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23 August 2016 @ 08:20 pm
I've always confused Meglos and The Creature from the Pit which, it must be said, I've always assumed was just me. But halfway through Meglos tame layman noted it was "very like" Creature from the Pit as well. While John Nathan-Turner attempted to put a very different stamp on the show, Meglos feels very much like a leftover from the Graham Williams era, and in particular one of the less loved stories.

It's not just similar to Creature from the Pit in general tone, it has a jungle planet, a high profile female semi-antagonist, comedy ruffians (whose humour is more hit than miss) and a fourth episode that goes off on a bit of a tangent (though not as much of one).

Its production is better than that of Creature from the Pit, but that sadly isn't saying a great deal and it has a joyless feel to it (possibly because Tom Baker was ill (if I recall events correctly) and possibly because it is a Graham Williams' style story being produced by JNT). Tom Baker should be unstoppable in the double role of the Doctor and Meglos but instead is strangely muted. It doesn't help that the Doctor doesn't actually manage to get out of the Tardis until episode 2, making the whole of episode 1 feel like set-up.

The casting of Jacqueline Hill (who had played Barbara back in the original Tardis crew) is the kind of stunt casting JNT was keen on but this case seems oddly ill-conceived in retrospect - not famous enough to bring in casual viewers and fandom and general geek culture wasn't anything like as high profile in the 1980s (though JNT was an early show-runner to recognise the value of playing to the fans) - and, for whatever reason, she doesn't really dominate in the way you would expect as the celebrity cast member.

All in all, it's not terribly good. It's not out-right bad in the way that The Creature in the Pit is in places, but it fails to be particularly good in an retrospect.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/205615.html.
21 August 2016 @ 06:16 pm
We went to Forbidden Corner for Valkyrie's birthday. It wasn't 100% successful since G had a meltdown in the tunnels (as discussed elsewhere) but it ended with smiles. It's a very odd place - a weird combination of wild imagination and twee. I'd have liked to explore it more thoroughly but that was not to be.

Pictures under the CutCollapse )

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/205492.html.
20 August 2016 @ 10:10 pm
Twenty-five years ago, give or take, the Oxford Arthurian Society used to hire out the Yellow Minibus of Doom and tour the country admiring miscellaneous castles, stone circles and anything that seemed vaguely related to King Arthur. We did this for a day in Michelmas Term, a weekend in Hilary and then a full week at the end of Trinity. The day trip was always the same itinery - White Horse Hill and Wayland's Smithy, West Kennet Longbarrow, Silbury Hill, Avebury Stone Circle, Winchester (if we could squeeze it in) and then ending up at Stonehenge around dusk because some bright spark had discovered, at some point, that if you wrote to Stonehenge and claimed to be a terribly serious student society, they would would let you in after hours and you would be free to wander among the stones.

I'm not sure quite when and how the idea arose to re-create this experience for the primeval_denial crowd. The Yellow Minibus of Doom has long gone to the great Yellow Minibus in the Sky but we had enough drivers that it was feasible to attempt the trip in cars. Being rather wealthier we also opted to book ourselves in to the Amesbury Travelodge and make a weekend of it.

Investigation revealed that one can no longer write to Stonehenge and claim to be some kind of earnest society (we were going to go with "writers' group" which excuse has served us well in the past) but instead there is now procedure and anyone can get in for the coughing up of £35 per head. We also discovered that if you want to wander freely among the stones at about 5.30pm on a Saturday in July you need to book your slot considerably earlier than January. After a certain amount of emailing back and forth it was decided that 6.30am on a Saturday morning was the lesser of the various evils on offer.

So we started the day at Stonehenge under the watchful eye of two security guards who had instructions to expel us from the site if we had the temerity to touch (or lick - they were very specific about the no licking rule) the stones. fredbassett and bigtitch are currently on a quest to collect as much ancient graffitti as possible and so spent a lot of time peering closely at the stones and consulting with the security guards (who might not have been historians or archeologists but who had heard an awful lot of historians and archeologists go around the site) who were obviously only too happy to give up on the lurking and staring and instead talk about graffitti. fredbassett and bigtitch found a cock and balls on a fallen menhir and pronounced themselves thoroughly satisfied with the trip. Apparently there is an ancient graffitti facebook group and they were looking forward to posting their up close pictures from Stonehenge.

