Welcome to Delta Pavonis

Dom Mooney's Website

February 2011

Labelling the Geek

Was it Star Trek or Star Wars that did it? Or was it my father's love of science fiction, something that we share until this day? I can still remember the joy of reading Azimov's Foundation and EE 'Doc' Smith's Lensmen novels from his bookshelf, and the discovery of Andre Norton at the local library (the still awesome Sargasso of Space). Anyway, somewhere along the way in the late 1970s I slipped into the role of a geek.

According to the dictionary on my MacBook, that makes me either an unfashionable or socially inept person, or a carnival performer who does wild and disgusting acts. I'm assuming it's the first definition that a school friend who recently recently recontacted me through Facebook meant when she reminisced that I was 'the geek with the briefcase who played Dungeons & Dragons'. I can only say that it's a fair cop; yes, I played D&D, but don't hold it against me as my true gaming love was the science fiction of Traveller with a dash of the dark Lovecraftian Horror of Call of Cthulhu. I played D&D, but I didn't inhale. (There you are. Exposure of inter-geek contempt and rivalry. Although, there can be something cathartic about a good dungeon bash.)

The geekiness was probably accentuated by the somewhat bowl-like haircut and NHS glasses (remember kids, not all the command economy ideas of the old pre-Thatcher NHS were good things) plus the fact I was fascinated by computers. Can you remember your first? I can mine. It was a Commodore Pet at a retreat weekend away run by the local church. A passion was born then, as I looked at the small green screen VDU and played some games, and made some small attempts at programming. This passion was sustained by the computer that my parents bought me as a present.

I was fortunate that my father worked in computing and knew people and understood the obsession that was growing. Unlike my friends who were all getting ZX-81s, I had a Video Genie. That's a TRS-80 clone machine. Built in cassette deck for data transfer. 32k of RAM. A proper keyboard. BASIC built in. I learned to program, even to the point of creating a 'spin the bottle' program after two of my friends got accused of cheating one summer holiday. Kids, eh? The obsession was fed by the BBC Model B's at school (and the awesome Elite, never bettered). Work experience had me reading the MS-DOS manuals from an IBM-PC XT thanks to ICI. Definitely geeky.

The computing obsession has tamed in some ways; although I like knowing how things work, I much prefer an interface like the Mac's where you can just do stuff and not hack. Windows 3.1 and NT3 put me in that state of mind. I used an Atari ST with monochrome monitor through University (aka a Mac wannabee), moving to my first Apple in 1996 when I graduated. I still love Science Fiction (although it's not all I read in the slightest) and although I don't play anywhere as near as much as I used to at school (5 days a week!), I still love roleplaying games and have written and published stuff for them.

The funny thing is, the world seems to have embraced geekdom. All around are smartphones and social networking. The internet and mobile technology has changed the world. The cloud is pervasive with Google, Dropbox and their ilk. I was surprised to realise how much I rely on the cloud when I recently hardened my Google password and had to re-input it left, right and centre because of the number of applications linked to it. I run 2 computers, a smartphone and a tablet and they all synchronise their data via the cloud, and I'm leaning towards dropping applications that don't do this and need manual syncing. Science fiction tropes dominate the media and popular culture. Everything, everywhere, on multiple platforms.

Are we all geeks now? I suspect that my main difference from some of those who wouldn't use the label is that I understand it a little better and use slightly different features to them.

Or are we all living in a science fiction future subtly different to the dreams of the 1970s? Either way, I've no problem with the label of being a 'geek'. I think it's something you need to embrace the world we live in. You’re living with my memes.


Lovely pose!

I like this new picture of Aidan, possibly as he’s showing more of the Mooney side of his looks than in a lot of the other pictures. There’s also the matter of a nice smile. If anything, he’s becoming much more fun to take pictures of because of the every changing facial expressions.

Jill managed to escape to the hairdressers today for the first time in a long time, and seems generally cheery as a result. Aidan charmed all the hairdressers.

Nathan had a fantastic day as he got to meet up with Tolly (Ptolemy), who was one of his best friends at Nursery. Tolly has moved on to primary school (back in September) and is on half term. They had a fun day involving running around, making noises, playing diggers and cranes, and falling over in the mud. I’m quite jealous! You could tell it was a good day as Nathan fell asleep in the car after I picked him up. He’s not done that for a while!

My high points were a shortened meeting and a cancelled meeting that let me get on with a number of things that needed doing.

A Colony Transporter in the BBC’s Outcasts

Oh, and Outcasts, which continued on an improving curve tonight. Shame it goes graveyard slot from now on as the BBC has given up on it. I’m loving it, but accept that it might not be everyone’s cup of hot beverage.

A Slight Case of Overpackaging?
Morrisons’ idea of going green.

The packaging above annoyed me. Does a coconut really need to be stretchwrapped onto a polystyrene tray? A slight case of over-packaging, I think.

My Daily Penance

Clunky technology

I know that I did something bad in the past as I still have to use a c.2006 Dell Laptop for work. One that has been patched repeatedly over the last five years and feels like (how I imagine) wading through treacle (would be). I’d take my old 12” PowerBook G4 over this any day, and that’s a year older!

I'm Back!


As promised, the new pictures have been added to my Flickr photostream.

Umm, Snow?

Snow Keeps Falling
The view out this morning! (Hipstamatic)

I’m not impressed that the snow has decided to return. Nathan is, conversely, quite excited. Then again, he doesn’t have to drive to his swimming today, just ride in the back and shout directions at Daddy. Fortunately the snow tyres are still on my car, although the 2”+ of snow that has fallen so far will need to be cleared before we go anywhere!

