir booklet for us to take home. Aw.
Posted Sep. 02 2005, at 10:09 PM
Comments (21)
Yay! Congratulations!
Posted by Ray on Sep. 02 2005, at 10:30 PM Delete
Posted by Simon on Sep. 02 2005, at 10:55 PM Delete
Hurray! Hats in the air! Yowsah!
Posted by Marco Maggie Lydia & Bob the bump on Sep. 02 2005, at 11:19 PM Delete
Happy merry!
Posted by wwhyte on Sep. 02 2005, at 11:48 PM Delete
And I was there and it was great - Queenie
Posted by on Sep. 03 2005, at 6:17 AM Delete
Happy happy! The groom looked lovely in white.
Posted by Myles on Sep. 03 2005, at 7:49 AM Delete
Ah, yis look great. Sounds like a lovely ceremony.
Posted by Derval on Sep. 03 2005, at 8:41 AM Delete
Posted by Andrew on Sep. 03 2005, at 10:30 AM Delete
Did you put string and tin cans on the back of the boat and spray Just Married in shaving cream?
Posted by StevieB on Sep. 03 2005, at 12:33 PM Delete
wow, congrats!, lovely shirt keith!
Posted by lizarocks on Sep. 03 2005, at 4:53 PM Delete
yay! It all looks really lovely! Congrats you guys
Posted by Barbara & caelen on Sep. 03 2005, at 11:20 PM Delete
Posted by angela on Sep. 05 2005, at 9:37 AM Delete
Whee! Congratulations to you both!
Posted by Lisa on Sep. 05 2005, at 9:47 AM Delete
Congratulations! Looks lovely.
Posted by Mark on Sep. 05 2005, at 11:03 AM Delete
Well done Keith, you really make a good blushing bride
Posted by The Hoff on Sep. 05 2005, at 2:42 PM Delete
Congrats to you both of you and best of luck!
Posted by Adrian Turcu on Sep. 05 2005, at 2:47 PM Delete
Well done Keith!
Posted by Dave on Sep. 05 2005, at 2:54 PM Delete
Congratulations to both of you. Always good to see a bride wearing black!
Posted by Ivan on Sep. 05 2005, at 5:20 PM Delete
Awh! Looked like a wonderful day (saw the photos from Lorraine's blog). Congrats and here's wishing you both all the luck in the world!!
Posted by Pauline on Sep. 06 2005, at 9:09 AM Delete
You both look so beautiful. Huge happiness to all. I'm crying. Nice tears.
Posted by Paul Byrne on Sep. 07 2005, at 12:37 AM Delete
Posted by anthony on Sep. 07 2005, at 11:50 AM

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The only thing better than a Right whale...

... is two Right whales!

Only 400 left in the world, and we've met two of them. After two hours of floating around in the cold and the fog, Keith finally spotted the spouts off in the distance, and it turned out not to be humpbacks, as we were expecting, but right whales. They lifted their heads right out of the water and looked at us, and we got to hang out with them for about half an hour before the next boats arrived. It was brilliant.

Loads of thanks to Caroline and Captain Dan at Norwood boat tours.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

There's nothing as empty...

... as a house with no dogs.

The lads are gone to stay with Kay at Happy Hounds for two weeks and the cats will stay here with their cat sitter while we're away.

It's very hard to be in the house without them here.

37: The end of the Empire

Fragrant Harbour is another quality page-turner from John Lanchester. It tells the story of a family's blah against the backdrop of blah in Hong Kong blah. Alright, it's more interesting than that, but any plot summary is going to make it sound like any other family saga, because essentially that's what it is, even going so far as to start at the present day and work back. But the characters don't get caught up in the turbulent times of post-war Hong Kong any more than the story requires them to, and there is no magic realism of any kind anywhere in it, nor does anyone turn out to be a hermaphrodite. This is just straight-ahead storytelling where the story and the characters and the historical backdrop are interesting enough to do away with any quirks or gimmicks. Knowing nothing at all about Hong Kong doesn't make it any harder to follow, and in fact now I suspect I would find the place a little easier to navigate, if I was ever thinking about going there, which I am not.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Anyone who had a heart...

...would buy me one of these for my mobile.

This is everyone's cue to tell me how rubbish they are.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Half a dalek!

Okay, it's not really, it's our composter.

