Thursday 30 May 2024

Book review: Tenth Planet

PXL_20240428_091417650~2 Ah Edmund Cooper. Author of the classic Overman Culture. This one is minor, and arguably somewhat similar - waking up in a new culture the origins of which are to be discovered.

But as Goodreads can hardly fail to notice, the novel is grotesquely sexist, even by the standards of its time. If you can read past that, then the story is interesting enough.

One Goodreads review notices something I failed to: that while very early on we have a male-crewed ship with the exception of the slinky Suzy Wu, who appears in revealing attire and is available for "cheering up" the Captain or anyone else in need, by the end Our Captain has reverted to small-town 1950's morality and any form of sexual un-monogamy (there must be a better word) arouses violence in him (admittedly it is kinda necessary for the plot that he be imprisoned, and escape, and so on; but consistency is also needed).

Book review: The Book That Wouldn’t Burn

FB_IMG_1716632472184 The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is by Mark "Red Sister" Lawrence. I really enjoyed the beginning, but found myself disappointed by the end. Goodreads is enthusiastic.

The young-girl-growing-up-in-a-hard-world-with-secret-protectors is a familiar story but quite well done. The always problematic transition to "the real story" is as ever the difficulty, which Our Author doesn't manage to overcome. There's a nice twist at the end, where we find out where the Assistant and The Soldier have come from and why they look a bit damaged. But, time-travel never works.

Consider: Yute reveals to Livira that her rejection at the hands of the examiners was a test of them, not of her. And yet he learns nothing from their failure. Their failure, by the end, we clearly see is going to lead to the humans being locally wiped out by the sabbers. And yet his reaction is to remain on the sides, taking the easy course of being the wise elder who sighs for the folly of the world but does f*ck all to change it.

But the main failure of all the characters in the book - indeed, the book itself - is to realise that their main problem is tribalism; that they're only fighting because they look different; that fundamentally they are all just intelligent-beings under the skin. And so the solution is to talk. Quite how Yute fails to see this and fails to make even an attempt to do anything about it is a mystery to me - well, other than it would upset the flow of the book, obvs. The reason for the waves of sabbers is only vaguely sketched in, as is whatever economy allows them to survive out in the wastes of dust, and yet be desperate to attack; Our Author is more interested in his Cycles of History that "inevitbaly" lead to alternation, rather than any attempt to make it plausible.

There are echoes of The Library of Babel, except it doesn't quite work like that... individual chambers are large; there are clearly many of them; they clearly don't fit into the physical world; but IIRC none of the characters think it might be infinite. It turns out that the chamber doors are keyed by race, but in an easily gameable way that makes that precaution pointless, but there are only two races... or perhaps we're in a local pocket with only two races. There's no attempt at an explanation of how The Library might work, or come into being. Given that it is a library, and therefore might contain such an explanation, that seems odd. And once you realise it is non-physically-local, it would be natural to attempt to find exits to other worlds; yet no-one tries to do that.

The Exchange is based on the wood between the worlds.

Whatever tech created all this, the current inhabitants are well below it. So we're back in a what's-the-point type situation, whereby all these people and their struggles... just don't matter, in a sense. I'm not sure I experessed that well.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Film review: Howl's Moving Castle

PXL_20240504_141014685 Howl's Moving Castle is a 2004 Japanese animated fantasy film loosely based on the 1986 novel of the same name by British author Diana Wynne Jones; it's another Studio Ghibli.

And the "style" of Mononoke or Tomoro carries over, pleasantly. Except for the bits of "nice" landscape, which tend to be a bit garish and sickly. The "henchmen" are good, and the bombers, and the castle. Visually I mean.

The story is only semi-coherent; treat it as mood-music rather than a structured narrative (where does Markl come from? Why did the Witch show up in a hat shop? Why does Howl want a moving castle in the first place? And so on).

Apparently it is anti-war, but that's a pretty cheap sentiment.

I did find resonance in the bit where the young girl, having become old, finds that what she really wants to do is sit quietly by the side of the lake.

