Simon’s Backup Weblog

Recent Reads

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 30, 2007

Recently read books, with one line capsule reviews.

Neil Gaiman/Charles Vess: Stardust
Deluxe reprint of the original illustrated novella, with additional sketches.
Will Hubell: Sea Of Time
Time paradox novel that gets too caught up in its own twists.
Larry Niven : The Draco Tavern
FThirst contact short short stories
Jennifer Cruise/Bob Mayer: Agnes and the Hitman
Chick lit meets action thriller in a rom com deep south mafia crossover.
Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Fun fantasy romp that’s a lot more derivative of Thieves World than it cares to admit.
Eric Flint/K. D. Wentworth: The Course of Empire
Hefty SF novel in which a defeated humanity needs to cooperate with its conquerors to survive.
John Birmingham: Final Impact
The final part of his alternate Second World War series.
S. M. Stirling: A Meeting at Corvallis
SCA vs Wicca in the latest of the ongoing post-civilisation Change series. This isn’t your mother’s Renaissance Faire…
Karl Schroeder: Sun of Suns
Far future gas bubble zero-G coming of age story (with added pirates).
Terry Pratchett: Going Postal
The story of the Diskworld postal service as allegory for many things.
David Weber: At All Costs
The body count gets enormous in the latest Honor Harrington space epic.
A. Lee Martinez: Gil’s All Fright Diner
A vampire and werewolf walk into a diner. Weird Lovecraftian shit ensues.
Charles Stross: The Clan Corporate
Miriam gets caught up in family plots and machinations, while walking the worlds.
Kage Baker: The Machine’s Child
Mendoza is back with her true love(s) and Doctor Zeus is in big trouble.
Jo Walton: Farthing
All to close to home “if this goes on” story of an alternate 1940s, in the guise of a country house detective story.
Elizabeth Moon: Command Decision
Vatta’s war starts getting official in the latest instalment of the space opera series.
Jennifer Crusie: The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes
The paranormal romance gets the Crusie snark treatment. It’s just a pity about the other two writers in this shared world…
Charles Stross: The Merchants’ War
Stross’ story of the world walkers shifts register amid a rising body count.
Fred Gallagher: Megatokyo: Volume 5
Manga-inspired romance webcomic collection.
Donna Andrews: No Nest for the Wicket
More bird-themed humorous mysteries for the blacksmith detective. This time her wacky family discover extreme croquet.
Diane Duane: Storm at Eldala
Role-playing tie in novel that trundles along on rails.
George R. R. Martin: A Feast for Crows
It’s all getting Dark Ages in Martin’s massive fantasy. Swords are drawn, and much blood is shed.
Richard Morgan: Woken Furies
Competent space opera with a noir tinge, and a touch of cyberpunk. Morgan’s world-building is finally improving…
Various: Glorifying Terrorism
A collection of (illegal) fictions protesting a bad law. A mixed, if worthy, bag.
Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson: Hunting Harkonnens
Promotional Dune novella.
Gary Gibson: Angel Stations
Intriguing space opera, with humanity living in the ruins of a vanished civilisation, using its tools without understanding them…

Another 26 books to add to this year’s list…


Evening Reflections (with Palace)

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 30, 2007

Evening Reflections (with Palace)

After an afternoon of meetings and briefings in the city, it was a relief to walk through some green space on the way home. St James’ Park is one of my favourite London spaces, and this evening it was especially lovely. The sun had just set, and the sky was a deep blue, edged with apricot, reflecting in the park’s lake.

All was calm, and all was quiet. An oasis of peace in the hustle and bustle of the city rush hour.

St James’ Park, London
October 2007

O Noes it’s LOLcode.NET

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 26, 2007

While feeling I want to channel Charlton Heston at the end of Plant Of The Apes, shouting “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”, I feel I have to point out to all of you (and especially ).

It’s a .NET implementation of LOLcode, a spoof computer language based on LOLcat. Here’s that classic computer program, HAI WORLD in LOLcode:


(There’s also an Erlang implementation, for the really cutting edge among you)

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming, while I play with virtual robots for a while.

Wonderful Photography

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 23, 2007

Once of my favourite sections of National Geographic is its Visions of Earth. Each month there’s a set of full page images, all stunning views that amaze, astound and inspire.

Now you can download a selection of them as desktop backdrops.



Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 21, 2007

Today’s ultracamp Interweb weirdness: Screencaps from the Batman TV show, with captions from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.

Holy Oh Noes Batman!