Having read the rules for using the composter, I'm not sure we qualify for one. Fill with earth and then a layer of woody material? Do not ever put potato peelings in? WTF? I thought this was going to be the answer to all my waste disposal prayers. Instead it's yet another thing I have to learn to do properly or it won't work.

Posted Aug. 15 2005, at 3:00 PM
Comments (7)
We throw everything food wise into it bar meat, so that's all fuit/veg/bread/pasta cooked/raw etc. Dunno why it hasn't become a rat magnet, prob cos of all the cats....
Posted by eamonn on Aug. 16 2005, at 12:07 PM Delete
Right, but are you getting compost at the other end?
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Aug. 16 2005, at 12:20 PM Delete
Getting excellent rich compost, almost soil at that stage. Mind you - it's actually an old bin, so to get it out you have to first empty the top layers of fruity compost.
Posted by eamonn on Aug. 16 2005, at 1:54 PM Delete
In that case I won't worry about it. Except that yours is in a nice shady spot and mine isn't in a nice shady spot, but I don't have anywhere nice and shady to put it. Maybe I'll have to plant a tree next to it or something.
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Aug. 16 2005, at 3:33 PM Delete
We just put everything in a pile at the end of the garden, not even a bin. Took about 2 years to start composting propertly, but now it turns all raw veg, lawn clippings and some paper into rich compost in a month or so. It is amazing how small everything composts down to.
Posted by caelen on Aug. 16 2005, at 4:03 PM Delete
Nature, eh? It's pure mad.

Excitingly, I'm also going to try composting our cat litter. It's the wood pellet stuff so it should be okay, or else it will be a horrible smelly mistake and we'll have to clean the whole thing out and start again.
Fun times!
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Aug. 16 2005, at 6:14 PM Delete
But not the pooey bits of course as those are a bad thing.
Posted by Keith on Aug. 16 2005, at 6:29 PM Delete
Write a comment:

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Break out the champagne

We got our Sky+ and it is great. You really can do all the things they tell you about in the ads. And since I gave up watching Big Brother, I don't miss Channel 4 at all.

Chorus can kiss my arse.
Posted Aug. 11 2005, at 1:04 PM
Comments (5)
Posted by on Aug. 11 2005, at 7:40 PM Delete
Don't forget, "Services" menu, type 4,0,1 then and this gets you access to the secret installer's menu.
Posted by StevieB on Aug. 12 2005, at 12:17 AM Delete
Then ....4,0,1 then ....If you forget select it'll blow up
Posted by StevieB on Aug. 12 2005, at 12:18 AM Delete
Hey, your comment box won't allow select. Select. SELECT.
Posted by StevieB on Aug. 12 2005, at 12:19 AM Delete
Well, that's nice and clear. Thanks!
Posted by perfectlycromulent on Aug. 12 2005, at 8:21 AM Delete

36: Harry Potter and the Empire Strikes Back

Less than a month after its release, our first copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince showed up in the shop. Hooray for people. Sadly if you're going to read it you've probably read it by now, and if you're not then you won't care.

Maybe it's because I get out less than I used to, or maybe it's something else, but I've had less of a pod-people vibe from this book. When The Order of the Phoenix came out, it was everywhere. Every bus you went on, every park you walked through at lunchtime for the whole summer, there were people everywhere reading it. I haven't seen the latest one knocking around as much, maybe people remember back to how heavy it made their bags last time and they decided to read this one at home.

And what was the book like? Stuff happens that's supposed to be earth-shattering but I found myself not really caring. I listened to some children talking about it on the radio the other day and it seemed to me that if you are as young as Harry Potter was when the books started, you might find some of the stuff in this book a bit boring. If you're as old as Harry Potter is now, you might find the whole wizarding thing, well, a bit childish. It seems to me that Rowling's wizards are kids' wizards. They have names like Lupin and Dumbledore and even Harry Potter - almost Enid Blytonish names. They need a wand to do their spells. It all seems frightfully jolly hockey sticks and chalet school, which was great when everyone was young and they had adults to look after them. In order to move away from that and into the adult world of peril where Harry is now going, surely a complete change of language is needed? But won't that alienate some of the younger readers and their parents?

But of course I'm not a child and I didn't grow up with these characters and so I don't get particularly excited when cool things happen to them and I don't get teary-eyed when bad things happen because I don't love them like kids do. Perhaps it will be an exciting meme for the future. Where were you when...