Flight Controller Nathan Lightyear Glamour Pose
Happy Days at Air Traffic Control Wetherby. (Hipstamatic)

As Jill and Aidan were otherwise occupied (sleeping then feeding), Nathan and I spent the morning playing. In this picture we have Flight Controller Nathan Lightyear, Crash, Bang and Wallop. He loves the Flight Control game (available on iOS and MacOS and maybe more) but sometimes forgets that the objective is to land as many plans as possible rather than to crash as many plans as possible.

For those of you with withdrawal symptoms, more pictures with Aidan later this weekend, as we now have some that are suitable to share!

Prescott says 'Poisonous', I say 'Piffle'.

Prescott AV Poster
Original image is cc(BA) by Steve Punter - http://flic.kr/p/YwQyC

I don’t especially like John Prescott, and when I heard his ‘poisonous’ rant about AV I decided to do this for a bit of fun. He’s proud that he’s the reason that the 1997 collaborative approach with the LibDems was sunk. (“You're a ****ing Liberal. We've got a majority of 160 - what do we want you for?” )

I’ve used AV, and its simple. And it should remove situations where 60% of the local populace didn’t vote for their local MP. It may even encourage more people to vote who’ve become disillusioned that their voice doesn’t matter. And that can only be a good thing for the UK as a society

I may well do a few more posters like this of other big beasts for fun. Winking



The picture above really summarises my day, a blur of meetings, workshops and telephone calls, all mixed up in shades of greyscale.

Tonight, Nathan is struggling to sleep – I’ve been in with him 5 times already – whereas Aidan is being a sweetie. I’m wondering which stars and galaxies need to align to get a night when I get to bed before 0130 hrs and don’t get disturbed. Sigh.

Is it February already?

Nathan at the Swings, picture using Hipstamatic

The last week or so has been pretty busy to the extent that, although I managed to get the photos on Flickr reasonably up to date, I didn't manage to get the time to put anything meaningful together for the blog. The reason for this was my fourth week (out of six) on my NEBOSH Diploma. It's always been an intense week, as it involves getting to Leeds on the bus (an hour each way) and a raft of homework questions when I get home, but I've always been able to rely on Jill taking Nathan to and from nursery, something that hasn't been possible this time because of the after-effects of the c-section.

The only way around it was for me to drive and drop Nathan off at nursery (aiming to be there just after they open at 0730hrs) and then join the rat race of traffic into Leeds City Centre. This worked well most days, except the one where Nathan decided that a go-slow was the order of the day.

Week 3 #10
Cutie, posing.

Week 3 #9
In my DJ, bouncing. Thanks to Tom & Kat for the romper suit so he can be so stylish!

Jill and Aidan continue to do well, with Aidan continuing to grow faster than his older brother did. He's already heavier than Nathan was at seven weeks. The only dark cloud on the horizon is the fact that he has developed acid reflux like Nathan; however, we're fortunate in the fact that we could recognise the symptoms this time and the Baby Gaviscon he's been prescribed as a result seems to be doing the trick. I've even got to feed him a few times with milk that Jill's expressed with her new Medela Swing pump, which is much better than the manual one that she had last time. Doing that has definitely moved me from the category of 'not being likely to give me food' in Aidan's eyes, which makes him much more amenable to me holding him.

4Up Combined #2
Look, I can hold him without complaints that he has no food!

We've just completed the fourth week at the new Waterbabies sessions. Unfortunately, we missed the first block due to a combination of illness and the baby's arrival, but we've signed up for a final term, which will be Nathan's last due to his age. The new teacher has been superb, much better than the old one, and Nathan has come on in leaps and bounds (sometimes quite literally!) and has started to get much more comfortable again at jumping in, splashing and has also done a little free swimming between me and the wall. It's a shame that we have to change location again; I just hope that the next teacher is as good. I've been really enjoying being in the water with him; we used to love going for a swim when I was off on a Monday with him and this is just the same.

Nathan continues to be obsessed with 'Octonauts', a programme on CBeebies that a lot of the kids his age seem to love. It's quite fun with a group of different animals living underwater in the 'octopod' carrying out science and rescues. It certainly beats the annoying (and dubious) ZingZillas and the weird hippy Waybuloo. If Nathan gets unsure when we're swimming, I start to pretend that he's an octonaut, calling him by the name of his favourite character. You can see his chest puff up when that happens and he generally gets stuck into whatever he wasn't sure about.


I've also, slowly, been re-reading Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution sequence of novels, finishing the penultimate one – The Cassini Division – tonight before I wrote this. The novel is pretty gritty SF but does a well executed jump to the epic towards the end without losing the character focus that made it so endearing. I'd recommend the books if you haven't encountered them before and mentioned them in an earlier post.

I also managed to finish the final changes post proofing for Wordplay Core Revised Edition (version 1.3 for those in the know) and it's now available for purchase. We're looking at the possibility of an .EPUB and a hardback edition as well, and I've just commissioned the cover for the first supplement which is 95% ready to go to layout. The second supplement is at the 75% stage, as the core text needs some completion which I may do jointly with Graham Spearing, the game's creator.

Digitally, if you use the Mac, and especially if you can use the Snow Leopard App Store, I recommend OmmWriter (a great text editor that is focussed on composition), Twitterrific 4 (a great Twitter interface) and Sparrow (an IMAP mail application, currently only Gmail but due to expand in coverage in it's next release (which is in private beta). All are pretty inexpensive and examples of focussed and strong programming to achieve a specific aim.