Interesting Links for 19-09-2017

Sep. 19th, 2017 12:00 pm

(no subject)

Sep. 17th, 2017 03:26 pm
tinyjo: (tiny kitn)
[personal profile] tinyjo
Have been full of cold for most of this week but just about managed to get through it, thank goodness! I think my class are starting to get used to me and my expectations, which is good, but they've got a long way to go before SATS, particularly in calculation! I had a lovely, lazy day yesterday, sitting on the sofa with kittens, doing very little work, but it does mean I've left myself quite a few weekend tasks to do today - I need to think about rebalancing my workload a little bit to manage this 5 day week thing a bit more effectively. This weekend, I've been mostly conserving energy in the evenings due to the cold, but I am going to have to try to plan a bit more housework in during the week now that I don't have Friday to catch up with. I suppose in theory, there's the alternative of getting someone in to do some cleaning but I'll wait and see how the new salary settles in before going for anything quite so decadent :)

Interesting Links for 17-09-2017

Sep. 17th, 2017 12:00 pm

Interesting Links for 16-09-2017

Sep. 16th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Reading: The Shortest Way to Hades

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:08 am
white_hart: (Default)
[personal profile] white_hart
The Shortest Way to Hades is the second of Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar novels, and is very similar to the first; Hilary, Professor of Legal History at Oxford, is called in by the junior members of the barristers' chambers at 62 New Square to investigate the death of a young woman who was recently involved in a variation of trusts case in which all of them represented various parties, and which they feel was suspicious. Like the first novel, it's entertaining and contains some lovely comic scenes; I particularly enjoyed the account of how Selena, on finding herself present at an orgy, decides that her preferred pleasure is in fact reading the copy of Pride and Prejudice she happened to have in her bag (a woman after my own heart!), and, having an Oxford background, I also very much liked Hilary's justification for not taking part in examining, which was an absolutely pitch-perfect example of the Oxford don's refusal to carry out a disagreeable task couched as a favour to absolutely everyone else. Meanwhile, the mystery was well enough plotted that I didn't come anywhere close to suspecting the real murderer until the final reveal, which is all you can really ask of a mystery, after all.

I think I enjoyed Thus Was Adonis Murdered more, but I'm not sure whether that's because the second book is so similar that I knew exactly what I was going to be getting and there wasn't the pleasure of discovering something new, or if I simply wasn't quite in the right mood for it; I certainly think it's just as good a book.

I am angry about subscriptions

Sep. 15th, 2017 01:13 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
When I rule the world the mechanism for cancelling a subscription will have to be at least as easy as the mechanism for setting one up.

So, for example*, if you can take out a subscription to the Financial Times online in about 30 seconds online, by clicking on a few options, then you should be able to cancel your subscription by clicking on something on your subscription details on their site. And they should not require you to email their support desk, reply with a second email explaining why you don't want it any more, and then answer a phone call wherein they offer it to you cheaper and then have to insist that, no, really, you don't want it any more.

The rule shall, instead, be that if ten random people take longer to unsubscribe than they did to subscribe that your home page will be replaced by a big flashing sign reading "We will treat you badly in the hope of holding on to your money."

Secondary rule: No introductory offers. Free trials are allowed (but must be easily cancellable, as above), but you can't offer new people a better deal than your existing customers. Introductory offers are a way of tricking people into signing up, and then hanging onto them when inertia stops them from cancelling/moving. Instead you must offer a good deal in the first place, which is sustainable, and which is easily compared to your competitors. I know this makes life harder for companies who are trying to hide long-term costs from their customers. I really, really, don't care.


*Or, possibly, exactly what happened to me at lunchtime.

