More Blog Than Human

Chris Harris's Blog Archive: November 2006

November was a bit quiet on the blogging front, because I was busy writing a 50,000 word novel. Just because I felt like it. It's one of the most satisfying, rewarding and utterly insane things I have ever done in my life. And I enjoyed every minute of it.


I'm not what you could call a DIY person. My absolute limit with plumbing is changing a washer on a tap, and I discovered this week that I'm not to be trusted even doing that. How I avoided waking up one morning last week to find the house flooded, I will never know. So kudos indeed to my neighbour Matthew, who saved the day and fitted a replacement shower for me after my old one gave up the ghost. Today I've been grouting the tiles around it (tiling is something that I can do) and very nice it looks indeed. And, of course, it's more environmentally friendly than having a bath.

The down side is that you don't get the opportunity to read in a shower. Reading in the bath is one of my all-time favourite pastimes, and I have only ever dropped two books in the water. I still have a very crinkly copy of The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler; I suppose I should get myself a new copy, really.


The whole saga of whether of not Peter Jackson will get to make a movie of The Hobbit looks like it's going to rumble on for a good while yet. The latest news this weekend seems to be that Jackson will be making the film after all.

While I'm sure that there are other directors who could make a fine job of it, I think it's pretty fair to say that if you've got three Middle Earth movies filmed with a particular cast, location and production design, you really should have the fourth one in the set as well, shouldn't you? I hope I get to see PJ's take on the story. A Weta Digital version of Smaug would be something to see...


I'm not exactly sure how I've managed it, but today I finished off the novel I've been writing as part of National Novel Writing Month. Not only have I hit the 50,000 word target, I've flown past it to reach a smidgen over 51,000 words, just to make sure. In view of the fun I had, I decided yesterday that I ought to make a donation to Chris Baty and the folks that organise the event, which is why my picture on my profile page is now sporting a natty little halo.

Next on the agenda will be to get some friends to read what I've written and get an honest opinion or three on whether it's any good. If it is, I'll take it to a second draft and then start thinking about finding a publisher. I'll keep you posted. After all, you'll want to buy a copy if it's published, right?


As I browsed Flickr's explore pages today, I came across the work of Brian Chan. He'd posted some photos of his origami work - making things out of a folded square of paper, with no cuts - and his stuff is awesome. In particular, though, the original picture I found of his take on the logo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology borders on the unbelievable. I wouldn't have thought it was possible to make something this detailed out of a single sheet of paper.


I've already blogged the latest adventures of Patrick Moore, Chris Lintott and Brian May, but one useful feature of having an astrophysicist who is also a virtuoso rock guitarist helping to write your book is that you get cool music for the book's website. I understand Patrick is playing the drums, incidentally.

The comments on the bad science page are quite interesting, as they mutate into a discussion of other scientist musicians, and there are some quite interesting names in there. Who'd have thought that American band The Offspring once sponsored a symposium on yeast, for example? Thanks to Tom for the link.


Too many wannabes there are, but no powers have they. Much amusement they cause. Patronised, they will be. Enough is enough, I say.


If I was a kid again, playing in an under-10s soccer team, there's just one sponsor I'd want. And the Greenbank under-10s from Lincolnshire are the team to play for. They're sponsored by Motörhead. Just imagine running out on to the pitch to the sound of "Ace of Spades" wearing your shirt bearing the Snaggletooth logo - I tell you, life doesn't get much better!


NaNoWriMo, The National Novel Writing Month, continues unabated and last night I passed the half way stage. I have never written such a large chunk of stuff in one go in my entire life. Tonight's session has seen me hit 28,000 words. By comparison, the final chunk of writing that I did for my Masters degree was a paltry 18,000 words!

Of course, all this writing means that my web-surfing has been cut back considerably, but I'll make up for it next month, I promise!


Britain is "wide open" to invasion by extra-terrestrials, apparently. Former MoD man Nick Pope is worried. Come on, mate, don't you watch the telly? We've got Torchwood, so everything'll be fine!.


From one Pope to another (he said, flailing about for an appropriate link): apparently the head of the Roman Catholic Church has got annoyed about people making claims that can't be backed up with hard scientific evidence and say's they're irresponsible for freaking out the public. Hang on, let me read that again...


There's a new 3D release of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas coming out, and in case you were wondering, here's how they turned it from a flat movie to a three dimensional one. It's a bizarre and time-consuming approach, to say the least. It involves "painting" each original frame of the film onto a three-dimensional representation in a computer, filling in the textures and colours for the bits you couldn't get from the original picture, and then moving the computer's virtual camera a few inches to the right to get the view seen from your other eye. Do that for every frame, and hey presto - you have a 3D movie!

