Log in

A Year in Gadgets

Yes, I am a waste of space and time. I have spent my wages on electronic trinkets, none of which have filled the gaping void I call my soul. And yet... and yet! All have brought me some modicom of joy, so, let me share with you some of the more recent ones.

1) Sony Smartwatch 3 -- 7/10

Who needs a smartwatch? The answer, is precisely nobody. My response was even more negative after a week of owning one, but little by little, trickling updates and innovations have made this one more useful.

I can tick off items on my shopping list just by raising my wrist. I fastforward songs and pause Netflix videos without a remote control or phone in sight. I can tell the time... In addition, this smartwatch has its own GPS, it can connect to my wifi and it has no fear of water.

But do these benefits make up for having to charge the thing every two days? Is it worth €200? Probably not.

2) Nexus 6 Smartphone/Phablet -- 8/10

My eyes! My eyes! Slowly the orbs that kept me so entertained during my youth have begun a betrayal that will only worsen as I age. So, I find I need a larger screen. The Nexus 6 is that screen and it runs on pure Android. Hurrah!

It *is* heavy, though. It *is* big enough that people have likened it to a shovel. But it's either that or wear glasses every time I take my phone out of my pocket.

3) Google Chromecast -- 8/10

This is a simple little device that allows me to fling photos, videos, games etc. up onto my TV screen. I pretty much only use it for Netflix these days, but it works easily and it works well. It cost very little and never needs a hardware upgrade.

4) LG MusicFlow H5 -- 9/10

This is nothing but a high quality wi-fi connected speaker. I pick out music or podcasts or a radio station on my phone; I press play, and there you have it -- the room fills up with enough sound to shake the walls and draw complaints from the next village over.

You might think this is no different from a Sonos, but you'd be wrong, because LG's MusicFlow uses "Google Cast" technology. This means that control of the listening experience lies with the app. on my phone rather than with the speaker itself.

As a result, and unlike the Sonos, there's no nuclear physicist grade meddling needed to get podcasts to work and to synchronise with each other.

It means I can listen to half a song or a playlist in my frontroom, before hopping into my car to listen to the other half over Bluetooth.

5) Forthcoming Gadgets -- 10/10

Future gadgets are always, always the best!

Yet More Reading. Yet More Watching.


I'll keep this brief... There are a few early gaps in my Ian McDonald library and I've been plugging them with ebooks. The latest is Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone, which contains Buddhism, Shinto and human programming. Really liking it so far, but still... still... the one I really yearn for is Luna, which Ian read from at TitanCon last year. However, it won't be out until September, curse them all!


I'll tell you what I'm not reading: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. I want to, but the Kindle edition is $20, while the hardback will cost me $13. Yes, it really, really ought to be the other way around! As it is, I can do without for now.


Season 2 of Bojack Horseman on Netflix went to some very, very dark places. It's one of those shows that looks so vapid until you've seen four or five episodes. But eventually, the brilliance of its characters and its writing is revealed. Highly recommended.

But however dark BH became, it never reached the upsetting depths of Blackfish, a documentary about a particular killer whale at an amusement park in the US. This was an enlightening and scary experience for me. Again, it gets my highest recommendation.


The tiny number of my recent posts have all been about my entertainment consumption. Almost as though nothing else were going on in my life, when the very opposite is the case.

Those who care, will have to wait, while those who care not, will also have to wait -- they just won't realise they are doing so.

Reading, Watching, Amazing

I've been away. I've been around and about and astray. But I always wander back again and so, for your great enjoyment, I present, myself.

I've read some great stuff since we last spoke. One of these was Chris Beckett's Mother of Eden, a sequel to his incredible Dark Eden of a few years ago. The world of Eden was never going to have the same impact the second time around, but this is still a great story that flings weighty themes about, like the origin of religions, the ownership of history and the meaning of feminism. My liking for it was both strong and deep. That guy's worldbuilding is simply a joy.

Luckily for me, it looks like my next read is going to be just as good, because, 100+ pages into Simon Mason's YA detective story, Running Girl, I'm completely taken with the two main characters and the mystery they are competing to solve. Nice and gritty, this one. Try a sample, is my advice.

Man, there's just so much I haven't talked about in this space. I saw the Any Winehouse documentary, Amy, and left the cinema stunned. Go see it.

Also, really good right now, is the Flemish plague drama Cordon. It's so, so much better than the usual pestilential crap, that I'm just waiting for somebody to remake it in English and kill it dead.

