Friday 31 October 2014

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Blog break for Nanowrimo

From now until the beginning of December, I'll be taking a break from my regular blogging to take part in Nanowrimo.

For those who haven't heard of it, Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. It started in the USA (hence the "National" in the title), but has since spread around the world, and Cambridge has a large and active chapter. See the above link for FAQ's and other information.

The honourable emblem of Nanowrimo.

I've entered six times before, and reached the 50,000 word target four times previously, in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013. The novels in question are... not great. Fifty thousand words in a month forces you to concentrate on quantity instead of quality. They were a lot of fun to write though.

Cute Cat Friday will appear as normal, and I'll get back to other blogging in the first week of December; or maybe the second, depending how long I need to recover from my fictioneering marathon.

If I see something which I absolutely cannot restrain myself from ranting about online, I might break blogging silence to do so; but it would have to be pretty spectacular. Otherwise, I will spend November in frenzied typing of another Nanowrimo manuscript.

Friday 24 October 2014

Cute Cat Friday 2014-10-24: Dexter

Watchful cat on the windowsill.

A Song of Books and Television

A few weeks ago I became curious about how sales of A Song of Ice and Fire books compare to viewing figures for the Game of Thrones adaptation for television. I assumed the audience for a TV show with extraordinary levels of violence and nudity would far exceed that for George RR Martin's lengthy books, but this may not be entirely true.

Friday 17 October 2014

Cute Cat Friday 2014-10-17: Belle

Studying how to achieve world domination, or at least proper respect and kowtowing from her human servants.

Thursday 16 October 2014


UK broadcasters caused a stir this week, by announcing the UKIP leader Nigel Farage would be included in televised debates ahead of the 2015 General Election. The proposal is to have three debates between party leaders:
  • Conservatives and Labour
  • Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats
  • Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, and UKIP
The 2010 election debate.
Source: BBC News

All party leaders not named Farage are furious. The leaders of the bigger parties want all of the smaller ones to be excluded, while other small parties want their own place in the debates. Can there be a fair and reasonable solution?

Thursday 9 October 2014

Scotland's Vote 29: Frack on, frack off

The UK government has decided to loosen restrictions on fracking across Britain. This has met with fury from independence supporters in Scotland, particularly the SNP.

To be clear, I think fracking is a terrible idea. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping material into wells under high pressure in order to force pockets of shale gas to be released. The risks are considerable and not well quantified; and if we are serious about combating climate change, finding new ways of extracting hydrocarbons to be burned should not be a priority.

Independence supporters have not been slow to exploit this issue. They claim a vote for independence was a vote against fracking. A casual observer might think Westminster has opened the gates to unrestricted fracking across Scotland, and the Scottish Parliament will be helpless as its most heavily populated regions become a landscape resembling Mordor.

Princes Street Gardens after fracking.

Friday 3 October 2014

Cute Cat Friday 2014-10-03: FLB

This is Furry Little B*****d, our neighbour's cat and a regular visitor to our friend Dave when he lived down the street from us. Apparently his owners call him Oscar, but Dave calls him FLB and as far as I'm concerned the name has stuck. He's a lovely cat really, just with a slight tendency to sink his claws into your thighs if you try to dislodge him from your lap by standing up.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Scotland's Vote 28: The Unthinkable

In his speech after the referendum result, Alex Salmond accused the UK parties of trickery in their offer of additional powers for the Scottish Parliament:

I think that vow was really important and the people who are really angry in Scotland today are not the Yes campaigners, our opinion of the Westminster elite is really pretty low. The people who are really angry are those people who were persuaded to vote No by that vow, by that solemn pledge and are now already beginning to feel let down, angry, disappointed because it looks like they have been tricked.

According to Salmond, the Yes voters were rightly sceptical of anything said by the UK political parties. Meanwhile the poor, trusting, childlike No voters accepted the word of Cameron and Miliband, and they will pay the price when (and if) the UK government reneges on its promises to Scotland.

Salmond appears to believe that on the one hand, the Scots are a proud and capable people ready for the challenges of building an independent nation; but on the other, a majority are craven, servile and gullible. Not for the first time, he displayed notable contempt for No voters.

Alex Salmond making his resignation speech.

If we take Salmond at face value, the referendum was decided by naive faith in the word of Westminster politicians. Are a majority of Scots really so trusting?