Interesting Links for 15-09-2017

Sep. 15th, 2017 12:00 pm
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[personal profile] andrewducker

Interesting Links for 14-09-2017

Sep. 14th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Interesting Links for 13-09-2017

Sep. 13th, 2017 12:00 pm

Reading: The Mark of the Horse Lord

Sep. 12th, 2017 07:07 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
Reading Gwyneth Jones put me in mind of Rosemary Sutcliff, and as I'm off to Argyll on holiday soon I thought I would re-read The Mark of the Horse Lord, which is set in Argyll. Unlike most of Sutcliff's novels set in Roman Britain, Phaedrus, the protagonist of The Mark of the Horse Lord, isn't a Roman soldier; instead, he's a half-British ex-gladiator, son of a Greek wine merchant and a slave woman, who lived his whole life as a slave until being freed after winning a fight in the arena. By coincidence, he discovers that he is the exact double of Midir, the exiled prince of the Dalriad tribe, and is persuaded to impersonate Midir and travel beyond the northern boundary of the Empire to lead a rebellion and win back the kingdom of the Dalriads from Queen Liadhan, who has seized the throne and imposed the old matrilineal rule of the Earth-Mother in place of the patrilineal worship of the Sun-God. The plot is not dissimilar to The Prisoner of Zenda, really, as Phaedrus tries to take over another man's life and relationships and learn how to be a king.

This isn't my favorite Sutcliff; Phaedrus is a less sympathetic protagonist than the various members of the family in the Dolphin Ring saga, hardened by the years in the arena as he is, although he does become more sympathetic as the story goes on. I also don't find the society of the Dalriads, beyond the frontiers of the Empire, as interesting as the Roman society depicted in the books set inside the Empire, and, revisiting it now, I also feel that the conflict between the matrilineal and patrilineal societies is probably more nuanced than the book really suggests, and I wish we had got to see Liadhan's point of view as well as Phaedrus's.

Interesting Links for 11-09-2017

Sep. 11th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Reading: Rainbow Bridge

Sep. 10th, 2017 05:16 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
Rainbow Bridge is the fifth and more or less final novel in the sequence Gwyneth Jones began with Bold As Love (there is a sixth book set in the same universe, published several years later, but that appears to be a YA novel with a different main character, rather than part of the main continuity). It begins more or less where the fourth left off, in a near-future, post-oil England which has just been invaded and is under military occupation, and sees Ax, Fiorinda and Sage (Jones's near-future rockstar Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot) playing a complicated game, having to work with the invaders to try to prevent further loss of life and manipulate the global political civilisation to give the world the best possible chance of surviving the coming Dark Age.

It's taken me over a decade to finish this series, despite loving the first two; it took me a while to get round to obtaining a copy of the third, and then I wasn't reading much, because citalopram killed my ability to become absorbed in a narrative, and in any case I was scared to try to face the darkness of Jones's post-catastrophe near-future. I only returned to it after re-reading The Once and Future King left me thinking that the tragedy of the Arthur story could have been avoided if only someone had told them about poly, and I remembered that that's exactly what Jones does here.

Despite reading it so slowly, I have liked the series a lot; the narrative is odd, disjointed in places, and the structure of the novels is somewhat unconventional, veering between affairs of state and the trio's polywobbles, with parts of the political action taking place offstage and merely reported in a way that would drive the advocates of show-don't-tell as an unbreakable rule of writing round the bend, but somehow it works for me. I like the characters, too, even if I have found myself wanting to smack all of the central trio with codfish at multiple points throughout the series. And actually, like Rosemary Sutcliff's novels of post-Roman Britain, which are an obvious influence on Jones (there is a chapter in Rainbow Bridge entitled 'The Lantern Bearers', and a section called 'The Shield Ring'), while the future of these novels is dark and scary and beset with difficulties, it's not a hopeless future; what matters, mostly, is love and loyalty and being able to be flexible in some things while absolutely inflexible in others, and ultimately, it's quite a hopeful book, and ends with Jones's three heroes finally able to settle down in peaceful obscurity, away from the public eye.

(no subject)

Sep. 10th, 2017 04:08 pm
tinyjo: (Queen of Cups)
[personal profile] tinyjo
Well, the first week is done and I'm really pleased with how it went. The kids seems lovely - a little boisterous but very engaged with their learning. I'd forgotten how much they learn in a year though - they seem very young to me right now! All the staff were really welcoming, which was lovely and I feel like it's going to be a really positive working environment. I've got two TAs to work with (one 4 days a week and a different one on Fridays) and *they* both seem nice, so all in all, I feel like it's been a pretty good start. I was very knackered by Friday - I'd forgotten what working full weeks was like - but hopefully that won't last. I also picked up a mini-cold but that seems to have mostly gone already, fortunately. Slightly annoyingly, I realised that I needed to re-plan English for the week coming up because half the class had already studied the book I chose, but it didn't take much work, so not the end of the world. Next week is baseline assessment tests, which should be interesting!
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
Kate G took me to see Fleabag at the Fringe. It was incredibly well written, as you can tell from the Guardian's write-up of a different production. And the performance I saw, although not performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was still magnificent. Bleak, funny, touching, and at one point had me cringing horribly in my seat. Totally worth seeing if any productions come anywhere near you.

