Review of ‘Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott’ NREP2

March 22, 2013

After a second spin of my improvised “random colleagues finder” – the next few people were selected to recommend their favourite books, songs and films to me.

First up was a recomendation from Tom Gallacher, a book…. Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott.

Flatland

I saw “romance” on the tag-line and thought “what on earth!” it seemed unlikely that Tom would suggest such a genre to me, I quickly flicked to the back page to read the synopsis.

Classic of science (and mathematical) fiction — charmingly illustrated by author — describes the journeys of A. Square and his adventures in Spaceland (three dimensions), Lineland (one dimension) and Pointland (no dimensions). A. Square also entertains thoughts of visiting a land of four dimensions — a revolutionary idea for which he is banished from Spaceland.

So I was intrigued.

The book flew by, I loved reading it. A fantastic concept

Wikipedia describes an overview quite well:

Writing pseudonymously as “A Square”, Abbott used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to offer pointed observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture. However, the novella’s more enduring contribution is its examination of dimensions.

After reading the novel I wanted to know more.

A little interesting fact, again from Wikipedia

Although Flatland was not ignored when it was published, it did not obtain a great success. Proof of that can be considered the fact that in the entry on Edwin Abbott Abbott in the Dictionary of National BiographyFlatland is not even mentioned.

The book was discovered again after Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was published, which introduced the concept of a fourth dimension. Flatland was mentioned in a letter entitled “Euclid, Newton and Einstein” published in Nature on February 12, 1920. In this letter Abbott is depicted, in a sense, as a prophet due to his intuition of the importance of time to explain certain phenomena:

Some thirty or more years ago a little jeu d’esprit was written by Dr. Edwin Abbott entitled Flatland. At the time of its publication it did not attract as much attention as it deserved… If there is motion of our three-dimensional space relative to the fourth dimension, all the changes we experience and assign to the flow of time will be due simply to this movement, the whole of the future as well as the past always existing in the fourth dimension. —from a “Letter to the Editor” by William Garnett. in Nature on February 12, 1920.

My colleague Mike pointed out that rating a book on a flat score is pretty silly/useless, summed up by this wonderful XKCD comic:

XKCD – problem with ratings

So instead of rating this book, I’ll just say that I loved reading it and I’ll pass on TomG’s recommendation and state that you should too.

Review of ‘The Way of the Shadows’ NREP1

March 8, 2013

Following on from my series of posts about new recommended experiences, Adam Tomkins recommended I read ‘The Way of the Shadows’ by Brent Weeks.

I think Adam already knew I was going to struggle when he handed me the book! I have only recently, just got back into reading and it is no small book… in fact Adam mentioned that if I like it I’d be reading the full set!download

The problem was, I left the book sitting on my shelf for a week or so, and it felt like a big undertaking to start reading it… not a great start.

Eventually I decided to start, and I began reading a few nights back.

The next thing that struck me was that it was fantasy and involved a good imagination of the particular genre (assassins), and I was not making very good progress – the first chapter alone took 2 nights – and it is not very many pages! I had to keep referring back to names and re-reading sentences that I couldn’t envisage in my minds-eye.

Long and short of it is that I failed, I read 5 chapters, but I just can’t continue… if in a years time I am reading fuller novels I may return to it. As it stands at the moment, fantasy/assassin novels are just not my thing – let alone large books.

Judging by opinion on the web, if you do like this genre – then this is a good book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3227063-the-way-of-shadows (4.15 stars out of 5)

Unfortunately it just wasn’t for me.

My score would be 4/10 I’m afraid – but that is more a reflection of my reading abilities rather than the book itself.

Review of Derek NREP1

February 27, 2013

Following on from my series of posts about new recommended experiences, Syd Nadim recommended suggested that I watch an episode of Ricky Gervais’ new comedy show “Derek” as Ricky, himself, was ‘biggin’ it up, as some of his best work’

I had already seen a 10 minute clip and wasn’t sure – but I do happen to like Ricky’s work; I loved the office,  loved the early podcast work with Steven Merchant and Karl Pilkington (still has me in stitches when I listen again in the car), I have also seen him live in stand-up and I also think this is an excellent blog post: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/12/19/a-holiday-message-from-ricky-gervais-why-im-an-atheist/

He can come across as an arse sometimes, but even following him on twitter can throw up hilarious tweets and conversations with some of his ‘antagonistic non-fans’.

e.g:

@rickygervais : “Hey asshole, I definitely haven’t evolved from a monkey” And your tweet confirms that.

