December 2009


Last blog of the year most likely. I hope everyone had a good Christmas season.

The weather has been Baltic, the coldest I’ve known it for some years. The snow turned to ice in some places but luckily where I am the roads cleared pretty quickly and were clear throughout the period of bad weather up to now, so there haven’t been problems with travelling, just getting safely from front door to car door.

I have two pieces completed for the Bob Shaw blog and I’m going to post them in the New Year; stretch the blog out a bit seeing as there is limited material to post about. I thought Word 2002 was the culprit of file destruction but Word 2007 is just as bad, seeing as it wouldn’t open one file and that file is now well and truly buggered. The piece was written in Word 2002 just like the other ones but Word 2007 says the file is corrupt. So, I’m not sure if 2002 is writing corrupt files or if 2007 just can’t read them and says they are corrupt. Luckily I copy everything into text files as backup so there is no loss of data, although there is plenty of loss of faith in Microsoft products.

I can’t remember where or how, but I came across Doom Builder and downloaded it. I played Doom lots and lots when it first came out, including Network deathmatches with other people when I should have been working – the nineties were actually good for something. I remember that the early versions of Doom came with a one player three screen option. You could load up Doom on three computers and one person would have a left, right and central view. It was pretty neat watching demons come at you on three different screens.

Doom of course was a great game to play. I have it on two CDs, the Ultimate Doom and Final Doom. Contents of both CDs are about twenty to thirty megabytes each. I tried installing them but Vista won’t touch either Dos or Windows 95 versions. I have to install them (well Ultimate Doom) on a virtual PC: that works although I have to restart the machine in Dos mode. I wonder how many people can still use Dos nowadays? The exe file for Doom is under a megabyte and the WAD file (where all the data is) is twelve megabytes. I have Doom 3 and I don’t think the full installation was less than four gigabytes. That’s progress for you. Doom Builder itself is pretty nifty and it’s easy to make levels with it.

I’m flirting again with Norton Ghost and Virtual Disks. I created a Virtual PC with the original Vista disk, turning the laptop upside down every few seconds so I could type in the serial number: it seemed like a good idea to put the serial number on the bottom of a laptop at one time. Vista Virtual PC created successfully, only a matter of installing Norton Ghost and then seeing if I can restore either the old XP partition or new Vista backup, although I’ve had that many failures with it I don’t hold out much hope of success. Vista took 4 Gigabytes in file size, which is a surprise as I thought it was a bigger operating system than that. Perhaps some zipping and compression is done to the virtual hard disk partitions by the Virtual PC program.

I read somewhere that the BBC has an official pronunciation of next year as twenty ten, not two thousand and ten. Someone should tell them that twenty ten is not one number but two numbers and is in no way a representation of a year, but, seeing as the BBC are thick as two short planks, I doubt if they would take a blind bit of notice.

I’m expecting a couple of books over the next couple of weeks. I bought a Howard hardback on eBay and months ago I bought Son of Retro Pulp Tales, which has been printed and the Subterranean Press web site says they are about to start sending copies out.

I did wonder if it had already been sent out and lost in the post as they announced they had received the printed copies early December. Luckily it hasn’t and fingers crossed I’ll get my copy within a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to it as I spent the extra money and ordered the signed edition.

I like pulp stories and pulp writers (R E Howard, the Doc Savage series, etc) and the main reason I bought the book because it has contributions and new stories by Harlan Ellison and William F Nolan. To be honest if it was either of those writers I wouldn’t have bothered, but both of them made me bite. I’m also expecting my very first pulp magazine to wind its way across the Atlantic. I bought a cheap copy of Weird Tales, but I’ll blog more about that when it arrives.

So, that’s it for this year. Happy New Year to everyone.

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I logged on to check email and found that Yahoo have changed the layout of their home page. And it’s a pretty crappy layout at that. There was a semi change recently which wasn’t too bad but now there’s a list down the left hand side of the page which irritatingly changes as you hover the mouse over an item. The delight of checking mail on Yahoo was that you went to email and clicked once. This took you to the sign in page. You signed in and read email. Nothing wrong with that. If I’m quick enough I can still click once on the Mail icon but that doesn’t stop the page appearing. And nine times out of ten I get a ‘try again’ message before it whisks me off to the sign in page. I’m thinking of moving from Yahoo mail anyway as I’ve recently discovered – because it’s recently been leaked – that they’re willing to sell your details. The document can be found at cryptome.org.

I would prefer to have my own email at my own domain but I’ve grown too used to using Yahoo. I’ve had domains for years but never used the emails that come attached to them. The setting up and logging in to them has not been the easiest of tasks. The whole process is a bit too clunky. Where with Yahoo you sign up and sign in: no configuration of any Email program required. I’ve got a couple of domain names that are due for renewal early in the New Year but I don’t know if I’m going to renew them – I certainly won’t with the company I bought them from. Their renewal charges are about three times what I originally paid. I might pick them up cheap elsewhere and I might not. We’ll see in the New Year.

