Welcome to Delta Pavonis

Dom Mooney's Website

September 2006

How things stay the same!

Yes Minister Box

I was fortunate enough to get a copy of 'Yes Minister', the 80s satire on UK politics from Jon for my birthday. Along with 'Blackadder' (which Jill has), this was my favourite comedy show from when I was growing up. We've watched two of the three series now, and it is scary how little things have changed. Similar issues are discussed and debated to those we see in the press today; for example, a national database and ID card scheme!

What a difference a decade makes!

I've just dug out my PowerBook 190cs (from 1996) because I'm passing it on to someone via Freecycle. As it hadn't been switched on since 2004 (!) the battery needed to be recharged, so I've had it plugged in all day. As I was writing the last blog entry, I had my current PowerBook G4 next to it, so I grabbed a photo.

PowerBooks 190 and G4

Both these machines were the bottom end units of the their times. Interestingly, they both take about the same time to boot up, and feel similarly snappy in performance!

So PB190 vs PB G4 12"
Processor: 68LC040 66MHz vs PPC G4 1.5 GHz
Memory: 20Mb (Maxed) vs 512 Mb (can go to 1.5 Gb)
HDD: 500 Mb vs 60 Gb
OS: 7.5.2 vs 10.4.7
Screen : Passive 9" vs Active 12"
Networking: serial port vs Bluetooth / Airport Extreme / Ethernet / Modem

The old PB keyboard is better than the current PB, but both are better than the iBook and the new MacBook keyboards. The new machine is lighter, thinner and slightly narrower.

I have a great nostalgia for the old machine because I wrote my first few books for BITS on it. It was also my first Mac, and the machine I bought when I graduated and started working. It was my work horse for a long time, and I built my first websites with it, initially with pure HTML and later with Adobe Pagemill (which I upgraded to GoLive 4.0 when Adobe bought the application from Cyberstudio). The 20Mb of RAM never gave a problem, nor did the processor. It's amazing how much operating systems have bloated since that time. A clean boot of OS X takes around 180 Mb of RAM initially vs 4Mb for system 7.5. Those were the days! But I wouldn't go back.

Initial Thoughts on RW 3.5

I like the new version of Rapidweaver. It shows significant progress from the previous one, and is even more powerful, plus it still allows you to use the old themes, which means that the Birkenhead History Society pages didn't need any significant update. The BITS website did need some more work, but that related to the complexity of the site and the theme. I had to change to the new version and manually change some of the default layouts. However, migrating all the sites took less than an hour tops.

What I do especially like is the increased flexibility built into some of the themes. For example, some of them support variable widths now. I did try that originally for this blog, but I think I will revert to the fixed width from now on, as it looks more aesthetically pleasing. I've also landed a more autumnal flavour to the site looks for a while!

Next thing (website wise) will be to develop the theme for the Power Projection website. It needs an update (especially with the new book) and it needs to move servers from the same one as this blog! Assuming I can sort out the sub-domain and parked domain stuff, I'll land it on the BITS servers as well.

Once this has been done I will have completely walked away from GoLive! How times change...

The Dark is Rising Sequence

Dark is Rising Cover
I've just had a fantastic trip down memory lane, and re-read the whole Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. I enjoyed it a lot the first time around (when I was eleven, just starting secondary school) and it was quite scary.

Reading it some 23 (!!) years later, it's not as scary, and but it's still very well written. The strongest two books of the five (which are now also available as a single volume) are the second – The Dark is Rising – and fourth – The Grey King. These have a harder, darker edge, probably because they are about a character (Will Stanton) who is far more initimately involved in the struggle between 'the Dark and the Light' than the characters in the first and third books. These two – Over Sea, Under Stone and the Greenwitch – deal with three other children who are also involved in opposing the Dark. I suspect the fact that there are three children – and the two books are set in Cornwall – triggers some memories of the Famous Five.

They are childrens books, with the characters initially around the same age as I was when I read them. I guess this sets them directly against Harry Potter, but to me they are far better.

Originally posted to The Tavern

RapidWeaver 3.5

Well, RapidWeaver 3.5 is finally out of beta so I decided to give it a try. I'll change the BITS and BHS websites later, as the themes need some work first! So far, so smooth!

