Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The Dark Knight Redux

I'm meeting my mum and sister at FACT in about an hour to go and see The Dark Knight again.

Can I count that as one of my thirty films a second time or is that, as my brain is telling me, a little bit cheeky?

I know I did a whole "three months" post a few days ago, but I think tomorrow (so long as my counter is right) it will be 101 days since I started. I'm thinking of going through the list and tweaking some of my things, especially the one about reading "Cerberus" - I might change that to reading all of "The Invisibles" or all of "Transmetropolitan". It would be good to read one of those all the way through I think.

For now I will keep the one about growing a beard in the style of Gregory House...

Friday, 25 July 2008

Template question

I've just been tweaking the template code for simple stuff to widen the text areas for the main body and the sidebar, that all seems fine. My template skills are non-existent however, I only knew how to widen the columns because I looked over the code and picked out stuff to do with pixels and so on. What I want to do is add a horizontal break line after each post, so that the format would be something like


and so on. Anybody know of any way to do that, or know where I should look for assistance?

The Dark Knight

Here's my review of The Dark Knight:

"Amazing beyond words."

Don't really know what to add to that. It was one of the most brilliant films I've seen in the last few years, a sprawling, epic story which tied together comic book lore, superb action sequences and a fantastic script, which was then fused beneath some incredible performances: everyone is talking about the late Heath Ledger - and rightfully so - but Aaron Eckhart deserves a lot of praise too, as does the rest of the cast.

Empire and SFX, the two magazines that I trust when it comes to film and book reviews said this and this about The Dark Knight. Go and see it, if you haven't already. If you have, go and see it on IMAX. If you've seen it on IMAX then you're luckier than me (but I intend to follow your lead very soon!).

Journeys Ahead!

My new passport has arrived! I've not seen it yet, I just got a text before from home to say that it had arrived. Considering that there was a three day strike of passport office workers this week and that I only sent my application off last Wednesday morning I'm really amazed and surprised that it is back. It was sent to me by special recorded delivery (for security), but then half an hour later I got another text to see that my old passport had arrived back through the normal post. Quite surprising, I would have thought that they burned them after they had expired and you had your new passport, but never mind.

Some time next week I will post side-by-side pictures of the passport photos, show you how I have changed in ten years; the new picture is terrible - the old one was terrible because I was so young in it, but at least I was able to smile in the picture! Under the new guidelines for passports in the UK you are not allowed to smile for your passport photo, meaning that I look like a real misery in mine...

If my thesis corrections are ever confirmed then perhaps I can make some holiday plans for the coming months. I've just finished reading about a happy little trip in "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome; I've heard about it before, and my decision to read this was influenced by the wonderful "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis which I read last year (a great time travel story, and also incredibly funny). It's quite a whimsical little story, and the meandering plot and observations of the narrator really draw you in.

On the train this morning I started reading "The Search for the Dice Man" - the sequel to "The Dice Man" by Luke Rhinehart - which I picked up for £1.25 in a charity shop a few weeks ago. I read "The Dice Man" nine years ago (almost to the day, now that I think about it) and thought it was a very interesting book. I'll let you know my thoughts on the sequel when I've finished it in a few days. Still have a short stack of books to read, but I also have a growing list of books that I've spotted on Amazon that I want to get. Seeing as how I'm probably not going on holiday in the next month I'm debating treating myself to a big stack of summer reading to get my teeth into.

Seven down... Ninety-four to go. Am hoping to get maybe another three things ticked off by the end of the summer. One of the maths things might be within my grasp, and am also probably going to get around to selling stuff on eBay in the next few weeks.

Onwards and upwards...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Three Months

So what have I achieved in my first three months? Well, I'm on track with sending letters, I've finished six out of 101 things and I've read a fair few books. That's a good start, right?

Disappointingly, I've not been able to write a single piece of flash fiction yet. Whenever I sit down I just dry up, even when I'm strict with myself (maybe not strict enough) and set myself deadlines like during National Novel Writing Month. But I have ideas, I have more and more ideas every day. I have titles. I have characters and names. All I have written is a single page of typed A4 called "Seven Cigarettes," an unfinished zombie story.

But! That will all change! I promise! Coming soon...

...a young boy shows off his science fair project, a working model of a green and blue planet complete with orbiting body...

...extracts from the diary of Dracula's fourth bride...

...and Ethical Conditions, a story about the galactic gourmet food market...

All to appear here - exclusively! - in the coming weeks, here on Racing Entropy!

(was that "exclusively!" a bit over the top? I can never tell...)