So thought I’d give a full episode a watch.

I watched Episode 3 “The Frog” – bits of it were hilarious, some of it strangely touching and the rest I didn’t get and found very strange viewing.

Overall, I wouldn’t rate it amongst his best work – but still quite funny and did find my self laughing out loud in places.

I’d give it a 7 out of 10, will try another episode soon.

Review of 1984 by George Orwell NREP1

February 19, 2013

Following on from my last post, the next piece of recommended art was 1984 by George Orwell (recommended again by Josh Wilson)

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Overall, I would rate the experience of reading the book a 9 out of 10.

I must confess that it has been a while since my last full read of a book, so the score is bolstered by the fact that it felt like a long lost, forgotten and enjoyable habit.

Also, having never read a George Orwell book I was bemused by what all the fuss was about!
Having now read it, I can quite see why he causes so much heated opinion. I was gobsmacked by the sheer impact of this piece of work:

The effect of Nineteen Eighty-Four on the English language is extensive; the concepts of Big BrotherRoom 101, the Thought Policethoughtcrimeunpersonmemory hole (oblivion), doublethink (simultaneously holding and believing contradictory beliefs) and Newspeak (ideological language) have become common phrases for denoting totalitarian authority. Doublespeak and groupthink are both deliberate elaborations ofdoublethink, while the adjective “Orwellian” denotes “characteristic and reminiscent of George Orwell’s writings” especially Nineteen Eighty-Four. The practice of ending words with “-speak” (e.g. mediaspeak) is drawn from the novel.[65] Orwell is perpetually associated with the year 1984; in July 1984 an asteroid discovered by Antonín Mrkos was named after Orwell.

In September 2009, the English alternative rock band Muse released The Resistance, which included songs influenced by 1984.

References to the themes, concepts and plot of Nineteen Eighty-Four have appeared frequently in other works, especially in popular music and video entertainment. An example is the worldwide hit reality television show Big Brother, in which a group of people live together in a large house, isolated from the outside world but continuously watched by television cameras.

In November 2011, the United States government argued before the US Supreme Court that it wants to continue utilizing GPS tracking of individuals without first seeking a warrant. In response, Justice Stephen Breyer questioned what this means for a democratic society by referencing Nineteen Eighty-Four. Justice Breyer asked, “If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States. So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like 1984….”

In 1984, the book was made into a movie which starred John Hurt as the central character of Winston Smith. In 2006, the movie version of V for Vendetta was released, which has many of the same running themes and principles as 1984. An episode of Doctor Who called “The God Complex” depicts an alien ship disguised as a hotel containing Room 101-like spaces, and quotes the nursery rhyme as well.

- from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four), 19 Feb 2013

 

I found it on one hand; both incredible that he could foresee and have so much influence on future artwork/culture and yet on the other hand, I also felt his out-look was extremely negative and I couldn’t find myself agreeing with the extent of the story (if indeed it was supposed to be predicting the future or just a warning), be it for artistic effect or actual belief, I felt that he tried to manipulate my thoughts on ‘the state’ and what that entails and means.

Book (or section) 1 and 3 absolutely flew-by but I found Book 2 very hard going, but I am glad to have come out of the other-side!
Unfortunately, and despite it getting a 9 out of 10 – I actually felt quite deflated at the end result of Winston’s demise.

If you like books and want to read a classic – I implore you to read 1984.

Just please don’t trust, or get brainwashed, by the Party or Big Brother!

- Big thanks to Josh Wilson for the recommendation and lend.

 

New ‘recommended’ experiences (Part 1)

February 1, 2013

Recently, I have been listening to “I’ve never seen Star Wars on Radio 4” - it’s really good/funny, I’d recommend it.

It got me thinking…. there are loads of films, songs and books I’ve never seen, heard or read. Rather than just going through a list of potentials – I could utilise the  power of friend/colleague recommendations!

I randomly picked some colleagues and asked them if they could recommend a film, music album or book (or all 3) that I hadn’t seen, from their top favourites.

