Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Doctor Who Rumours Are Driving Me Crazy

For the past couple of months Doctor Who rumours have started to niggle at my mind, but today I have hit an all new level of craziness.

Amazingly, it's not even on the casting of the Twelfth (13th?) Doctor. I find that speculating on the casting is a bit of a waste of time as I trust Moffatt and the crew to select someone fit for the role, and I recognise that it will unlikely be someone I know.

So what is driving me crazy?

Is the Eighth Doctor in the fiftieth?


Well according to rumours, yes Paul McGann has filmed SOMETHING for Doctor Who. The involvement of McGann in this episode means a lot to most fans and he only appeared on television once as the Doctor. And he was a magnificent Doctor despite a poorly written script and a crazy producer trying to change the direction of the show. McGann has since proved his value as the Doctor by starring in many Big Finish audio releases.

My wishful thinking is saying yes he is going to be in the special, with the fact that John Hurt is the Time War Doctor who succeeded McGann. Maybe he only filmed a regeneration sequence.

We need to see the Eighth Doctor again.

  • Those pesky found episode rumours won't go away.

If you have no idea what is "missing" go here.

Months and months of "Yes there are episodes, but shhhhhh", "actually all rumours are false. There are no episodes".

The latest is that the BBC is making all Who crew and ANYONE involved sign non-disclosure agreements about the supposed found episodes.

All other episode finds in the past have been announced as soon as the BBC has their hands on the print with a huge fanfare. Why would they keep this quiet?
  • As a surprise for fans on the fiftieth? Well they should have known there would be leakage. And why not announce and keep number and title reveals until later? Announce one each month if it is true that they now have multiple.
  • They are dealing with some snide business people who have their grubby hands on the prints and are in some fierce negotiations. In this case I can kind of understand the reluctance.

    Anyway these two rumours are driving me crazy as they are toying with my heart. I wish so much that the Eighth Doctor was on screen again, and that we could watch some lost episodes.

    I guess I'll know something on the Eighth Doctor front on the 23rd of November, but who knows about the missing episode rumours.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Book Review: 'Horns' by Joe Hill

I dipped straight into 'Horns' after my disappointment with 'NOS4A2', but my faith in Joe Hill still high due to 'Locke and Key'. The worry was that I might only like Joe's graphic novels rather than his novels. The great news is that I enjoyed 'Horns' much more than 'NOS4A2'.

The main character of the novel, Ignatius, is a flawed twenty-something living in small town US. He has a troubled past, with a major tragedy defining his existence. Everybody he knows believes Ig to be guilty of a serious crime. The story starts one morning where Ig discovers he has grown horns on his head and that everyone he talks to starts telling him the truth.

Joe manages to tell a great story, with excellent flash-backs to childhood and the hopelessness of Ig's life comes across on the page. There is violence, but I do not believe it is gratuitous and it is part of the overall story.

Characterisation is spot on, with a cast that is well-described and all have clear motivations. Look out for one of the coldest psychopaths I have ever come across.

We do get a little bit of Joe Hill magical object/ magical room here, which is one aspect of his work that I adore, but it is much more subtle than his other works I have read.

I am starting to see Joe's voice become distinct from his fathers. This novel is not something the King would wright in my opinion. I am definitely going to have to read his other works.

One worry I do have is that I know it is currently in production as a film starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ig. Daniel Radcliffe? I'm a little worried about this casting.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

'Around Saturn' a video montage of Cassini images

Around Saturn from fabio di donato on Vimeo.
(WARNING: this video may not be suitable for people with photosensitive epilepsy)

Book Review: 'Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell' by Phil Laspley

Read from May 24 to 26, 2013

 Alongside the age of space exploration in the 60s, 70s and 80s exploration of another type of space was underway. However it was not physical space, but a communication network, possibly the largest communication network at that time. The adventurers were random geeks, way before being a geek was considered cool, who had discovered properties of the phones around them and proceeded to experiment, poke, prod and hack.

At the time the US only had one telecommunications company, AT&T, who monopolised the market, dictating pricing and the level of service. The problem with AT&T is that the communication infrastructure was thrown together with little planning, and the system ran on a simple series of multiple frequency pulses. Added to that fact, the company was ignorant of any possibility of security issues and even published journals with technical details and frequency values for all their system. When a generation of intelligent yet bored teens come along, fun was to be had.