And then Jane and I watched the TV series. Which was not _quite_ as bleak at the play, but did a fantastic job of turning a 1-hour play into two and a half hours of TV. Well worth tracking down, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she does with season two.

The Galloway Hoard at the National Museum of Scotland. Jane and I have memberships, so we went to see a talk on this, and then went back a few days later to see the hoard itself. It's a remarkable find, and one of the most significant Viking finds ever in Scotland. They're trying to raise the money to keep it in public hands, so if you'd like to help with that click here. While we were there we also went to see the Bonnie Prince Charlie exhibition, which made me realise how little I knew about that chunk of Scottish history. Fascinating stuff, particularly starting from a position of no knowledge. I must do some reading.

The Great British Bake-Off. Scandalously, I'd never watched any of this, so Jane introduced me to season two before we watched the new season, so I could see what it was like before it moved to Channel 4. I enjoyed it, and am now enjoying the new season just as much. I know that the faithful will be missing Mel and Sue dreadfully, but I'm quite enjoying the Sandi Toskvig/Noel Fielding relationship, and the only real negative to me is having to fast-forward through the advertising.

Wind River. Gorgeously shot and acted, this is a solid thriller/crime story set in beautiful countryside. A death in a Native American reservation in snow-covered Wyoming provides an excuse to dig under the surface of what the bleak surroundings do to people lives and relationships. It's not quite as good as it could be, but it's solidly entertaining. The main drawback is that they've dropped two white people into the central roles, and the female roles are all weaker than the male ones. I was hoping, at least, for Elizabeth Olsen's FBI agent to be an equal partner with Jeremy Renner's tracker, and for the two of them to fill in each other's weaknesses. As it was, you could have removed her from the film and not lost a huge amount of the plot. And you could have made him a Native American without losing anything from the plot. Still worth seeing, but could have been done better.

Reading: Desolation Island

Sep. 9th, 2017 11:10 am
white_hart: (Default)
[personal profile] white_hart
After finding The Mauritius Command rather sombre and focused more on the mechanics of the campaign than on the characters, I was pleased to find that I enjoyed Desolation Island much more. After some time working for the Navy ashore, Jack Aubrey is given command of the Leopard with orders to take her to Botany Bay and a cargo of convicts, including a spy who Stephen Maturin has been given the task of covertly obtaining information from. As neither Jack nor Stephen has been entirely thriving on land (Jack's fair and trusting nature makes him an easy mark for dodgy tradesmen and card-sharps, while Stephen has been taking more and more laundanam in an attempt to ease his broken heart) this voyage is a good thing for both of them, but after a promising start they are beset with difficulties; an outbreak of gaol-fever (typhus) kills a third of the crew, while several others are left too weak to travel and have to be put ashore in Recife to convalesce. Undermanned and unable to fight his ship effectively, Jack makes for Cape Town where he hopes to be able to recruit more sailors, but encountering a larger Dutch ship in the South Atlantic he is forced to change course and flee far south of the Cape to try to outrun her. The chase through the stormy Southern Ocean is a wonderfully atmospheric piece of writing, as is the Leopard's subsequent desperate limping journey to make landfall at Kerguelen Island (the 'Desolation Island' of the title), while after The Mauritius Command's focus on plot the emphasis is firmly back on character. If I had one gripe, it would be that the mention of Australia as a destination had made me hope to see Stephen encountering a wombatt, but even wombatt-free it's a terrific read.

Interesting Links for 08-09-2017

Sep. 8th, 2017 12:00 pm

Interesting Links for 07-09-2017

Sep. 7th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Interesting Links for 06-09-2017

Sep. 6th, 2017 12:00 pm
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