Tag Archives: architecture

Friday Photo Blogging: Gunwharf tower

OK, so they’re only cameraphone jobs, but I actually took some photos this week. Here’s the nearly-complete oval tower thingy at Gunwharf, which I rather suspect the current economic climate will prevent from filling up as rapidly as the developers had hoped.

Tower block

It’s unusually po-mo for Velcro City architecture (supposed to look like a ship’s funnel; see what they did there?). I miss the big crane that used to be stood next to it; I’ve always had a weird thing about cranes. Not a fascination, as such, just… I dunno, they make me think in odd ways. *shrug*

Writing about music

Still in the stages of getting the flywheel spinning at TDP; regular output restarts next week. As a result, there’s no album of the week, but the single I reviewed by History of Guns suggests they might be worth looking into if you like a bit of nasty industrial with goth overtones[1].

Writing about books

No concrete output on the book reviews side of things, but I finished David Marusek‘s Mind Over Ship last night, so I have plenty to be getting on with. The problem is it’s such a complex novel that I have no idea where to start… but it’s a fabulous read, so there’s plenty to say. The challenge will be to make the review coherent, methinks.


After Monday’s announcement, you can imagine it’s pretty much all go in this department, and you’d be about right. The Pretty Big Project is still on hold while the client finishes their side of things, but that means t’Other Pending Project is very near to completion indeed, and should see the light of day within the week.

Meanwhile, other enquiries and requests for work are coming in, and the day-job have announced that they’re still keen to have me build their website as a contractor once I’ve worked off my notice. This is all very good news indeed. Thanks to everyone for all the well-wishing, be it here, on Facebook and Twitter or even in meatspace. Your confidence in me is scary and inspiring at once. 🙂


Not such great news on the Futurismic front, sadly. Oh, there’s been nothing wrong with the site content – Mark Ward’s “Roots” is our first story of the year, Jonathan delivered what I’d happily describe as his best Blasphemous Geometries column so far, and I’ve been knocking out quite a bit of bloggage this week – but the dreaded spectre of hosting problems reared its ugly head once again.

[ Non-geeks – skip this next bit. SRSLY. ]

An email from my hosting provider yesterday afternoon told me that Futurismic was spiking the CPU usage on its shared server up to 80% peaks with a single PHP script. Now, I know WordPress is a notorious CPU hog, but this just doesn’t compute: Futurismic currently gets less than 1,000 uniques a day, and the 1,800-odd RSS readers all collect through Feedburner, which means there’s no PHP load from there.

I’ve now removed one spam-trapper and installed a caching plugin, but the latter is supposed to help sites with 10k daily uniques survive a Digg rush without falling over, not sites an order of magnitude smaller from simply handling normal search engine traffic. It’s not like there’s even that heavy a load of plugins calling the database… sheesh, I dunno.

Anyway, trimmed loads of stuff back, and they’ve reinstated the site to its normal server, so hopefully that’ll be the end of the matter for a good long while. That said, I’m looking around for other alternatives so I’m prepared for the worst… I may just have to bite the bullet and go VPS or dedicated for Futurismic, as uptime there is mission-critical. Selah – the fun begins! That was four hours of my life I’ll never get back.

[ OK, you can look again. ]

Books and magazines seen

I got all excited about a big box of stuff from Orbit, but it all turned out to be Stuff I’m Not Into (as is so often the way of things). However, a rather spiffy non-fiction number has appeared – Ehsan Masood’s Science and Islam: A History.

Science and Islam: A History - Ehsan Masood

It’s the book that accompanies the BBC series of the same name, apparently, and looks to be very interesting indeed. The best thing about the day-job has been the interest in history it rekindled in me, and the confluence of science and religion with history is always a winning combination – one of the reasons I enjoy histories of philosophy, despite struggling with a lot of the works of the philosophers themselves. The chain of human thought is much easier understood as a narrative rather than discreet snapshots… or it is for me, at any rate.


So there we go; first full week of the new year, and it’s been as hectic as all hell. It’s also featured a head-cold which is now mostly shifted, but which added a layer of challenge to the first half of the week.