The history of this subculture is wonderfully bought to life by Lapsley. He has taken years of research, including interviews and original documents from both parties, the phreaks and AT&T. The emphasis is upon the characters that played a role in this history, each bought to the page with individuality and verve. The book abounds in  wonderful anecdotes that brings a little romanticism to the culture and time.
'Exploding the Phone' left me feeling a little jealous that I was born twenty years too late and in the wrong country. In the 21st century, are the systems that surround us in everyday life too far beyond the understanding and ability for an amateur to explore? 

This wonderful homage to a unique subset of geek is essential reading for anyone who professes to be a geek or who is interested in hacker or maker stories. 'Exploding the Phone' is a wonderful and romantic non-fiction read that deserves to be widely read.

Book Review: 'Mad Science 2' by Theodore Gray

Thanks to Netgalley and Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers for a copy of this wonderful book to review.

I feel envious of any science geek yet to discover the wonderful works of Theo Gray. But not that envious as I have had the pleasure of having them in my life for the last few years. Theo's books speak volumes about the simplicity and beauty of the elements and chemistry in general.

Theo is a chemist, educator, element collector, photographer and a mad man; so essentially a scientist with a camera. But he is much, much more than the rest of us.

His latest book carries on from his first 'Mad Science' Book  by showing great backyard science experiments coupled with his unique, yet effective safety message which boils down to "just don't be a dickhead". Some of these experiments could be tackled by anyone, some are aimed more at the chemist, and others are given with the message "REALLY don't do this no matter who you are."

Highlights involve making tomato puree between two neodymium-iron-boron magnets, burning diamonds, floating an aluminium foil boat on a volume of sulfur hexafluoride, X-ray photography with radioactive sources, extracting bismuth from Pepto-Bismol... I might just end up naming everything in the book if I carry on.

The first project that I'm going to tackle is photography with a radioactive source. I have a piece of trinitite in my collection that would come in handy for a source. Also Theo suggests potassium chloride, which is sold as "diet salt", as a source due to the relatively high abundance of potassium 40.

I'd recommend this book and all Theo's books to science geeks especially chemists.  The 'Mad Science' books would also be great for people who love to tinker and have sheds. But I think the best recommendation would be to buy these books for young teenagers who have any interest in science. You'll be setting them up to be great scientists.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Book Review: 'NOS4A2' by Joe Hill

Read from June 29 to July 10, 2013 

This is the first Joe Hill novel I have read. I read and thoroughly enjoyed "Locke & Key" his highly acclaimed graphic novels series.

A lot of people have been raving about this book with 4 and 5 star ratings being bandied about so it was a natural choice for my first Joe Hill novel. I'm sorry to say that I was slightly disappointed, mainly due to all the rave reviews I have saw and partly due to what I felt was a story that was too drawn out and needed a good edit.

Before I jump into the negatives, I think I should address the positives since I did enjoy this book, despite the negatives. The one thing that I adore about Joe's stories (well the two I have finished) is his use of magical objects in everyday life. For example, the keys in 'Locke and Key' and in this book, the bike, car and scrabble set that are more than what they appear. Added to this Joe invents a rule system on their use, kind of parallelling high fantasy magic systems. Characterisation is great also. They are very well-drawn and seem real and fallible.

But I felt this book was just too long. Three quarters the way through I just wanted it to be over already. The long drawn out road to that final confrontation, that you knew was bound to happen for hundreds of pages, did end up tiring me somewhat. Because of this I lost sympathy for the main character and the impact of the final scenes was a little lost.

Another negative (maybe only in my opinion) is the similarity to his fathers writing. Take away 20% of the characterisation, the magical objects and what you have is a Stephen King-by-numbers. Not the great Stephen King, but the drug-fuelled formulaic novels of yore. Sorry, but it did feel that way.

But apart from these gripes, still a worthwhile read. I'm reading 'Horns' next, so obviously I still have a lot of faith in Joe.

'Ticket to Ride' Boardgame

While down in Canberra on the weekend I went to one of my favourite stores, The Games Capital, and had a hard time deciding between purchasing 'Pandemic' and 'Ticket to Ride'. Ticket to Ride won out due to it being easier to teach others to play, something I need to consider when hoping to play with others.