Monday, 21 July 2008

Recommendations, Kind Of

I trust SFX, a UK- based sci-fi magazine, when it comes to recommendations for books and authors. I've been reading the magazine for over a decade now, and haven't missed an issue in that time - and actually still have all of those issues (most of them stacked in the bottom of my wardrobe now for want of somewhere to put them). So, it was with some disappointment that I finished "Infected" by Scott Sigler the other day, the first time in a long time that I've read a book and felt like it's been a bit of a waste of time.

I feel quite harsh in saying that, but I got to the end of it's 450 or so pages yesterday evening, closed the book and shrugged my shoulders. (my sister is reading what I'm writing over my shoulder, and just said, "That's a few hours of your life you're not going to get back." She's right) It was an interesting idea from the start, but just took forever to get where it was going - and where was it going? Well, nowhere. It seemed quite well thought out in some of its ideas, but was really boring. For something that was about people trying to stop a mysterious disease making seemingly unconnected people crazy (a government bioweapon gone wrong? terrorists? aliens?) there weren't many people infected, and there didn't seem to be any big consequences other than a few deaths.

And then the end just comes out of nowhere as the "heroes" start to close in on someone who is infected (up to this point nearly everyone that they get to is already dead by the time they arrive, or is dead soon after) and, oh my gosh, in fifteen pages they avert what could have been a global catastrophe and we still don't really know what was causing the problem (OK, we kind of do, but we don't know what the motivation for it all was). Worryingly, this felt like the first part of a series - but I guess I shouldn't be worried as I won't be reading it!

It was an interesting idea, I'll give the author that, but it just seemed to go off the rails about a quarter of the way in. SFX gave it four stars (out of five): I would give it two. It's the first time in a long time that I've considered putting a book down before I'd finished it. (the last time was "Cell" by Stephen King, and the time before that was "Labyrinth" by Kate Mosse - I actually put that down after twenty pages!)

I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. Possibly the sequel to "The Dice Man," maybe a big collection of science-fiction short stories.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Saturday - Today

Picked up some postcards yesterday; will work on getting some of them written tomorrow. Anyone else out there want one? Then drop me a line!

Finished item 47 on the list, my replay of Metal Gear Solid 2. It's a great game, and still seems very fresh despite the fact that it is about six or seven years old now. For the most part it's hide and seek - the aim of the game isn't to run headlong into danger and take out the terrorists, but to be stealthy, to work around them, draw them away so that you can get past them. There's always more than one way to approach a situation, and it's extremely rewarding to come up with clever solutions in order to get around the security schemes that your opponents have come up with.

It's an older game, and I don't know if you can play it on the PS3 or not (backwards compatibility seems to be dependent on where you buy your console) but it should still be available on PC. Go for it, even if you never normally play games: the script is incredible, some people think it's longwinded, but it's deep, it makes you think - even if you disagree with it and all its philosophical musings. And the gameplay is sublime, it really is.

Ugh. Have felt a bit rough for a few days now. I think it's just the fact that I am waiting for the results of my corrections. Sleeping less. Lack of focus.

Short sentences.

More after the weekend, going to work on the postcards tomorrow. And a piece of flash fiction!

By the end of the weekend I will have written one piece of flash fiction.

There. Can't take it back now.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Yes Man

Yesterday I finished "Yes Man" by Danny Wallace, and it's a book that has really given me food for thought. Having read both "Yes Man" and his previous book "Join Me" I feel like Danny and I would really get on where we to meet in a pub. He has a really positive attitude, and a real determination to stick with things, and those are qualities that I wish I had more of.

Reading "Yes Man" has definitely made me feel better about 101/1001; whenever I tell people about 101/1001 I get a mix of responses between "Oh wow, that's interesting" to a bemused sort of look on their faces - since I first started thinking about this around six months ago I've only spoken to one person who has said, "Oooooh, I think I'll do that!" At times it feels like a really silly thing to be doing, and at times I think why did I put that on my list, I'm never going to get that done! But now I'm thinking Yes, come on, this is great! And all because of seeing what happens when one man says yes to every opportunity that comes his way for six months!

Still not heard anything back from my examiners about my corrections, though have no idea how long it could take. A few weeks? Let's hope...

Applied for one of the jobs in Edinburgh, and added my CV to a jobs site. One more application, then I'm leaving it. Let August 10th come around and then I'm going full steam ahead with the holiday and private tuition plan.

What else? Oooh, well, I've been working on the "stacked 4-tangle" problem that's in my list (and which, when I figure out the answer, I will explain in layman's terms for you all!) this week, and have made a bit of progress. When I submitted my corrections earlier in the week I celebrated by going home and immediately starting my replay of Metal Gear Solid 2, which has brought me a lot of happiness in the evenings this week. Waiting for my passport to arrive... 10 days or so and then in theory I can just leave the country and go travelling!