Keith says:
I think people have their Harry Potter book space occupied by Dan Brown now. Certainly there isn't the expected decrease in DB book numbers and the expected increase in Potter. I did see a lot of people reading Phoenix before Prince came out, presumably to be ready for it.
Posted by Keith on Aug. 11 2005, at 1:07 PM

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Tutti frutti ice cream!

Did you even know that there was a huge shipping trade in ice in the late 1800s? Me either. Would you have said such an idea was crazy? Me too. But there it was. And Gavin Weightman's The Frozen Water Trade is the book to tell you all about it. I liked this book enormously, even though the subject matter is a little dry. Like a lot of overnight sensations, the ice trade took a very long time to be take seriously, but once it was up and running, it took its inventor out of debt and was making him $40,000 a year in profits. Ice was sold as far away as India, and it is this trade that explains why American drinks are so much colder than ours, and why they call their fridges ice boxes.Shipping, commerce, the industrialisation of America, it's all here in a very compact 200 pages. Recommended.

Sick dog

Poor Cody's not well, but he's battling through, bless him.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Moses supposes

Look, we have a rose in our garden!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sunday walk

Sunday walk is becoming a bit of a feature of the Laytown weekend. This week, Barbara and Caelen and Denali joined us for a bit of being blown around by a strong wind and pancaked afterwards.
Posted Jul. 26 2005, at 10:07 PM
Original comments
Denali's getting big isn't she!!
Posted by Queenie on Jul. 28 2005

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

34: No one can say no to the bastard

Possibly the worst tag line I've ever seen for a book. Certainly the worst cover I've seen on a book in ages (I realise that a scan would have brought out its awful seventiesness much more effectively than a crappy photo of the cover, but I can't be arsed going all the way upstairs to the scanner). If I was Beryl Bainbridge I'd have sued someone. Maybe she did.

The book itself is slight enough and is of the type that Bainbridge seems to have given up, which is just as well because the itroverted girl who gets taken for a ride by the bastard man of the world was done best in An Awfully Big Adventure, and thankfully it's kind of old and not very believable (maybe I'm just lucky and know strong women).

More interesting is the period detail. The family huddled around in a small dining room at Christmas, the mother constantly rubbing the backs of the chair legs to make sure the electric fire isn't scorching them, everyone trying not to trip over the cord on the electric carving knife, that kind of thing. I'm glad Beryl Bainbridge has moved on to the crisp history of According to Queenie or Master Georgie, but even a second division Bainbridge like Sweet William was worth the few hours it took to read it.

Original comments
Is that Sam Waterston and Jenny Agutter on the cover? That could be worth something.
Posted by StevieB on Jul. 28 2005, at 4:19 PM

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

33: it's family, innit?

Nadine Gordimer's The Pickup is billed on the back as a Romeo and Juliet story for a more cynical age. More cynical than an age where women were married off at the age of thirteen to improve their family's social standing? Really? Never mind that though. This isn't really a love story, is, I think, what that reviewer means. It's a story of two people using each other for the sake of convenience. In his case to get a residency visa for South Africa. In her case to get some cachet. Either way, they both get a lot more than they bargain for.

It's a book about politics and religion, sure. But it's also a story about families changing and adapting and being more than you thought they could be. Highly recommended. Doesn't outstay its welcome either.

Monday, July 18, 2005

32: Hey! Rome's full of rude Italians!

If you're looking for a book that will reinforce every stereotype you've ever read about any country in Europe, you've found it here. On the surface, Michael Booth's Just as Well I'm Leaving is an entertaining idea to part publishers and readers from their money. Hey, the high concept says, I'm going to follow Hans Christian Andersen's footsteps across Europe, tell you something about him on the way, and have a good laugh! So far, so standard proposal.

Andersen turns out to be a fascinating character. Crazy, gangly, unattractive, maybe gay, maybe not, certainly in love with the idea of doomed love, a brilliant writer, a man raging with insecurities, a virgin at his death, and so on.

Michael Booth is a bloke who thinks he's funny and isn't really. He even makes a lazy "...and that was just the teachers!" style joke somewhere in here that I can't be bothered to find. True, he does his research well and he cares about Andersen, but he ruins the most straightforward anecdotes with lame jokes, so a book that should be fascinating in its depiction of how much Europe (and the profession of writing, really) has changed becomes merely adequate and much too long.

And there are a lot of printing errors and a couple of factual mistakes in it, which really grinds my nads.
Posted Jul. 18 2005, at 5:10 PM