Tuesday 21 May 2024

New bike: Trek

Alas, my old Genesis is no more; stolen from near the Railway bridge while I was reading Lewis and watching the river. I really should have locked it up; one moment it was there, the next not. Here is a photo in memoriam:


From 2015 you'll notice; so it lasted nearly nine years; fair going. It was quite knocked about by the end, and the headset needed attention.

Here's the new one:


It is lovely, even though technically it is a women's bike (m'lord). And indeed technically not new, but second hand; but it has been very well looked after. And here's another view. £420 I think. I could have a red Merida instead, for about the same price. This was from the Science Park Bike Hub which has a good set of ~£400 bikes.

The tires aren't new but are in a decent state, ditto everything else. Rim brakes, Bontrager wheels and tires.

Size identifying pic (56 cm).

I bought a cheapish (£18) combi lock for it, which I might well use day to day; having started using it, I'm finding not taking my keys out of my pocket all the time is rather nice. But for heavier duty I've now spent £85 on an Abus Granit 470 300 mm. That pic also shows that my bike is a Trek Lexa; which it seems hasn't been sold by Trek since about 2015/16, so whoever had my bike used it very lightly indeed. It looks like they were ~£1100 new, and I see them for £250-£400 second hand now, so I'm happy. After riding for a few days: it is lovely to be back on something that is smooth and doesn't click or clatter and the gears just work.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Mother's 90th

We went to the Chilterns for Mother's 90th; to a nice house outside Great Kimble. These are some pix, lightly decorated. Full pix here. Here we all are.


Here's the house - yes, I took the drone. See pix for other views, e.g. this.


We went to La Fiorentina - no ZaZa's - on Friday night. On Saturday we had a slow start having breakfast in various nooks. Here's D, outside.


M and I preferred the window seat. We had a picnic in the Ashridge woods:


We sent the cildren up trees. We climbed trees ourselves:


And we tip-toed through the bluebells.


We visited the monument (E and N on top; D on bottom).


Then home to relax by the pool; a meal at home; and quiet reading for the evening and by the fire.


On Sunday people were tired after Saturday's exertions. I took D and E to see Berkhamstead Castle; Great Gaddesden graves of the Proctor ancestors; a look around the church; then home via Cheddington and Peter's grave. At some point in the afternoon, tennis: Toby initially dominant until Rob remembered how to play.

On Monday M and I walked up in the morning: round the field to Great Kimble and the church.


Then over the road, up to the "fort" which isn't really there any more. I thought drone views might show it up but no; there are a few earth banks. And so after lunch we all parted in the afternoon.

Thursday 9 May 2024

New boots

PXL_20240406_145654076 Following on from the exciting Shoe Size, I bought some new boots. The bright yellow and red is a touch more garish than I might have selected myself given free choice.

These are La Sportive Aequilibrium ST GTX, the "S" being for "Synthetic" rather than leather uppers. There's a BMC review here. Mine were £325 from Ellis Brigham, Cambridge. I had wiffled around for ages trying to choose new boots. They are size 11 / 44, I think.

The old ones were in quite poor shape, and by the end of last summer the soles were well worn down (the yellow Vibram marker was quite worn away, which may be intended as a hint); the front rubber was going; and one of the lace-points had gone. Also, invisibly, a seam inside the right boot had started to rub on my big toe. None of this was actually fatal, and they were still fairly decent boots, so I left them by the municipal rubbish bins in case some tramp wanted to pick them up. They were Salewa (I'm sure) Raven (I think) likely this from the late lamented Outside Cambridge.

About the whiffling: I spent ages trying and failing to just get a new pair of Salewa's, since I liked than; D has a similar but slightly higher grade pair he got first for Ladakh. But after looking around - finally, in Hathersage and London - I ended up in EB Cambridge with these. They cost a little more than I was hoping for but meh. They are perhaps ever so slightly less serious than the Salewa's; the BMC article rates them more B1 than B2; but I'm  not planning ice-climbing in them. They are quite light - 1.3 kg the pair - which was a criterion.