A Mixture from my Holidays

Absolute Friends (by John Le Carre) was excellent. This was the first Le Carre novel that I'd read in a while, and I can see why certain establishment figures objected to it, claiming that it was a rant against the conflict in the Middle East. However, it is probably the closest that Le Carre has got to the style of his Cold War novels in a long while; like those books, it is a story of betrayals and relationships, a study of human frailty against a bigger backdrop. I think that it is worrying that the current geopolitical situation lends itself to one of the old masters of dark spy fiction returning to form!

I followed this with The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. This is an interesting book on how ideas become epidemic. It tries to identify the factors that will make something – an idea, a product – wildly popular. It's certainly worth a read, although not necessarily applicable in any easy way. It was an impulse buy at the airport on the way to France.

I followed this with a book which I have meant to read for a long time, but never got around to: Diaries - Alan Clark. This charts the former Tory minister's rise in the party. He always entertained me by his refusal to be politically correct. Well worth a read. I'll be looking up the rest at some point.

I then read a splash of Horror - Chaosium's Lovecraftian compilation The Antarkos Cycle which has lingered on my shelf for the last two years. I bought it shortly after I got 'Beyond the Mountains of Madness' (a huge and detailed RPG adventure for Call of Cthulhu) and it certainly gives a good feel for setting games in the southern-most continent. The last true Antarctic part of the book is the original novel that inspired 'The Thing'. The final two stories are of lost cyclopean cities elsewhere in the world.

Cobweb by Neal Stephenson was one I missed when it came out originally. Indeed, it didn't even appear as one for me to buy until I saw it at the airport. It claims to be a wicked satire on US politics and conspiracies around the time of the first Gulf War. It has conspiracies, murders and shenanigins galore. I'm not certain it is a satire... It is co-written with the same gent who wrote 'Interface' with Stephenson. Good fun!

The final book was Star Hunter / Voodoo Planet by Andre Norton. The book has two short stories set in the SF universe that is very reminiscent of the game, Traveller. The second story is a Solar Queen one (read the others on the Solar Queen to understand Traveller Merchants)! Excellent fun. The problem is that it gets me itching to play the Traveller RPG again!

(I originally posted this at the Tavern. )

Planetary Web for Burning Empires

As the Burning Empires Wiki doesn't have a planetary web play aid up yet, I knocked one together with OmniGraffle and exported it as a PDF. You can found it on my download page for games.

Planetary Web

Books & Baby Pictures

I've just started to add some book reviews which I originally did at the Tavern to the Books section. I've also added a new Photo album with the baby pictures in.

Oryx & Crake - Margaret Atwood

I recently read Margaret Atwood's 'Oryx and Crake'. Now, if you all remember the buzz at the time of its release, this was literature, not science-fiction, according to the critics.
Oryx & Crake
And that's probably a good thing... The first two hundred pages, I was wondering 'why?' I was reading the book. It didn't give the brief promise that Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell did. Fortunately, around two hundred to two fifty pages in it started to go somewhere, and the story of the world begins to be revealed by the protagonist's – Snowman – flashbacks and memories. It is a tale of how the world died. The ending is an attempt to leave it open in the mind of the reader as to how things will work out. I normally like these, but didn't really get on with the execution here.

It is well written, but it isn't compelling. I wasn't expecting taughtly plotted character driven narrative, but I did expect more than I got. The plot was, to say the least, feeble.

There are some interesting genetic engineering ideas and takes on the world, but off the top of my head, Greg Bear's Blood Music and Richard Morgan's Market Forces have each covered some of the ideas better.

(I originally posted this at the Tavern. )

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell"... how best to describe it?

I think that the best analogy would be a pedal-cycle ride. You start off in this pretty, but old fashioned, valley, and then start the hard work pedalling up hill. Steadily, but with some effort you slowly rise, wondering why people recommended the route until you reach this final rise, 300-400 pages up. All of a sudden, you crest the hill, Jonathan Strange has been overseas and you can suddenly see wider vistas. Hurtling over the edge, on the road down you can freewheel as you rapidly plunge into a fantastic, impressive but altogether darker valley below. You hit your top speed at the bottom, and gently begin to slow down...

Reading JS&MN was pretty much like that. I was nearly getting bored for the first 400 pages, and then it exploded into life. I wholeheartedly recommend this book! All 1000+ pages of it.

(I originally posted this at the Tavern. )