Stowaway To Mars – John Wyndham

It’s fair to say this isn’t one of Wyndham’s better known works and predates his classics considerably. So much so that it was initially known as ‘Planet Plane’ with Wyndham writing as John Beynon back in the 1930’s.

The initial premise is perhaps familiar to followers of the ‘X-Prize’, only here the target is Mars and the competition more National than the International co-operation we see nowadays.To that end we have a Space Race between the British, Americans and Russians with a light touch to National stereotypes which is at odds to the espionage that triggers the launches.

There is fun poked at the media (always welcome) too before the Stowaway of the Title is revealed. Her story involving a Martian encounter has an interesting premise and keeps things ticking along as the journey continues. This becoming key to what awaits on the Red Planet.

Overall its an enjoyable read but there are a number of false moves that mar a better read. The lack of radio communication back to earth seemed odd, the attitude shown towards women is at best described as dated but the real spoiler was just that a spoiler! There I was following our heroes plight when suddenly reference is made to biographies penned on return to Earth. Talk about being pulled out of the story!

For all its faults there are glimpses of the great writer that Wyndam became. Also, against the odds some intrigue remained upon completion and I would have been prepared to read a sequel. Indeed the titles of other Benyon work hint there may be one, but that’s for seeking out another day.

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Resurrected Revo

It’s been a long time coming, a day that if I’m totally honest even I doubted would ever come. But here I am typing a blog post on my Psion Revo (without the need of a power adapter). In truth the keyboard seems a little less springy than I recall, it does however work and I can now get used to thumb typing all over again.
The device is a little worse for ware, the clamshell opening & shutting requires care, casing cracked and slightly broken, springs lost from within and a strip of masking tape requires to secure the back. For all this it works, it actually works!

Massive thanks must go to the author of R3UK without who’s detailed instructions the device would finally have been given up on, lost in a bottom drawer destined for the Tip. Instead it has a new leash of life and perhaps that blog backlog will even begin to shrink?

It’s been a long road back, finding instructions on-line, finding a seller of solder rechargeable batteries, finding a way to connect to a Linux PC. Not everything has gone entirely to plan, several false starts on the Linux front, eventually causing me to settle (for now) on running XP in a Virtual Machine. There was also a delay getting the batteries but I now have spares. The attempt at soldering initially thwarted by a lack of butane and later by a lack of courage to act. But finally I plucked up the courage, my soldering just about held and everything came together.
It was with trepidation I put it on charge and witnessed the battery percentage creep up. A situation repeated when powering on without the safety net of a power supply. However both tests passed and with a sense of pride I can say “I fixed this!”.

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Here I Go Again

No it’s not a review of the Whitesnake classic (though maybe that’s a blog candidate one day), instead it signals yet another attempt to get back to blogging. To be honest I have probably posted more excuse ridden relaunches than I have on other subjects, indeed so much so that I’m contemplating giving it a Category of its own.

I’m not going to go as far as to say there will be no more excuses but I have decided to bring back the blog ahead of having access to by preferred content creation device. Regular readers will have seen how I’ve tried different portable solutions for writing up content since access to a desktop is limited. Using my Netbook (as now) is OK but can be a bit cramped in the car whilst waiting to pick up the kids, using the Mobile solves this issue but then screen space is an issue and even more so the on-screen keyboard. The obvious solution is something between the two and I have such a device gathering dust…

I recalled how much I used to like my Psion devices and tried hunting them out. Disaster with the Psion 5 Series when I discovered the screen has smashed – this one was given to me 2nd hand and never worked fully so that left my Psion Revo. Alas the batteries on the Revo have long since given up and previous attempts to access them had cracked the casing, even so it still works when on mains power so there’s still hope. I’ve ordered some batteries and now just have to find the time/bravery to fit them. In the meantime have tried to get it connected to Linux – there is plenty of evidence that this should work but I’ve not had much luck so have ended up connecting via a copy of Windows XP running in virtual Box. The plan is to create content on the Revo and then dock to the PC of a weekend and post new content to the blog.

There’s no guarantee that even if the batteries arrive it will work so in the meantime I’ll do what I can on the Netbook. In fact a word of praise for the Acer Aspire One Netbook – I accidentally dropped it through the loft hatch onto the landing below, the battery came loose but other that a tiny chip to a corner it was otherwise unscathed. Battery reconnected and Voila! all working fine.

Another option I may pursue is sourcing a small bluetooth keyboard to connect to the phone (freeing up screenspace) and sort of emulating the Revo.

Come what may I will blog on (eventually).

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The Arsenal Miscellany – Adam Gold

As long-term readers will know, one of the teams I follow & arguably ‘my team’ are Arsenal (though Northampton Town are also up there). It is no surprise that a football based book arrives as a gift every now and then. This is such a book.

Like so many such books it sat on a shelf, gathering guilt, waiting patiently to be read. However after a bit of a break from reading I needed something to just dip into in order to get my reading mojo back. This fit the bill perfectly (that was a while back so I’ve just re-read as a refresher).