This blog will detail (ongoing) the recommendations made and my rating of them.


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First up, my colleague Josh Wilson recommended this Album: Foals – Antidotes

I had heard Cassius (track 2) before, but not the others.

So I listened to it all in one go and quite enjoyed it. It wouldn’t make my own top 10 albums – but it was certainly a good listen, I’ll definitely star a few of the tracks on my Spotify list.

I’d give it 7.5/10

Next up, two books and a TV series:

  • 1984 by George Orwell (recommended by Josh)
  • The Way of the Shadows by Brent Weeks (recommended by Adam Tomkins)
  • Derek (recommended, or rather anticipated as good, by Syd Nadim)

Motorway Signs…. grrrrr

December 20, 2012

For a while now, I have been paying more and more attention to motorway signs (VMS) and the more I take notice, the more ridiculous I am finding them.

This morning I got onto the M40 at Junction 9 headed for the M25 – immediately the signs were telling me that M40 Junctions 2 to 1 had “LONG DELAYS, AVOID” – after the 4th or 5th sign (10 minutes in) I thought to myself, “it’s simply not clearing, had better re-route myself and pull off before Junction 2.”

The signs continued all the way but when I got to Junction 3 the road was closed… “oh no!” I’ll have to endure the long delays :(

But the traffic kept-up a very good pace… in fact there was no traffic whatsoever, even at Junction 2 and 1 no traffic was evident and the signs still made it look like hell was in full flow.

Had ‘they’ simply left the signs up? Did the traffic exist in the first place or where the Highways Agency trying to muck people around?

This isn’t a one-off either;

Every morning I listen to the excellent BBC Radio 4, but they don’t have traffic announcements, so I use the TP button on my radio:

TA, TP (traffic announcement, traffic programme)
The receiver can often be set to pay special attention to this flag and, for example, stop the tape/pause the CD or retune to receive a traffic bulletin. The TP flag is used to allow the user to find only those stations that regularly broadcast traffic bulletins whereas the TA flag is used to signal an actual traffic bulletin in progress, with radio units perhaps performing other actions such as stopping a cassette tape (so the radio can be heard) or raising the volume during the traffic bulletin.

On about 5 or 6 occasions now I have heard the radio traffic presenter tell me to ignore the road signs as drivers had noticed the signs were misreporting traffic. On one instance the driver had stated that the sign had been left up for an entire day after the accident!

What is the deal? Is it old technology that takes ages to turn off?
In my head the Highways Agency has a modern call/control centre with the ability to monitor and update drivers via the electronic signs… but perhaps it is much less sophisticated that that, perhaps it is some poor chap who is quite slow and has to travel to various offices to control the signs? Who knows?!

Either-way, I have completely lost faith in the signs. This morning if the road hadn’t have been closed I would have added 40 minutes to my journey for absolutely no reason.

In the build up to the Olympics the signs said (3 months+ before the actual opening ceremony!):

“For Olympic events plan your journey, arrive in time.”

What does that even mean! that doesn’t help at all… of course I plan my journey!

According to one report I read, the signs cost the UK £70 Million pounds just to install, surely we are not getting value for money if they report the wrong bleeding information!

One forum I read has suggestions for what the signs could display instead!..

POINTLESS MESSAGES COST LIVES

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?

HELP! TRAPPED WRITING SIGNS FOR PIZZA

CAUTION – ZOMBIES AHEAD

THIS SPACE FOR RENT

4 8 15 16 23 42 THAT’S NUMBERWANG

FROGS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT

THIS SIGN DELIBERATELY BLANK

NICE SIGN SHAME ABOUT THE MESSAGE

HONK IF YOU LIKE MATRIX SIGNS

Ridiculous

Heteronyms, Homographs and of course Homephones and Mondegreens

May 2, 2012

I am lost in a world of mixed meanings. The ambiguity is too much!

A ‘heteronym’ is

“one of a group of words with identical spellings but different meanings and pronunciations”

A ‘homograph’ is

“a word that shares the same written form as another word but has a different meaning”

A homophone’ is

“a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning”

A ‘mondegreen’ is

“the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning”

So to test you…

“I resent the invoice”

Do you resent it? or have you re-sent it?
Is this:

  • a) a heteronym
  • b) a homograph
  • c) none of the above and just spelt wrong

“Time To Live”

How long it should exist, or perhaps when should it be published ?

a, b or c?

p.s TTL the technical acronym, means lifespan, not the question “when it will it be active?”.