We then went to the Little Chef next to the hotel for breakfast and returned to Stonehenge after it had opened in order to check out the new exhibition and extensive gift shop.

We then went on to Avebury, where fredbassett and bigtitch found more graffitti and the sun rather unexpectedly came out and shone fiercely, revealing how woefully unprepared we all were in terms of sun hats and sun cream.

After lunch at Avebury we headed for West Kennet at which point it became clear I had broken some of the party (too tired to look for graffitti) and wasn't going to be allowed to do more than look wistfully in the direction of White Horse Hill and Wayland's Smithy.

On the Sunday we headed in the opposite direction towards Old Sarum which would bring various people closer to their trains, had lunch in the pub by the castle and then went our separate ways.

Photos under the CutCollapse )

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/205170.html.

The first president on the left and the second on the right on the occasion of the second stepping down. Presented because in an idle moment today I googled the second president and found someone I think may be him on LinkedIn, though said person seems to be a very serious insolvency practioner which I find difficult to reconcile with a man who used to shout Lousiesie across the room at me. He also looks wierdly like Riley Finn from Buffy which is more than a little disconcerting.

Have sent a message via LinkedIn. We shall see if it's really him.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/204832.html.
17 August 2016 @ 06:36 pm
Reading: Nearly finished Filter House by Nisi Shawl. I've loved nearly all the stories in it so far and they range over everything from futuristic science fiction to ghost stories to urban fantasy.

Listening: to the Doctor Who Bookclub discussing Crooked World. Their confusion about the Penelope Pitstop character and her relationship to her Guardian/The Hooded Claw reminds me forcibly about how the original Who novels spoke to a very specific demographic. They were equally confused (when discussing Love and War) about who the Travellers were supposed to evoke. They hypothesised that they were kind of like the Roma when, to me, they were clearly intended to evoke the New Age Travellers of the 1980s and 1990s.

Watching: Agent Carter - I find it odd how jarring the ongoing narrative structure seems when although Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D started out very episodic it became much more joined up later. I suspect it's the sense that, right from the start, this is a story about a transition -- the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D from the SSR.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/204760.html.
16 August 2016 @ 09:07 pm
Trump’s joke about "Second Amendment people" was targeting gun owners, too.
A lot of nonsense has been written about Trump's "second ammendment people" remark. I mean it's obviously not something a cautious and thoughtful politician would have said but that's kind of the point of Trump. However this analysis is interesting.
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Meet Chuño, a space worthy food that the Incas made eight centuries ago
Freeze-dried potatoes with a shelf-life of up to a decade, made by the Incas.
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bironic | New vid! Book trailer for "Ancillary Justice" by Ann Leckie
Rather incredible fan video trailer for the book Ancillary Justice.
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100 Years of Film History Retold with the Best Shot in Each Year
Does what it says on the tin - though obviously one can argue about the choices of film.

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This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/204462.html.
15 August 2016 @ 07:27 pm

G's first outing in a punt. B. forced to punt from the "wrong" end.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/204161.html.
14 August 2016 @ 02:37 pm
Sunday: At my mother's. We took G. punting and she approved of the ducks. Given the parlous state of the Cambridge end of the boat, B. consented to punt from the Oxford end. It was a little breezy and we hadn't recalled punting being such hard work. B. got a blister.

Monday: Had lunch at the Pizza Pub by Kidlington Library, as recommended by G., then returned to Manchester.

Tuesday: My boss and I have been writing a book forever. I worked on getting some running examples for Chapter 5.

Wednesday: Worked from home. Got the chapter 5 examples up and running, then tried to beat the actual chapter into submission.