One of my emails was a free upgrade to a program I have. GDoc Fusion. I’ve owned and used this program for at least ten years. It’s a PDF creator and viewer. It started off life as Jaws PDF. I got a free copy (two or three actually) from Digit Magazine probably ten or so years ago. Since then I’ve upgraded the program (always for under twenty quid) until the last upgrade where it went from being Jaws PDF Creator to GDoc Creator/Fusion. I installed the upgrade on my other laptop and didn’t take to the new program. So, even though I have a full copy of the program now, I don’t think I’ll be using it much. Too entrenched with Jaws I suppose. Like Yahoo email it’s a simple to use program that does what it says on the tin. But the new program has too many unnecessary features. They have to move with the times I suppose but I’m not obliged to follow.

… if I’ve come across my first dodgy dealer on eBay. I lost out in bidding for an item but still received a second chance on it. I decided not to accept it – although there was no option anywhere on the eBay panel to turn it down. Ergo I left it alone. I put in a bid for a signed script from a TV show, after which out of curiosity I searched online for more details about the seller and came up with zilch. That made me a little bit nervous of the authenticity of said script. A website by a professional dealer would be the least I was expecting to find.

Someone pipped me by about roughly three pounds (the auction was in dollars in America) but the next thing I know I’m being offered a second chance to buy it straight away; within hours of the auction ending. With auctions starting and ending at all times people might not even heard they’ve won something until a day later. It was evening for me when the auction ended, I think mid afternoon in the states.

You would think that someone up to no good on eBay would be quickly found out hm? Not if they offer second chances: which is entirely acceptable according to eBay. You could set up an several account and get others to do the same. The other accounts bid on things. If they don’t win fine; if they do win quickly leave positive feedback and then the item is offered to the second person on the list. I know this could lead to negative feedback from people but the chances are low: if anyone won the auction they would be getting what they bid for anyway. The reason for setting up the other accounts would be to drive the price up and generate good feedback. This of course assumes you’re not selling dodgy stuff. I’m not saying this dealer is up to anything, just that it didn’t feel right.

Anyway, enough paranoid ramblings. This Global Warming . …

Bit of a play on words there as there is also a famous baseball player named Bob Shaw in addition to the famous Science Fiction writer.

SF writers have their hits and their misses when it comes to predicting the future – and technology – and some are more successful than others; some are wonderfully unsuccessful.

We don’t have jet packs yet so Bob Shaw can’t point to Vertigo and say I told you so (I know he has passed on but I’m sure he’s somewhere, drinking Guinness and pointing) but this, about scientists working on real slow glass, kindly forwarded to me by Bill Burns, shows that the ‘boffins’ are catching up with some of our finest Science Fiction writers.

… and second time this week I’ve had to use de-icer on the car in the morning, where’s all this global warming: I’m freezing. Speaking of Global warming the mainstream media are still ignoring the CRU email hack, aka ClimateGate, and not fully reporting it, although it does appear to be leaking into the mainstream in bits and pieces here and there. The Daily Express had it as a front page this week.

The USB drive seems a little dodgy; I may have to look into getting a replacement. The one I use is over a year old but I couldn’t tell you how old. The drive is working fine; it’s just that the casing is getting looser and looser.

Browsing on eBay I was doing a search for Robert E Howard books. Going through them I came across Wolfshead, with a picture of it – an American paperback. I realised I’d bought a copy from a dealer years ago and it too appears not to be on my bookshelves. Damn, what is happening to these books? Are the elves kidnapping them? Cos I ain’t paying no ransom.

A right bucket load of Bob Shaw books appeared on an eBay search this week, foreign editions, original Gollancz editions, a lot of them hard back and a lot of them signed. Unfortunately a lot of them I already have. If I win the lottery (assuming I play it) I’ll start collecting signed editions of Shaw’s work. Until then I’ll aim toward a complete collection.

All blogs are individual for this post. I use Windows Live Writer to post to up to four blogs at once, but I do have to log into WordPress now and again to sort the spam out and check on hits, if updates are available, etc. So this one is a copy and paste job into the various blogs.

Three Bob Shaw paperbacks arrived to add to my collection.

I bought a paperback copy of Fire Pattern dirt cheap from eBay and it’s in pretty good nick.

I also bought the American editions of Cosmic Kaleidoscope and Tomorrow Lies In Ambush.

The copy of Tomorrow Lies In Ambush was also signed. This gives a little peculiarity in that both paperback editions of this book I have are signed copies.

These were bought mainly because the American editions have different stories than the UK editions. However only one of those stories is new to me: Element of Chance. The others have since appeared in Shaw’s third short story collection Dark Night In Toyland; Stormseeker appearing in all three of these collections.

Element of Chance itself is a short coming of age story which sounded very familiar as I started to read it, and I wondered if I hadn’t read it before. I hadn’t but the de ja vu was there. An alien being having spent thousands of years alone finds itself nearing the end of childhood and rebels against joining the grown ups. Bob Shaw uses the term skording in this story, which he used again and developed in The Ceres Solution. I don’t think the thanii are in any of Shaw’s other works but they may be.

The action takes place thousands of years before any life on Earth and as usual Shaw’s storytelling is vivid and descriptive, painting pictures with words of far off worlds and of inside a black hole. The ending is similar to one of Bob Shaw’s other stories, Well Wisher. There are a few similarities between the stories, it has the same play on words between story and title, revealed in the surprise ending. It has the same format of a story from the past which affects the future. Nonetheless it was an engaging little story and it was nice to read something ‘new’ from Bob Shaw.