Sunday, 25 April 2010

Post-volcanic kerfuffle

I’m a little late with this, but the complaints of the air travel industry after the eruption of the Icelandic unpronounceable volcano have somewhat bemused me. European airspace was closed based on longstanding international protocols and as soon as it became clear that the eruption was going to last more than a few hours, the authorities immediately started getting test flights in the air and got in touch with the engine manufacturers to start to tackle the immense problem of developing and testing models of how engines would react to the sort of ash released by Eyjafjallajökull. I’m actually highly impressed that it only took them six days to declare that the current engines could fly (to a degree) safely.

I understand that the airline industry has lost a lot of money on this, and that passengers have been stranded, but imagine if they hadn’t taken this action. If they had either let the aircraft continue to fly, or opened the airspace before they were sure that it was safe. Can you imagine the reaction if they had done that and an aircraft had crashed because of it? So I hope the industry stops its whinging and joins me in applauding the amazing speed at which this safety testing work was carried out.

Also, anything that makes Ryanair uncomfortable is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Election debates reaction

I watched the first of the election debates on TV this evening, which turned out to be mostly fairly interesting. I started flagging towards the end when it seemed like the the candidates were constantly repeating themselves, and avoiding the actual question asked even more flagrantly than earlier. I appreciate that the questions were chosen as jumping-off points to discuss more general areas, but some specific questions were completely ignored (such as the health question that specifically referred to the problems of an ageing population; not one of them tackled that question).

I don’t particularly feel that any particular leader “won” the debate. Brown and Cameron spent a lot of time sniping at each other, but Clegg felt a little smarmy to me, as Cameron put it at one point, holier than thou. The habit that all of them had of repeating their core points over and over given the remotest opportunity didn’t particularly help with it. And neither did the fact that many of the questions didn’t have a huge amount of bearing on me, given that policy for health, education and many other areas is devolved (although there will be another debate with the Scottish leaders next week).

The first question, on immigration, made me somewhat uncomfortable with the really “tough” talk by Brown and Cameron saying that there’s too much immigration into this country without, I felt, really recognising the complicated nature of the issue or the positive effect that the different waves of migration have had to Britain over the centuries. Clegg was the only one who recognised that different parts of the country had different needs and would implement a more flexible system, whereby there could be different immigration levels allowed in different parts of the country, to regulate the flow a little – for example, I understand that without immigration Scotland would be in danger of becoming rapidly underpopulated. Cameron and Brown seemed very focussed on the south east of England, where there perhaps is too much immigration for the system to cope with.

So, nothing that really made me change how I’m going to vote, but it did perhaps clarify some of the positions of the different parties on a range of issues. I may have to watch the debate for the Scottish leaders next week to get a better idea of how things will affect me up here, since so many issues are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and I will certainly watch the other debates.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Eleventh Doctor

When I first saw the stills of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as the Doctor and his companion, I really wasn’t impressed. He looked about fourteen, and she even younger. I didn’t think that Smith had what it took to pull off playing the Doctor. Two episodes in, and I’ve never been more happy to have been proven wrong. I was impressed with Smith’s performance right from the opening scenes of The Eleventh Hour – and watching it in the company of hundreds of other fans at Eastercon was a fabulous experience. The positive vibe was confirmed in the second episode, The Beast Below, whose pre-credits sequence was possibly the most terrifying I’ve seen in New Who! There’s also an interesting relationship developing between the Doctor and And and (so far) it seems to be avoiding Rusty T.’s companion-adoration of the Doctor.

So thank you to Smith, Gillan and Steven Moffet for proving me wrong, and for making me genuinely excited about Doctor Who for the first time since 2005.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

WikiSearch now on AMO

After a long period of not-quite-getting-around-to-it, I’ve finally got around to uploading my WikiSearch extension to the public site, the main repository for Mozilla extensions. If you have already downloaded it from LordOfTheMoon, I recommend uninstalling it and getting it from AMO since (once it’s gone through the review process), updates will be available automatically through that site. If not, and would find the ability to highlight a word or phrase on a webpage and search for it in Wikipedia through a right-click useful, then WikiSearch is the extension for you :). Any ratings and reviews are also most gratefully received.