More to the point, you could theoretically turn any film into 3D with this approach. George Lucas has already talked about a 3D version of Star Wars, for example. Will this result in works of genius, or pure cheese? Time will tell...


Today I read one of the most fascinating web pages I've seen in a very long time. It was Jenni Russell's essay on the way we learn, or fail to learn social skills in Britain, and it makes for pretty bleak reading. Social development is something that is just not being addressed any more.

Even more bleak are the discussions which follow Russell's essay (they're on the same page, below the article). Any intelligent dialogue degenerates fairly rapidly into an argument about class and politics, with many contributors demonstrating graphically the dearth of social skills that the article bemoaned in the first place.

I know that the Internet has long been a refuge for people with personalities that are, well, spiky, but it's hard to read the page without coming to the conclusion that we're all doomed.


As you may have seen on Slashdot today, The Tech Lounge have an article on their site entitled 10 reasons to buy a digital camera. It's not a bad little article, making the point that if you're spending that much money on a digital SLR, you should really look at its manual mode rather than leaving it on full automatic. Once you switch, you'll be able to take far more interesting pictures. I was pushing my own envelope at the weekend, taking pictures handheld (no tripod, in other words) with one, two, or even three second exposures, and I was really chuffed with the results.


It's just as well that we live in one of the relatively quiet neighbourhoods in our galaxy. If we were living 135 light years away in the vicinity of II Pegasi we might be in a bit of trouble at the moment. NASA's Swift satellite has just seen one star in this binary system belch out a truly prodigious solar flare that was more than a hundred million times more powerful than the sort our sun produces. Zapping the Earth with huge amounts of X-rays would not be good for the climate, let alone anything living on the surface.


So, the twins and I went to the Music Live show on Sunday. It's one of the primary events where the music industry can showcase the latest gear and manufacturers are keen to show off the latest flashy toys. We stopped by the Marshall Amplification stand, of course - I've been the proud owner of a JCM800 stack for years. I was very taken with the special edition PURE radio that they've released, which has genuine Marshall styling and a dedicated button to tune it into Planet Rock.

They've even got Alice Cooper to endorse the thing, and that's a big plus as far as I'm concerned. If I hadn't already purchased one of the other models in the PURE range last month I would probably have bought one on the spot.


It's going up for midnight, and I've just hit 11,000 words. Despite a busy weekend visiting the Ski and Snowboard Show on Saturday and Music Live on Sunday (both at the NEC) and then going to see Mitchell and Webb at the Hippodrome with the twins on Sunday night, I made good progress over the weekend. I'm over a fifth of the way there, and the novel is shaping up quite nicely even if one of the characters has turned into Brian Blessed.

Tomorrow's chapter is already laid out, as I dreamt the whole thing on Saturday night. You take the inspiration you can get, right?


I've just done a bit more writing and at 5192 words I'm nearly 200 ahead of today's target, which is good for me. The weekend beckons, and that's going to be more of a challenge: I have to make sure I spend some time keeping going each day!


There's definitely a taste of winter in the air tonight. The temperature was in single figures on the way home, and that's the first time it's happened this autumn. When I got home the house was sweltering, though; there'd been a power cut and the contoller for the heating had crashed. The heating had been on, and it feels like it'd been on for quite a while. Still, this means I shouldn't have any steamed-up windows in the morning like I did today.


Now the Pentagon has declared war on "inaccurate" articles on the Internet and other media. I wonder how much collateral damage we'll see as a result of this, then?


Brian Aldiss writes about being 80 years old in today's "Comment is free" at the Guardian's website. When I was very young, I read a short story of his called Hothouse. It's stayed with me for the best part of forty years and I still reckon it's one of the best pieces of short fiction I have ever read. I had nightmares for years.


Talking of writing, as you may have realised from the spiffy icon at the top of the page, it's National Novel Writing Month. Participants aim to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of November, and (as I mentioned last month) so help me, I've signed up. That works out at 1667 words a day, every day, for the entire month. So I've taken the copy of War Chiefs out of my PC and put it away. I may be being rash, but I believe that with the time I'll free up by not playing Age of Empires, I should manage to meet the target. Certainly I'm ahead of the game after the first day, having just broken 1700 words.

The other big draw on my free time is the blog, of course - but I will be posting updates on here as often as I can manage. And suspect I'll still find stuff to comment on as the month continues. So, wish me luck, and stay tuned!