Still, proud to say I’ve been free of booze’n’fags since New Years, and with the exception of yesterday’s webhosting debacle (stressful events beyond my control are always the worst, for some reason) I’ve not really missed ’em either – this is a good sign. Sadly, the money I might have saved in the process has been spent on Sudafed, Lockets, fluorescent tubes and a new light-switch for my kitchen; at least frugality gives one the flexibility to respond to disasters, eh?

Still, it’s flippin’ Friday, and I’m almost done. I’m seeing an old friend and popping out for a meal this evening, so I’m a mere hour or so from the uncanny experience of relaxing for a while… I hope you all find a similar segment of calm over the weekend. Take care!

[ 1 – Anyone who creates a song entitled “Vernon Kaye Must Die” deserves some sort of award, IMHO. Though it’s a bit of crap tune by comparison to the more recent stuff. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: Der Neue Synagoge

I’m running pretty short of Berlin photos that I’ve not shared already (cue sighs of relief all round), but having done little or no photography in the last few weeks I am obliged to rummage in the crates once again. So, how’s about some Moorish retro architecture in the form of Berlin’s Neue Synagoge?

Der Neue Synagoge, Oranienburgerstrasse, Berlin

It will probably come as no surprise that it’s not the original, but a close reproduction of the 19th Century building which was battered during the war and subsequently razed to the ground. If you walk along Oranienburgerstrasse after dark[1], you’ll notice a quiet policeman on the street in front, in a little roped-off region.

If only my native country were so careful to dissuade people from remaking the mistakes of the past.

Writing about music

The Dreaded Press chunters along quite smoothly now thanks to my volunteer reviewers. As mentioned before, things are winding down for the season – only one album came in the post this week, where I would normally receive four or five – so I’ve got a chance to consolidate some headway over the holidays and think about new strategies for the site.

And maybe finally do that redesign which I’ve been meaning to do since I installed the current hackabout of a theme over a year ago…

Album of the week

I’m going to cheat by picking two albums, but as they’re from the same band and have just been reissued simultaneously, I figure that’s fair enough. The albums in question are Heaven’s End and Fade Out by proto-shoegaze noiseniks Loop; if you like raucous fuzz and saturated soundscapes, grab yourself a missing link from the history of the style.

Writing about books

Despite last week’s triumphant completion of the epic Steampunk review, I managed to crank out a review of Lou AndersFast Forward 2 anthology for Futurismic. It was quite an easy review to write in some respects, because there was something positive to say about almost every story. Apparently I’m the only person who ‘read’ Picacio’s cover art correctly… though I suspect a number of other people did, but simply decided not to mention it in their review.

There’s still a hefty backlog of books that I read months ago but still haven’t reviewed, and new titles in the queue, some with deadlines. Plus I’ve almost finished Nick HarkawaysThe Gone-Away World, which I think will have to be written about simply by dint of being such a unique and interesting book (not to mention one I wish I’d gotten round to sooner). Thank goodness for upcoming holidays, eh?


The basic engine and visual framework of The Pretty Big Project have been installed, and the client likes it very much. But they want me to do something with one of the subsections that I’m not entirely sure how to go about achieving… I think I have a solution, but it’s not going to be particularly elegant from the back-end. That’s Saturday’s job – some “suck it and see” code testing[2].

Other freelance stuff is business as usual; lovely.


A new month means a new story at Futurismic – in this case the return of Jason Stoddard, putting his fiction where his mouth is and following his own Positive SF manifesto in “Willpower“. I really enjoyed it, and the comments so far (both on the page itself and at io9) seem to concur. I’d be interested in hearing any further opinions from VCTB regulars. Because you have all read it, right? 😉

Books and magazines seen

A quiet week again – seems like the publishing industry is slowing down for the season, too. Then again, there could be a lot more reasons; my sympathies go out to anyone working in publishing at the moment, because I’ve experienced what it’s like to work in an industry where the axe is hovering over everyone. Here’s hoping things perk up sooner rather than later – for everyone, not just the publishers[3].

So, this week’s only input is a long-awaited BSFA care package. Lots of good stuff in Vector this time, and a bumper reviews section (including my review of David Levy‘s Love and Sex with Robots). Some of the articles (not to mention the Elastic Press sampler) have already provoked some vigorous debate over at the BSFA forums; if you’re a member, be sure to drop in and share your thoughts.