And as usual, lots of ideas for things that I'm just not writing down... This is something that I need to work on in the coming weeks.

Let's go!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Passport renewal and general excitement

I sent off my passport renewal application this morning! Finished my corrections to my thesis yesterday - I hope, sent them off to my examiners and so am waiting - and decided it was time to start cracking on with some of my 101 things, or I'll never get anything done by the time I turn 30.

Started back on the job application front, looking at three things at the moment; but at the same time I want to do a little bit of travelling in September. I guess I have to set a kind of deadline: something along the lines of if I don't have an interview/job by August 10th then I'm just going to book the flights and be done with it.

Is that last line binding?!?!

I've had four people in total so far say that they would like a postcard! (I crossposted to my other blog and a site that I belong to) Any more takers?

I have my preview ticket for The Dark Knight next Wednesday, and I think I might take this Friday afternoon off to go and WALL-E. It's quite cool that the two films I've been looking forward to the most in the last year are coming out within a week of each other in the UK, although I wonder what that really leaves me to look forward to cinema-wise...

Just finished reading a really interesting book by a guy called Danny Wallace. "Join Me" chronicles what happened when the author placed a classified ad in a local London paper that simply said "Join Me, send a passport photo to this address..." It's brilliant, at first people join with no idea of what they are joining - indeed, Danny has no idea what they're joining! - and then, as events unfold things get stranger and stranger, inviting people who have joined to perform random acts of kindness on Fridays.

I'm about halfway through his next book, "Yes Man," which details six months of his life where he says yes to every opportunity that comes his way. Incredibly brave, very funny and something that pulls on the heartstrings in places. Might finish that this evening, don't think I've got anything else going on tonight. I picked up a few books at a charity shop at the weekend, so have a nice little pile to get through.

"Anna Karenina" stares at me from the shelf saying You said you would read me Nathan... Why haven't you read me? It's been five years... Sigh. I should read it some time this summer.

That's all for today! If I crack on with job applications tomorrow I think I might do something to spruce the blog up a bit.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Synchronicity I

The only relevance for the title of this post is because I have been listening to the best of The Police CDs in the last few days, and have "discovered" Synchronicity I, a song that I don't think I was previously aware of. I don't remember it from when I saw them last year, but it's a song that has really taken a hold of me.

If you've never heard it, check it out, I'm sure that there will be somewhere on Youtube that you could listen to it.

(not to be confused with the also pretty darn good Synchronicity II)

I've almost finished my corrections for my thesis - I think! I'll be sending them off to my examiners by Tuesday afternoon, and if all goes well that will be that (short of some formalities such as getting it printed and bound etc). Quite exciting, and also a bit scary.

Haven't been able to focus on 101/1001 much, apart from reading a few more books - "From Russia With Love," "The Execution Channel" and "Interworld" - and thinking a bit about some travel possibilities. Am trying to sort out a trip to Japan at the moment for September, but if that falls through I'm thinking of heading west and visiting a few states in the US... More on this story as we have it!

Oh, now I knew there was something I was forgetting! One of my things is to send 101 postcards: if anyone of you lovely readers wants to receive a postcard from Liverpool then drop me an email at "Nathan (dot) Blah (at) googlemail (dot) com" replacing dots and ats with the regular symbols. I saw some really great postcards when I was wandering around FACT last Saturday, and it would be nice to share them with the world.

Anyway, that's all for now, time for me to get on with some proofreading, this weekend's fun task...

Synchronicity, synchronicity, synchronicity...

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Nothing fancy

Usually when I go to compose a blog, Blogger gives me the option of looking at it as a HTML version, or as a WYSIWYG style interface. Today, everything looks like HTML. I'm feeling a little too lazy to put links in using HTML (there's a reason we have WYSIWYG editors - they are very easy to use and save brainpower for writing!).

So what did I want to say? Well, I've been plowing through James Bond novels like they were going out of style, so that increases my 101 books score (if you can call it that), and on Monday I went to see "Wanted" at the cinema. This was a real treat, visually stunning, a good adaptation of the source material (OK, so it didn't feature supervillains, but it was still thematically very close to the graphic novel) and great, great fun.

Today I booked myself preview tickets to "The Dark Knight" on the 23rd of July, two days before it's released in the UK. Tickets are twice the normal price, but attendees get a limited edition poster for going, so that's alright in my book.

Usual excuses about lack of flash fiction abound: in trying to get my corrections for my thesis done I've put off writing (because I feel guilty if I'm writing anything other than my thesis corrections). But the stories are there! They're a couple of inches behind my eyes, locked away for now, but coming out soon...

And that's it. So, how are you?