Thursday, October 30, 2014

Good News! The Airbags on My Car Work

I was involved in an accident on my way home from work yesterday. Yes, I'm fine. My car, however, is not.

I was driving home, and had just come off the M9. The slip road here descends down to a roundabout, where there is frequently a queue. Very often, at this point I bear right and go through Grangemouth.

However, last night there was a queu in both lanes, which is unusual. That being the case, I decided to stick in the left lane which, if the queues are equal, is the slightly quicker route. So, I came to a halt a good distance from the car in front, and was all set to wait.

I chanced to look in my rear-view mirror, and saw a car coming down the road towards me at some speed. At which point I realised, "he's going to hit me".

And, sure enough, there was a shriek of his brakes, and then a BANG! from behind me, then a BANG! from in front of me as I hit the car in front, and that was that. Somewhere in there my airbags deployed, though I'm not conscious of it.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt. We moved our cars onto the hard shoulder, and then it was the usual matter of exchanging details, calling insurance companies, and arranging for recovery.

Less fortunately, my car is off the road. Obviously, it isn't road-worthy - the airbags going off ensures that - but it also doesn't start, so even if I wanted to move it I couldn't. There is some damage to the front of the car, a cracked bumper and some denting on the bonnet, and rather more damage to the back. The front windscreen is badly cracked on the passenger side, damage that was actually caused when the airbags went off. Oh, and my CD is stuck in the player. I don't want to prejudge it, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's a write-off.

So that's that. I guess any crash you walk away from is a 'good' one, but it's definitely a problem I could do without. And it's funny just how quickly your plans can be scattered to the winds in just a moment.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Update on Goals

300 days done. The final update before the end-of-year wrap-up:

  • Weight: Nothing to report. This goal is simply failed.
  • Work: Work has been really hard of late, but things do definitely seem to be improving. I'm actually pretty happy here, while also being determined to make the next eight weeks good ones.
  • Books: I've ready 50 books, and am partway through "East of Eden". This puts me very slightly ahead of target, which should have me finishing book 50 at the end of this month. I'm also finished two of my sub-lists, and up-to-date or ahead on all of the others. Next month I should finish another two sub-lists. The big challenge remains the books from The List - I got bogged down in "Bleak House", and am unlikely to finish "East of Eden" before Friday.
  • Games: Disaster! "Ultraviolet: 2XS" failed to attract a quorum, and although the "Lost Mine of Phandelver" game got started, it fizzled out due to other commitments. Additionally, the last session of the "Numenera" game didn't happen, which means I don't know how that story should have ended. All in all, this has turned out to be a disappointing year for gaming.
  • Maintenance: The repair to the bedroom ceiling is somewhat delayed, as we're waiting for the council to do the necessary repair to the roof first (and there's no point in doing the one without the other). Consequently, it's looking unlikely that this will be fixed this year. I also have some small maintenance tasks associated with my car and our central heating, though neither is a particularly big task.
  • Computer: Done.
  • Money: Done.

This update makes for slightly depressing reading - it's now pretty clear that the Game and Weight goals have failed, while the Maintenance goal never quite seems to be done. But I guess that's pretty standard.

I'm now starting to give some thought to goals for next year, which will largely be more of the same. Certainly, there will be ongoing Books and Work goals, and a revised Weight goal. In addition, there should be some sort of Game and Band goals, though I'm not quite sure what form those will take. And then there's a big goal for the end of next year, but more on that closer to the time...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Cruel Joke

The nature of the First Past the Post electoral system that we have in the UK is that there is room for two 'main' parties and one "none of the above" party that will hoover up most of the remaining votes. In the UK, and for a long time, that NotA party was the Liberal Democrats. However, as soon as they entered into coalition with the Tories (could have been Labour; the effect would have been the same), they became a "one of the above" party, and ceased to have any purpose - since if people wanted a Labour or Tory government, they would vote accordingly.

In the UK, in 2014, the "none of the above" party are now UKIP.

And that's it: Labour and the Tories are the two 'main' parties, the Lib Dems retain some little relevance because they're not quite dead yet, and the SNP and PC are relevant in Scotland and Wales respectively (and Northern Ireland, of course, has its own parties).

But how is it, I wonder, that we ended up with two largely-indistinguishable centre-right 'main' parties and, as our only viable alternative, a mid-right Thatcherite party that wants to cut us off from our biggest export market? If a people really do always get the politicians they deserve, what can we have done that is so terrible as to deserve that as our 'choice'?

#49: "Pathfinder: Lords of Rust", by Nicolas Logue
#50: "Bleak House", by Charles Dickens (a book from The List)

Monday, October 06, 2014

A Bit Wibbly-Wobbly

The Tenth Doctor, as portrayed by David Tennant, is probably the second-best Doctor overall, and certainly the best of the four 'new' Doctors to date. A lot of this is probably due to the sheer length of his tenure, while a significant debt is also owed to the writers, who produced some outstanding material (as well as some real dross - "Fear Her" probably being the worst example).

Funnily enough, the reading for the Tenth faced exactly the same threat as did the Tenth Doctor himself - in both cases, the previous example had set a very high bar indeed. So I had some doubts going in. Fortunately, just as the Tenth Doctor proved the best possible successor to a very good Doctor, this month's reading proved a very good successor to the novel and story for the Ninth Doctor.

I read the short story first, this being "The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage" by Derek Landy. This turned out to be the right decision, as this story featued Martha as the companion, where the companion in the novel is Donna, and so I managed to hit the right chronological order, which was nice.

The story was a lot of fun, as the Doctor and Martha somehow find themselves trapped in a children's novel - something reminiscent of the "Famous Five" or similar. Funnily enough, the moment I read this, I thought back to a half-remembered novelisation in which this happened... and then the story referenced that very story. Huzzah!

It was then established that they were actually trapped in a storyland constructed from Martha's memories. The story then proceeded to play around with all the other books she'd read (and, in one case, a film she'd seen). This was highly amusing, especially, "Don't judge me!"

And then it pulled out the standard Tenth Doctor rabbit from the hat solution, which was fine - the story had done what it intended, so time to move on.

The month's novel, "Beautiful Chaos" by Gary Russell, was likewise good. This one featured Donna, Wilf, and Sylvia. It was set some time during Donna's season, but was obviously written after that season ended (but before "The End of Time"). And the story was mostly just a standard "alien invaders possess humans" story. However, as with the Ninth Doctor story, it managed to fit in some musings on what makes people who they are, and a very well-done subplot about memory loss and degenerative diseases.

What really made this story work was that Russell got the characters exactly right. Had they filmed this, exactly as-is, it would have fit perfectly into that season. And that was truly excellent - back when RTD (a different Russell) was running the show, I often had issues with his handling of the action scenes, and especially his reliance of Doctor ex machina to resolve plots. However, his big strength was the character work throughout the series, and this novel carries that through perfectly.

That said, as with many of the Tenth Doctor episodes, this novel does have some problems with the climax, where there is one instance of a character suddenly breaking out of character, then snapping back into character, and then going again; and one point where it's not at all clear how two characters could possibly have the conversation they have when they have it. But those are fairly minor quibbles.

One other oddity: unlike most Doctor Who, the ending for this story is distinctly bittersweet. That's not a bad this, just a surprising one.

For the second month in a row, the position of best Doctor Who novel changes hands. Alas, it seems the Ninth Doctor just can't catch a break! There's now only one more month in my reading to go: November is the month of the Eleventh Doctor.

#48: "Beautiful Chaos", by Gary Russell