March 2010


As per, triple whammy with road tax, first community charge payment and electric bill. I delayed road tax till last possible moment in the hope that the payment will be on next month’s credit card. I’ll find out whether I was successful or not when the bill comes in. Phone bill also came in and there was a one off charge which, after I called and complained, was removed from my bill with apologies. It just shows you what chancers companies are nowadays.

Bought some DOS software on eBay; £20 and half of that was postage. I only got it because it came with a pack of printed manuals. Online help is quick and nice but sometimes you want to sit and read a book not stare at pixels. I’ve got DosBox on my USB drive, so if I can find or borrow a USB floppy I can install the software on the U3 USB.

1.5GB of broadband used this month, with over one week when I wasn’t even online. Must be the lowest usage month since I got broadband. I did look at some of the broadband providers, as I was thinking of switching, but if I’m not using my allocated amount. … Sky seemed good, but they have set up fees for two out of the three packages they offer, and set up fees to me are deal killers.

Finally finished Son of Retro Pulp. I left Harlan to last and he didn’t disappoint. There were some really good stories in the collection, particularly Joe R. Lansdale’s ‘The Crawling Sky’, and there were a wide variety of pulp genres presented, from hard boiled detective to weird. I might try and hunt down the first book. That being said there were a few errors not spotted by the proof readers, page 101 (I think that’s the page) having a few of its own, with one or two dotted around in a couple of other stories. These didn’t distract from the reading of the stories but were noticeable.

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Eek! I’ve just found out that ninety five percent of the UK is on Google Street View! So I checked my town, and yes, my house is there. Luckily the grass was cut. Don’t know when it was that Google streeted the place but I’d guess the pictures were taken less than a year ago. The time is around mid morning I think. Hardly any cars parked in the streets, not many people going about. Although, having said that it appears to have been taken over a series of days. Some of the pictures show sunny skies some a little cloudier. I noticed a few chavs as I viewed the rest of the town and the surrounding area. I’m still undecided if Google Street View is a good thing or a bad thing.

I did a serious pruning of my bookmarks (backing up beforehand of course) and it went from over 2MB as an export down to 731 K for an export. Firefox now loads a little quicker (or is that just me?). I just took off all the sites I visit rarely, or haven’t visited for a long time. It’s amazing how much there were. Of course, I have a habit of bookmarking sites often and on whim, so they do tend to build up.

I use Google Reader so any site that I’m going to regularly means that I can visit it through that; it doesn’t do just blogs. I’ve added other sites to the list on Google Reader, so it’s becoming a default one stop shop. Not that I’ve been online much lately. I’ve access to broadband usage through my Madasafish account and there are a lot of days where it says 0 K.

Driving back into my home town at the weekend I noticed there was still some snow on hill tops. Not much but it was noticeable, and it hasn’t gone during the week either. So we’re well into March and still some snow lying.

I bought a couple of Quick Reads recently, one of them turned out to be pretty naff even though it was from a top name author; I’ll leave the other one till later. I think they’re a great idea. About a hundred pages, £1.99. Great for a short burst of reading; provided you can get decent enough stories. I’m halfway through a Doc Savage at the moment and I’ve just one story left in Son of Retro Pulp Tales. Plus the new issue of Interzone has arrived. Gadzooks! subscription up after next issue.

When I was in town at the weekend situations conspired to give me a free lottery ticket. I found out when I got home and was putting the receipt into my accounts package.  Yes, I’m anal like that. It used to be that there was no money left at the end of the month and I was asking Where has it all gone? I got Sage Instant from eBay for about £40 a couple of years ago and keep track of all my finances now. Bank accounts, Credit Cards, ISAs, cash in hand. There’s still no money left at the end of the month but I know where it all went. I’d like to say that the free ticket made me a millionaire but it didn’t. Only two numbers came up on it. Not even a tenner.

The Two Timers is one of Bob Shaw’s earlier novels, dating from 1968, and like his first few early novels published in America before being published in the UK. Indeed The Two Timers, actually his third novel, was the first of Shaw’s novels to be published in the UK, by Gollancz in 1969.

The basic plot of the novel is standard SF fare, but Shaw lifts this novel up with his characterisation and the emotional depth that he puts into the main characters. Conflict and consequences of choice are prevalent throughout the book, and indeed are the driving force of this novel.

I remember vaguely Roger Moore starred in a film with a comparable plot, released around the same time – give or take a couple of years either side. I can’t even remember the name of the film let alone when it was released. I do remember it had that late sixties early seventies feel to it and was made by Moore before he became Bond.