Initially I struggled, taking several attempts to read the foreword by Arsenal ‘hero’ Alan Smith. But the memories returned and the reading became easier.

The title essentially says it all, a miscellaneous bundle of facts from Arsenal history. Intertwined amongst them are brief bio’s on a number of club legends.

Some of the facts were a little too mundane for me, I really didn’t need to know so many facts about the Emirates Stadium though the quirky ones such as the contents of the time capsule were OK. Better though were those concerning the clubs history, looks back at influential players & managers and the strange circumstances in which Arsenal returned to the top flight after World War 1.

Overall I wouldn’t say that this is a must read, not even listing every trophy. But it is was it is, a gift and a welcome one at that for an Arsenal fan.

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Running Resolution (1000 Miles)

Let’s start with a confession – I should be running (now). Instead I’m sat in my car, in the dark, typing a blog entry on my phone.

To be frank my New Years Running Resolution is not going well. That resolution is to total 1,000 miles run by 31st December 2017 a considerable increase on an estimated 800 for the past couple of years.

On paper it seems quite straightforward – An average of 2.74 miles a day or 19.18 a week. And yet here we are with a total so far that’s just shy of 30 miles from 18 days, or put another way 1.66 miles a day and set to fall to an average of 1.5 miles before my next opportunity to run on Saturday (which itself is in some doubt).

The plan is to run 3 times a week – Monday (Stafford Harriers club run), Wednesday (while waiting to pick up my eldest) & Saturday (longer run at early o’clock).
So far I’ve a record of 1/3, 0/3 & 2/2 so not going great.

In my defence a lot has conspired against me so far – visitors, cancelled events and a pesky Birthday (which I’d have enjoyed more if it had included a run). Tonight however I have to take some of the blame as I was nowhere near hydrated enough to contemplate bettering my current average, with the decision all but made I then promptly rolled my ankle & jarred my opposing knee while walking from work. Just hoping that all will be well to keep my 100% Saturday run record.

To compound this lack of consistency I’ve so far failed to hit any rhythm whilst out on runs and my second race (10k) of the year less than a month away.
Ironically race 1 (5 miles) on New Years Day was the only time I’ve been on target.

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Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness : A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques – Gillian Butler

Second trip to the Library with only a vague idea of what I was after (I didn’t find it) and my job at this time under threat, I hoped to find something that might be of use. I was actually looking for something that might spark creative thinking and with it perhaps open a door to a career change that otherwise may never have occurred to me – of course I had no idea what such a book might be called or indeed even which section to look in so any suggestions are welcome on that score.

As I circled the room I came across this book, and though I don’t overly suffer with anxiety – awkward conversations (or lack there of) with girls left far in the past – I’m not the kind of person bubbling over with self esteem either and that was also mentioned in the blurb. Being naturally shy any form of public speaking had been something I’d try and avoid and here I was facing the prospect of Interviews again for the first time in over 20 years – maybe there would be something that would help within?

Ultimately I’d say it didn’t help on that score but in fairness that was largely down to me and the length of time it took to find openings in the job market – and of course when it comes to Interviews everyone has their own 2 pennies worth of advice to throw into the melting pot.

It’s quite a while since I read it and memories have faded (so much so that I nearly claimed to have read a similar title by a different author). What I do recall is that some of the symptoms and examples did ring true, whilst on others I was grateful didn’t effect me. Similarly on the Therapy, I had reached some coping methods independently but couldn’t see myself using others.

In truth I ultimately let the library deadline be an excuse and did little more than think through the exercises included. What I should really have done is noted them and gave more time over to them, undoubtedly I would have benefited to some degree.

As the book went on I realised how crippled by social anxiety some people are, whereas others such as myself have muddled through into a more socially accepted comfort zone. I noted another in the series on Low Self-Esteem and that may be something that I may take a look at in the future.

Whether that or a more detailed re-read of this one it is an area in which the old adage – the more you put in, the more you get out – most certainly rings true.

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At the End of My Tether

Admittedly I am increasingly at the end of my tether these days but don’t worry this isn’t going to be an extended rant about government controlled media, how so many issues relevant to us all are quashed. Instead of rational argument holding them to account we have a fractured type of balance with airtime given over to dangerous mavericks (with devastating effects both now and for future generations). Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox now and get back on topic.

The tether I’m actually referring to is my mobile phone. This, in combination with a longer lasting battery in my Netbook and time spent waiting for the kids to emerge from various clubs has resulted in something close to regular blog posts. It certainly beats wandering around retail parks and also gives my ears a break from podcasts.

So what do you have to look forward to? Well fortunately I have a number of posts to get through (mainly a backlog of book reviews), there also a couple of experiences from recent years that I intend to share, doubtless some rambling from the aforementioned soapbox and maybe I’ll share some lyrics that I penned in years past. Additionally I’ve invested/wasted money on? a number of tech gadgets this year so I’ll share my thoughts on them.

Beyond that? I’ll have to start thinking won’t I! Something else to do while waiting for the kids…

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