In 'Ticket to Ride' players aim to claim train routes between US cities in order to fulfil chosen tickets. Say if I chose a ticket that said "LA to Miami 21 points", my aim would be to claim a continuous set of routes between the two cities to claim those points. If I do not, I lose those points.

Once you have played it a while you can see why it has won so many awards.

I have an ipad version which is a great adaption, but it is much more fun competing against friends in the same room.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Being in David Attenborough's Presence

What did you do on Friday night? Pizza? Movie?

I just ended up hanging out with my friend Sir David Attenborough. Sure I had to pay about $100 and there was a couple of thousand other people there, and I was about 50 metres away, I'll give you that.

David did a talking tour of Australia last week and I was lucky enough to secure a ticket for the Canberra show. He was previously scheduled to come a couple of months earlier, but was advised by his doctor to have a pacemaker installed before he travels. So we ended up seeing a him one step closer to immortal cyborg David Attenborough.

The show consisted of him being interviewed and telling anecdotes which were interspersed with footage from his work over the years. He is a great speaker and storyteller and the three hours went by very quickly. What I especially enjoyed we're stories from the very early years of television broadcasting where he produced live studio-bound documentaries.

David Attenborough is an amazing and humble man. He has the uncanny knack of revealing deeper layers of beauty in nature and his message of the importance of the ecosystem and conservation is more pertinent now than ever. I'd say that he is one of the greatest educators and communicators in the history of the humanity. Big call, but his work speaks for itself.

Anyway, I guess my message is watch and listen to David. Seek out his work.  Definitely one of my heroes.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Book Review: Doctor Who: Series 3 Volume 1: The Hypothetical Gentleman

Thank you to Netgalley and IDW Publishing for an advance readers copy in exchange for an honest review. 

It is easy to write and produce bad and mediocre Doctor Who and there is an awful lot of it out there. I am a very devoted fan and I can admit that readily. But not in this case. 

Collected in this volume are two 11th Doctor story lines originally published as monthly comics in the IDW Doctor Who range. The first story, "The Hypothetical Gentleman"  sees the Doctor trying to visit the Crystal Palace in London for the Great Exhibition. The Doctor, Amy and Rory encounter a strange machine that is on display and get caught up in an adventure that is more than what it seems.

The second story, "The Doctor and the Nurse", is a comedy where Amy, frustrated that the Doctor and Rory seem to bicker with each other a bit too often, orders the two to spend some quality "guy time" together in a Victorian pub. However the Doctor and Rory have other ideas.

I did go into this read with low expectations. I have rarely encountered good Who comics beyond certain good runs in Doctor Who Magazine, and the recent "Prisoners of Time" releases ,which now that I look at the details are also IDW produced. And as you can tell from the score, I was pleasantly surprised. The quality of both stories were high, the artwork was great and the main thing was that it felt like Doctor Who, especially the latter half of Season 6 Who.

"The Hypothetical Gentleman" felt like a Mark Gatiss historical through and through with an intriguing premise and some good one liners. The mannerisms and speech of Matt Smith's Doctor were captured brilliantly, all backed up by spot on yet stylistic artwork.

"The Doctor and the Nurse" is written purely as a comedy. Dangerous, but it works. The sequence of The Doctor and Rory getting deeper and deeper into trouble is hilarious, yet it does not feel contrived or forced. It does parallel comedy sequences from the TV episodes, but here we a given one whole story dedicated to a laugh.

I'd recommend this collection to any Doctor Who fan, especially one who has never picked up a tie-in comic or book before. The style and quality of both stories closely mirror that of the TV series and it would be a great introduction to the world of non-television Doctor Who.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Hello non-existent audience,

So today I'm making a blog.

Why? Because there just isn't enough people writing shit that no one will ever read on the interweb and it seems to be so hip and new in 2013. Now without sarcasm, I need to improve my writing skills both professionally (science) and for my book reviews. So even though no one reads this, I am improving my skills.

My professional writing includes preparing to write my thesis as well as review articles for scientific literature. Also I write book reviews on as 'Brendon Schrodinger'. I hope to improve these reviews, so that maybe one day I can write book reviews for a web page with an audience.

So the intention is to post my book reviews as I read, as well as improve and edit past reviews, as well as post interesting scientific ideas and other cool random stuff that I may want to share and talk about. There may be a lot of Doctor Who chat also.