“Is it appropriate to appropriate this bit of software?”

a,b or c?

Some more confusing items for your pleasure:

“I like to read. In fact, I read a book yesterday.”

“the sky” vs. “this guy” (listen to Purple Haze by Jimmy Hendrix) … ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy/sky’.

“real eyes, realize, real lies”

“four candles” vs. “fork handles”

“They were too close to the door to close it.”

“The farm was used to produce produce.”

The button was so minute that it was a minute before I found it.”

£40 a week on Groceries

March 6, 2012

Having told a few friends and colleagues about our grocery shopping I realised that my fiancée and I are pretty good when it comes to food shopping.

We decided a long time ago that we were; wasting too much food (going out of date) & wasting too much money  - so we set ourselves a budget and a plan.

We allow ourselves £40 for food shopping and it must contain a recipe with 1 red meat, 1 white meat, 1 fish, 1 vegetarian and the rest are free as we wish.
£40 is not a lot of money, most people spend in excess of £90-£100 on their weekly shop – so to achieve the above rule we have to plan quite heavily.

Essentially, we sit down with our recipe books, laptop and notepad and plan the week’s meals, making sure that if we find a recipe we want to use for the week we find other recipes with similar ingredients, we write the list and either: shop online and make sure it comes in at as close to £40 as possible or work out what is not necessary… or if we shop via the traditional method we both save the list on our iPhones (Wunderlist app) and tot it up in our heads as we go around the shop (leaving “nice to have” ingredients until last).

A few things that really stand-out having done this for a while are:

  • Don’t use prepared jars of sauces (they don’t taste as nice and are more expensive that the raw ingredients to make yourself)
  • Fruit and Veg is pretty cheap if you spend the time to look what is in season
  • Avoid special offers that mean you pay more, such as 2 for £2 etc – Discounts, however can be very good
  • Don’t shop when you are hungry
  • Meat tends to be the items that you need to spend the most on to get nice meals
  • Many, many recipes share common traits (chopped tomatoes and onions or milk and cheese)
  • Whole Chickens (roasting) are very versatile – you can easily get 2 or more meals (including boiling bones for stock) from it

It works really well, we have really nice meals – all prepared fresh. It also means that come the end of the week we don’t tend to find we have to throw anything away (one downside is that the fridge is very empty at the end of the week when you go looking for a snack!).

On top of this, if we really like a recipe – I blog it so that we can easily do it again – you can see the blog on http://reciblog.tumblr.com/

Having heard how other people shop we feel pretty good about not wasting much and not over spending.

Free now, Ads Later vs 69p model

January 10, 2012

If I were lucky enough to create a website, mobile app or similar that had a large user base and successful, I believe I’d employ the following model:

Free for all users for a year

After a year the application would give the user 3 choices:

  1. Continue to use as free, but with advertising
  2. Continue to use as free, but open to sell their data to third-parties
  3. Charge an annual fee of 69p

I am very interested to see what people would choose. Personally I’d go for the micro-payment option (option 3), what would you go for?

Help!…Book

November 24, 2011

and now for the obligatory apology for not blogging for a while (how many blogs contain a similar apology!)… my excuse? read on.

The saying goes “Everyone has a book in them” but the more I think about this, the more I find that I dispute it.. Perhaps the quote should become “Everyone has a book in them, but it probably isn’t that good”!

That said, I thought to myself – why not give it a go? I might learn something in the process – so I have written a rough outline for a book and started filling the chapters.

Ok, so now as my blog title suggests.. I need some help. If you fit the following criteria and you are a kind soul, please would you consider giving me some constructive criticism?

  • Enjoy reading sci-fi books
  • Can spare 10 or so minutes (no time constraint what-so-ever)
  • Can provide constructive criticism and advise me whether to continue

If you can do the last point in-particular, please leave me a comment with your email address (I’ll make sure it is not published to the world) and I’ll send what I have so far :)

Thanks, hoping for at least 1 person!


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