I know there's more, I know there is... But never mind, you've suffered enough for today.


More About Endings, About Spoilers.

Holy crap and what a fool I've been! And thanks to irishhatgirl for crystalizing this for me with a great piece of criticism.

People like suspence. They enjoy mystery. And I used to think -- until about two days ago -- that this mystery was the only thing that pulled them all the way to the end of a novel.

"No spoilers!" they cry on the interwebs and that sound rises to a scream just before every episode of A Game of Thrones or Dr. Who comes on the telly.

But then, how do we explain Mills and Boone Romance novels? We know from the first few pages that the feuding couple are going to be in each other's arms by the end of the book, so where is the mystery there?

I thought I knew the answer to that particular puzzle: I felt sure the readers leapt from page to page in order to figure out the how rather than the what. For example, how will the heroine overcome the mother-in-law who is a werewolf? Or the inevitable evil estate agent? Or the fact that she has seen her beloved with his sister and confuses the woman for a rival? How?

But it's not just that, is it?

We love these characters! That ditzy, quirky secretary, whose only friend is her cat. And Mr. Boone, the tycoon, her boss, who we soon learn has a tender side, hidden by arrogance only because he was hurt once before -- by a secretary, no less! So much do we love them that even though we know they're going to end up together, we want to share in their joy by watching it happen. We want to attend the wedding, even if it goes on for 20 pages after the actual plot has peaked...

By conincidence, I saw the last two (wonderful!) episodes of the Danish historical drama 1864 last night. Sure enough, we had a wedding. Sure enough, even though the main plot had been resolved, the director spent the last thirty minutes slowly resolving every remaining thread of the story. And it was beautiful.

No wonder people keep telling me my endings are abrupt!


Reading and Watching


Lots of good books are about to vomit forth into the world. I can't remember all of them, but I have just this minute helped myself to Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time. Yes, you have guessed correctly: today is indeed the day of its release, and I have been quick off the mark. Soon... soon all of the books will be mine.


As for TV, my pick of the last few weeks has been the Danish historical drama 1864. It's yet another story that plays "compare and contrast" between a rural idyll and the horrors of war, but it has a fantastic atmosphere. Every leader on both sides of the Danish/Prussian conflict seems insane (other than Bismark) and the small people get the grinding into the dirt that they deserve, and that we, the paying audience, deserve to see.

As the series nears its end, a few fantasy elements have started to creep in, and they just don't belong, in my opinion. Still, well worth a watch.

Also, listening to Danish is fun. Incomprehensible fun for the most part, but every now and again, entire phrases that are identical to English leap out of the dialog.

Other than that, I'm looking forward to the imminent return of Netflix's Orange is the New Black.

Now, if only I could cut the lawn...

When Farts are like Bullets

A thousand years ago, somebody wrote:

Atá ben is tír
ní abar a hainm;
maidid esi a deilm
amal chloich a tailm!

Which you could translate as:

There's a woman from this area
I won't mention her name
but her farts fly
like stones from a sling!

For some bizarre reason, it still shocks and amazes me to find that our ancestors were human beings, who loved to laugh and to mock each other. Who didn't spend every second on their knees in church, or dying of plague or boredom or Vikings. I mean, it's pretty obvious when you see some of the illustrations from the Book of Kells that even monks had grins plastered on their faces most of the time.

Anyway. Bloody rain. Am I right?

P.S. I found the quote here and have altered the translation a little to suit my own taste.


I have little to say for myself right now. I've spent the last few days up to my eyebrows in... nothing. I have relaxed like a pro. I have indulged and yawned and scratched parts of me that haven't seen fingernails in months. Now, I'm shopping for fingernail bleach. Anybody know a good brand?


On top of all that, I've been watching all kinds of stuff. About the best of the bunch, was the Netflix original series Chef's Table. It's a gorgeous, slow-paced documentary that gets right into the hearts and minds of famous chefs and exposes them, neuroses and all, to the light. Marvellous, beautiful. Uncomfortable for vegans, however. Still, I really enjoyed it when I was sick, since I couldn't handle anything fast-paced.

Then, last night, I saw its antithesis in Mad Max: Fury Road. Absolutely stunning action flick/freak show. One long, never-ending chase scene that actually works and that doesn't feel repetitious. If you like action and weirdness and insanity, this could be for you.