Link via Vicious Imagery

Pacific Sunset

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 20, 2007

PCH Beach Sunset

The sun sets over the Pacific, while the dusk sky reflects in a still lagoon.

Sunset at San Gregorio State Beach, south of Half Moon Bay off the Pacific Coast Highway.

San Gregorio Beach, California
October 2007

The New Ties That Bind

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 20, 2007

The New Ties That Bind

Telephone pole in a Putney street, against an autumn sky.

Putney, London
October 2007

Always, the Mountain

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 20, 2007

Always, the mountain

Mount Rainier dominates the landscape around Seattle, standing high above the rest of the Cascades.

Mount Rainier, Washington
September 2007

User Icons Explained (7 of 68)

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 20, 2007

In one of those memes that goes around, asked me to explain seven of my user icons. So here they are.

Black Helicopters
The image comes from one of The Register’s t-shirts, and refers to a series where helicopters were spotted in Google Earth maps. I use it for posts related to conspiracy theories, something I’ve been interested in for a while. Not that I believe in them, instead I find them a interesting example of the story-telling impulse at work. (I sometimes use the icon when I’m linking to an article of mine on ElReg).

A section of the cover art of Chris Roberson’s Paragea, a rather fun homage to the planetary romances of the early part of the 20th century. I just liked the picture, and used it as my default user icon for a while. The main character is the (fictional) second woman in space, still in her suit…

Steam Train Geek: Shay
The manufacturers plate from a Shay narrow gauge articulated locomotive, taken at Roaring Camp Railroads in the Santa Cruz mountains. I used to volunteer on the Ffestiniog, and still remain interested in narrow gauge railways. Articulated locomotives like the Shay and the Fairlie are a particular interest of mine, as they offered a particularly elegant solution to the problem of getting a powerful locomotive around the tight radiuses of a narrow gauge line.

Libere El Raton!

Free the Mouse! A Che Guevara styled image of Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons and copyright reformist. Copyright laws are broken, and as a content creator I have a vested interest in their rebuilding into something that’s equitable and still lets me make a living. And why the Mouse? Well, every time Mickey Mouse looks likely to fall out of copyright, the Disney corporation is one of the biggest lobbyists for copyright extensions.

Jersey Pride 1204 – 2004

I’m a Jerseyman, and 2004 was the 800th anniversary of the island’s constitution. We’ve got a lot of history, going back a long time, and I’m happy to be “vrai Jerri”. I also have this as a car sticker!

Creme Simon

I just like late 19th and early 20th century French advertising. The artists wrote the rules for poster design, and elevated them to the levels of high art. And, hey, it’s my name!

Bryan Talbot: Me from Heart of Empire

Bryan’s an old friend of ‘s (and I guess, now me too). We’ve followed the last few works of his from script to print and beyond, and Bryan asked us to pose as foreground background characters for his second Luther Arkwright graphic novel, Heart of Empire. We have the originals on the wall in the lounge, along with many other pieces of Talbotania – including our wedding invitation that Bryan kindly designed for us. Oh, and go buy Alice in Sunderland!

Microsoft’s Mini Wiki

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 20, 2007

I’ve been playing with Listas, Microsoft’s online list-sharing application. Just out in public beta, Listas is perhaps best thought of as a wiki for the rest of us, focussed on editing and storing those lists we keep making and keep forgetting to carry around with us. Like a wiki, you can make a public list a community, with readers encouraged to edit entries or create new ones. Private lists remain for your eyes only, while others can be made read only.

There’s an IE toolbar if you want to use Listas as a tool for storing research notes, or if you’re co-browsing with co-workers…

Listas shows its SharePoint ancestry in its WYSIWYG outlining tool, and in its simple UI (though I’m, not sure about the beta’s orange colour scheme). Sign on with a Windows LiveID, and you can start creating and sharing lists.

There’s one big problem with Listas, and that’s that it doesn’t go far enough. Ray Ozzie has said that Microsoft’s Live brand is about delivering software that works better when connected to online applications. Microsoft already has a desktop outliner in the shape of OneNote, so why doesn’t it link the two applications? After all, I have my to do lists in OneNote, along with a selection of other lists that I might want to access when I’m on the road. Listas could be the ideal solution, a simple online outliner that synchronises key documents with OneNote.

It shouldn’t be difficult to bring the two together. SharePoint is part of the Office family, and it’s become an effective enterprise document management tool. If Microsoft can SharePoint’s list management elements and turn them into consumer services,it should be able to do the same with its document management tools. I don’t mind if it uses SkyDrive as a synchronisation hub, as long as it gives me the tools to blend my online and offline experiences the way I want…

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