The novel The Two Timers starts with John Breton receiving a telephone call from someone who says Breton has been living with the other’s wife for the past nine years and he’s coming round to the house to reclaim her. Breton’s first thought is that it is a practical joke. Breton returns to his wife and house guests, who are indulging in automatic writing, the result of which is a poem that puts Breton on edge. Breton remembers the night he almost lost his wife and a mystery is introduced when it is revealed she was saved by a mystery man who disappeared. After escorting their dinner guests to their car Breton stays at the doorway to smoke a cigarette in the cool evening air, and then is surprised by the appearance of the man who called him earlier, still on a mission to get back his wife.

The second chapter takes up from that moment and is told from the perspective of the other Breton, Jack Breton. Jack proves who he is with the recounting of an early personal memory. Jack Breton tells a tale of a night when his wife was attacked; only with his tale his wife dies and is not saved by a stranger. He blames himself; so much so that he ends up in hospital. Breton continues to replay the incident in his head, and he slowly begins to think that he can travel in time.

Months pass and the idea that he can find a way to travel through time seeps into him and consumes him. Then he does go back in time and saves his wife. But on returning to his present he finds that nothing has changed, he remembers her funeral, she is not at the family home; greeting him with open arms and a smile. And so his quest to regain his wife begins again.

The appearance of Jack Breton into the lives of John and Kate Breton is a very neat, incredibly inventive twist in the eternal love triangle. The situation becomes which version of Breton will win the woman?

The novel develops further with a new twist in the story in that there appears more and more evidence for mind to mind contact, telepathy: the poem from the first chapter proves to be something that the new arrival, Jack Breton, had written in his despair, and tests in laboratories showed success for some people up to a level of one hundred per cent in psychic tests. Add to this the fact that the original police officer who investigated the case still has suspicions about Breton and the tensions in the story ratchet up a notch.

I read the novel in a couple of sittings way back in the late eighties, having bought a second hand edition of the SF book club printing of The Two Timers. I recently purchased a Gollancz hardback copy for quite a bit of cash, although I’ve still to get a paperback copy of the book. When I first read this novel it was a fun, enthralling read.

Shaw grabs you right at the start and drags you through a story of alternative timelines, alternative universes and personal turmoil. It’s a novel that is more emotive and dealing with deeply personal issues than some of his works and is all the better for it. Of course, it can’t be any less personal seeing as the protagonist is facing an antagonist who claims to be him. Even though it’s one of his earlier novels and not as well developed as some of his later and more mature work – which only comes from time – it is a well constructed, well plotted and very well executed work.

I found The Two Timers a satisfying read when I first read it and a very good and competent piece of writing when I went through it again to brush up on it before starting this review. In the later chapters of the book there are a lot of characters introduced who have little to do with the main plot, and although they may have been introduced to show the effects of the time travel, it does deter a little from what is a powerful and tantalizing story that is well told by Bob Shaw.

First blog of March. I hate March. The ‘Community Charge’ returns, Road Tax is due in March, the winter bills come in during March. Not a happy bunny month.

I signed into one of my domain names using the Control Panel today; first time I’ve done that for months and months – probably over a year. Since I started using blogs and then Windows Live there was no need to sign into the actual domain name itself. There are about seventy emails, mainly notifying me of failure to deliver. I contacted Compila about this before and they said there was nothing that can be done about it. Apparently some spammer sends out spam and the return address is my domain. I’m not the only one this happens to.

I came across a blog or site a couple of years ago from someone who was getting the same done to them. They also said that there was nothing that could be done.

The good thing is that the emails are from last year, which means the email box is full and any new ones that come in get bounced automatically due to the mail box being full to the brim. I blogged about that and the paradox it may create last year I think.

As some sites have said they will no longer support Firefox Version Two I downloaded and installed the portable version of Firefox V3 on my USB stick. It’s slick, slow and shyte. It stopped responding about half a dozen times within a few days. Version Two never gave me any noticeable trouble in the past two or three years. I think there were only about a handful of crashes in that whole time. Not sure how many were attributable to Firefox and how many to other causes but overall Version Two was very stable.

I’m guessing here but I think Version Three is writing temporary data to the USB drive; which is slower than an ordinary drive to begin with. Version Three is the PortableApp version, while Version Two is the U3 edition.

It was easy enough to transfer all settings and bookmarks; I just copied them from the folder in Version Two and pasted them into the same folder in Version Three. Launch Firefox 3 and voila, all bookmarks and all password settings right there. Since I installed it the trouble has been ongoing; slow response from the program, crashes, hassle. I don’t care which sites stop supporting Version Two of Firefox I’m going to keep on using it.