Yes, yes, of course I've been reading. Every day, I assure you and in quantity. As always, the good stuff has to be winkled out of its burrow. But I enjoyed Ian McDonald's Sacrifice of Fools. What if 100,000 aliens had landed in Northern Ireland just as the peace process was getting started? I found the results to be intriguing; the aliens to be fascinating; and the politics to be real.

I've also just started Charles Stross' The Jennifer Morgue, and my hopes are high.

Other than that? Pretty much zippo and zilch. I'll be taking today off and I have a course at work all next week that will have me keeping very strange hours indeed. What about you?

The Drowner Hits Facebook... Hard.

Yes, a cursed flu type thing is keeping me off the internets, and yet, older versions of me are still out there, still causing havoc... For example, my very short story, The Drowner, has returned from its watery grave to terrorise Facebook. You can read it here! Or... you can choose not to, and spend the rest of your life steeped in anxiety and regret. You will be a poignant figure that others will point to, a warning to small children of what they might become should opportunities slip away...

Am I over-egging it a bit?

It's all part of showcasing Irish fantastic fiction as the bid to bring WorldCon to Dublin in 2019 ramps up. Lots of incredible authors have already contributed, and there'll be a new one every week until the entire population of the world has been awoken to the power of our cause.

Other than that, does anybody else keep getting the same flu every few months?

Signal Boost: Hank Quense

My friend and fellow author, Hank Quense, is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his next parody novel, Moxie’s Decision. Here is a link to the web page: http://kck.st/1GMJESP.  Hank has put together a great rewards program of ebooks, print books, critiques, and one-on-one lectures on fiction writing, self-publishing and book marketing.
Check it out.

Writing, Watching, Puppies

Wow! I've had one of those bizarrely productive days I read about on other people's blogs, but never quite believe are real. I've typed "The End" on the first draft of "The Fairy Killers" and am madly happy about how it turned out. I cooked, with wholly horrific results. I cycled. I cleaned. I bought vegan ice-cream. It's like I'm one of those super-persons that Netflix are making series about.

I've even found time in the last few weeks to watch everything under the sun. Far too much to blog about here, really, but a quick summary can't hurt too many people.


Yup, I've seen it all. I like Netflix's Better Call Saul, although some of the episodes grab me more than others. I particularly adored the one from last week, called Marco.

Other Netflixy stuff? There's quite a lot of it at the moment, isn't there? It's of very high quality, but it's not all good. Bloodline, in particular disappointed me, for all that the first ten minutes of episode one were gorgeous. But I just don't care about any of it, or any of them. I can't.

Daredevil is much more enjoyable, but nowhere near as brilliant as most of the internet appears to think. It always seems to me that people who like superhero stuff add 20% to their review scores and close their eyes to the most appalling clichés with the remark, "Well, what do you expect? That's superheros!" But yes, I'm up to episode 5 and will certainly watch the rest of the series, because, in spite of the clichés, it does the most important things right: an interesting and likeable lead character; an interesting villain. And violence.

What else?

I'm giving Orphan Black a second chance. I have made it up to episode 5 this time and am beginning to enjoy just how well the main actor portrays her many roles and how much fun she is having with them. The plot should grab me more than it's doing, but I'm not ready to quit just yet.


The entire internet has given its opinion about the Sad Puppies Hugo controversy, so why not me?

I'm going to shock a lot of my friends by saying I have a lot of sympathy for their cause. I too, have found the Hugo shortlists awful these last few years. There are exceptions; some fabulous stories still make it through. But yes, I confess that when reading some of them over the last few years, I have thought that there was no way a particular work could have made it onto the ballot unless dozens of people were voting their friendships or their politics.

But that's a popular vote for you. Any popular vote. And all my sympathy comes to a screeching halt with the introduction of a voting slate. Two wrongs do not make a right, and this became crystal clear last year, because the stuff the puppies voted onto the 2014 ballot was even worse, a lot worse in some cases, than the normal dreck, which was at least well-written dreck, or ambitious dreck.

You know what my plan to fix the Hugos is? I'm going to read a crapton of fiction, and every time I come across something that excites me, I'm going to say so right here on this blog. If enough people do that, genuinely great stuff like Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs might not be shut out of the awards next time around... by a Slate.

All my opinions are just opinions. Except they're my opinions and therefore special.

Anyway, time for some of that ice-cream. Who wants some?


RSS Atom

Latest Month

November 2015


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Keri Maijala