WikiSearch is compatible with SeaMonkey 1.1 and higher and Firefox 1.0 and higher.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Odyssey 2010 report

So Odyssey 2010 is over and I, for one, had a fabulous time. It was a particularly large con, with over 1300 people in the final headcount, including a huge number of on-the-day signups (apparently something that’s not of much use to most cons, since they need to know numbers in advance in order to plan the size of the venues needed and aren’t interested in making a profit). Despite the whopping hotel bill, I’m quite glad I went down to London for it a day either side although, at a pinch, I’d be okay with going down on the Friday rather than the Thursday next time (and, yes, there will be a next time – the same group have had their bid for 2012 accepted and I’m more than tempted to go down – the only reason that I haven’t already signed up is the huge knocking that my wallet has already taken).

This time, I went in a much smaller group than I’ve attended cons with before, with just Stevie and Sacha joining me. I wasn’t sure how this would pan out, but in the end, it worked out pretty well. I’ve never been very good at talking to other people at random, and this helped a lot, since my friends were often at different panels or just crashing out for a bit. Examples of this included at the ceilidh, when they crashed after the first half, I hung around, danced the rest of the ceilidh and then started talking politics with a random chap while recovering; and the last night, when I found myself on my own again, and after chatting a while with one of the Glasgow fans I know from Io, got into a conversation about Fandom with one of the more established fans (who turned out to be Caroline Mullen, chair of the SF Foundation) who then introduced me to some other people who I happily spent the remainder of the evening chatting to.

Some of the highlights of the con for me included:

  • One benefit of coming down a day early was that I was able to meet up with some old school friends in London. I mightn’t have been impressed by their choice of bar (it screamed ‘yuppie’ so loud that it almost overwhelmed the vast crowd in it) but it was lovely to see them and catch up for the first time in many years. They also took me through the ‘gayest street in Soho’ to find a lovely little Italian restaurant where we had dinner.
  • I’m not there yet, but I’m starting to feel part of the con-going community. I’m starting to recognise (and be recognised by) others, especially in Glasgow fandom. I’ve already signed up for the next Glasgow con (Satellite 3 – come along, it’ll be fantastic!) and have taken out a pre-supporting membership for the WorldCon bid for London in 2014. Any UK WorldCon is not to be missed and although Glasgow was discussed and would have been fantastic, London hasn’t had a UK WorldCon since the 1960s and Glasgow has had two recently, it was probably the right decision
  • Most terrifying sentence of the con: I’m a furry! emerging from the mouth of Mad Elf’s little girl, while pretending to be a cat
  • Iain M. Banks was a fantastic guest of honour. The man is a born entertainer and has a huge charisma so is a joy to listen to, whether in a one-on-one GoH interview, on a panel about utopias in SF (particularly interesting to me since I’ve just done a short philosophy course on political and moral philosophy which spent a fair bit of time on the subject) or in a discussion with his old mate Ken MacLeod about the writing process
  • Watching the first episode of Doctor Who in a room with over a thousand other fans. I had been unsure about Matt Smith, but was I was completely won over, and from the noise in the hall and the conversations I overheard afterwards, so was everyone else
  • The terrifyingly full-of-cool-stuff dealers’ room. I eventually had to just stop going in, since every time I went, I came out with more stuff, whether it be a stack of old SF paperbacks two feet tall, con memberships or shiny new SF Masterworks – not to mention a promise from someone at the Gollancz stall to look into getting the complete version of of Cordwainer Smith’s The Rediscovery of Man reprinted, after I got excited at and then disappointed by the new edition of the SF Masterworks one, which is an abridged version
  • The con hotel (the Radisson Edwardian) was pretty awesome, it’s a gloriously elegant hotel with rich furnishings and a wonderful atrium on the second floor which is beautifully light and airy during the day and has lots of hidden nooks and corners, not to mention a missing floor – there’s a reason it’s colloquially known as the Radisson Non-Euclidean! By the time I got around to booking, the hotel was full, so I had to stay down the road in a hotel that was posh but didn’t have the character or charm of the Radisson. That’s another reason to book early for 2012
  • So EasterCon is over and I don’t have any other cons planned until 2012, which seems an awfully long time away. On the other hand, my bank balance will be breathing a sigh of relief. Mind you, now that the Central Hotel is back in business, there’s already talk of a Glasgow EasterCon bid for a few years down the line :-). In the mean time, I have my fantastic memories and a huge stack of books to happily start wading through.

Migrating blogging platforms

This is my first attempt at a post using a locally-hosted WordPress blog due to Blogger deprecating FTP support. I’ve tried to ensure that there won’t be any major disruption – trying to keep the theme as similar as possible; redirecting the existing RSS feeds etc. Apologies if something (the LiveJournal feed) breaks.

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