Thursday: Met my boss. Had an interview and got a job. Drank too much champagne.

Friday: Defeated Chapter 5. Decided to skip chapters 6 onwards and started work on the appendices.

Saturday: Volunteered at Parkrun. Had a go at blocking crochet squares. Made curry. Watched Cowboys vs Aliens (since it popped up as we scrolled through films on Netflix) which B. recalled being better than it was.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/203808.html.
12 August 2016 @ 08:26 pm
kargicq announced on Facebook that he had signed up for the Great North 10K and asked if anyone else felt like joining him so I said yes, because why not?

The Great North 10K is organised by the same people who do the Great Manchester Run. Their flagship run is a half marathon, The Great North Run, and the Great North 10K used part of that route through Gateshead and along the side of the Tyne. The first half of the final kilometre of the route had been crowdsourced with the name "The Slog on the Tyne". As the run approached this began to loom quite large in my mind (Manchester is pretty flat) with chatter in various social media places remarking on how terrible it was and kargicq advising against attempting to get a personal best on the day, though he also said the slog wasn't as bad as people were making out (while also mentioning that he had walked up it in 2015).

Before the race selfie

My plan for the race, therefore, was not to get too carried away. There was a fair amount of down at the start so I figured around 5:05m/km on the down, 5:20m/km on the flat and I'd take the slog at the end at whatever pace I could manage having, hopefully, still some reserves of energy at that point. While a smaller race than the Great Manchester Run, the route was also a lot narrower than I was used to and so it often felt more crowded - particularly on any upward inclines where people tended to slow down while I was generally trying to keep to the 5:20m/km pace I was using on the flat. There was a tight turn at the halfway mark, with an announcer encouraging everyone to "do an aeroplane" as they went around the turn. I aeroplaned around the corner and then got to wave at kargicq who was a couple of hundred metres behind me.

The slog really wasn't that bad. Below is the Strava log for the run. There was a big banner over the route at the start of the slog, so you can see from the log below where I slow down in alarm when I see the banner, decide actually that the slope isn't too bad, gradually accelerate up it, slow down for a moment at the top and then accelerate again as I sprint for the finish. The run finished in Gateshead stadium with the theme from Chariots of Fire playing as you enter the stadium. My final time was a respectable 52m 34s - faster than I ran the Great Manchester Run in 2015, though slower than my time this year.

After the race selfie

kargicq's daughter is a keen amateur photographer (mostly of birds) and I gather she is somewhat contemptuous of the quality of the official run photos and also amazed at the price they charge. As bunn has noted, its not necessarily that easy to get good shots of the runners and there are a lot expenses involved that may not be obvious to a 12-year-old. There were a lot of me, so I feel I got pretty good value.

Some of the official photos under the cutCollapse )

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/203313.html.
11 August 2016 @ 08:12 pm
For the past few years my job status has been permanent insecure, meaning that my post was funded by money from grants and should those grants end without another being obtained then I would be made redundant. As of 1st September, half my time will be permanent secure meaning they need a better reason than the money has run out to sack me.

As of 1st September for half my time I will be a Knowledge Exchange Support Officer which means my job will be turning my Lego Rovers public understanding activity into an Impact Case for the 2020 REF. The other half of my time will continue to be a permanent insecure job as a postdoc on the Verifiable Autonomy grant.

I'm fairly sure this was prompted the fact I started looking for lectureship jobs earlier this year and so some money was found in order to keep my in place to work on the Impact Case. So it's sort of nice to be wanted, though it would also have been nice to have got an interview for one of the lectureships. That said, this wasn't a done deal. I had an interview today with a five person panel consisting of the head of school (of computer science and electrical and electronic engineering), both heads of department (CS and EEE), the university head of impact and the school manager.

The job does allow me to apply for grants in my own name, however, so the opportunity is there for me to turn this into a full time academic post (with a heavy emphasis on public engagement) if I can make that work out.

Still, Yay! for being half time permanent secure!!!

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/203130.html.