I suppose it’s high time I gave some thought to what I’ll be doing over the Allegedly Festive Period, but I doubt it’ll be anything special. My mother’s visiting the south coast this year, so I’ll not be trekking to Yorkshire in the mobile purgatory of the National Express network again… *shudder*

Still, there’s time remaining for planning[4]. In the meantime, the weekend has arrived, so I’d better make myself some food and get cracking with the free fiction round-up at Futurismic, hadn’t I? Have a great weekend yourselves, as best you’re able. Auf weidersehn!

[ 1 – There are many good reasons to do this; great bars and restaurants, for example, in addition to many architectural marvels like the above. You might initially be as confused as I was by the preponderance of young ladies whose fashion sense seems to be grounded in the props department of a studio that made eighties hair-metal videos. It wasn’t until one of them engaged me in conversation that I realised she wasn’t waiting for a friend at all. Not a *specific* friend, anyway. ]

[ 2 – Based on prior experience, that’s about six hours of the day accounted for… ]

[ 3 – That said, I’m pretty alarmed by this slew of interest rate drops and tax breaks that are being announced over here in the UK. Are the Government postponing the inevitable, or simply spreading it out thinner over a longer period? Or are they making like Jack Bauer with a pair of wirecutters inside a device they don’t fully understand? Guess we’ll find out eventually, but I would feel a lot more secure had we buried our facile national nostalgia for the days of empire and joined the bloody Euro when we had the chance. ]

[ 4 – He said, with a confidence that might prove not to be borne out by events. ]

Making a day of it – BSFA 50th anniversary bash, plus other stuff

OK, so this is primarily a kind of double-barrelled heads-up message to anyone considering going to the British Science Fiction Association’s 50th anniversary shindig on Wednesday 26th November.

Alert level 1: It looks like I’ll be going. So if that’s off-putting, best cancel your attendance; if that’s a thrilling prospect, book your train ticket right away!

poster for Battlespaces 1 (click for full size)Alert level 2: Other Stuff Is Afoot In London. Geoff ‘BLDGBLOG’ Manaugh is doing two talks on the 26th; the details for the earlier one aren’t out yet, but the evening one has been fully announced: entitled ‘Battlespaces 1’, it runs between 7pm and 9pm at the J Z Young Lecture Theatre at UCL, inside the Anatomy Building on Gower Street (which is about a mile or so from the BSFA bash venue, if my map-fu is any good). Full details are available at the Complex Terrain Laboratory, but to sum it up briefly:

Contemporary political discourse on armed violence and insecurity has been largely shaped by references to spatial knowledge, simulation, and control: “human terrain,” “urban clutter,” “terrorist sanctuaries,” “failed states,” “core-periphery.” The historical counterpoint to this is to be found in the key role the successive technologies of clock, engine, computer, and network have all played in spatializing the practice of warfare. In this context, what implications do “feral” Third World cities, “rogue” cities organized along non-Western ideas of urban space and infrastructure, and “wild” cities reclaimed by nature, have for the battlespaces of today and tomorrow?

Mmmm, Zeitgeist – and very sf-nal, I think you’ll agree; Manaugh was briefly the most interesting poster on io9 before the inevitable economics of search terms ousted his speculative architecture pieces in favour of more Ten Craziest Battlestar Who-Heroes Chronicles SPOILARZ!!-type stuff.

As you may have guessed already, it is my intent to attend this talk (and the earlier one, if it proves to be temporally and spatially accessible), and to drag Mr Manaugh along to the BSFA party afterwards if he’s not too tired/busy/sane (no kidnapping required, as he has already expressed an interest).

If this sounds like something you’d like to come to as well, drop me a line and we’ll make a mission of it. After all, days out in London should be crammed with as much interesting stuff as possible, if only so as to maximise on train fare value. AMIRITE?

Friday Photo Blogging: industrial decay

A lot of workplaces have some sort of unused space. Mine has about the same amount of space unused as it has used; the entire upper floor of the building sits dusty and rubbish strewn, paint peeling, waiting for a return to utility.

No. 12 Store 032

The building, properly known as No. 12 Store of Her Majesty’s Dockyard Portsmouth, has stood here for a century and a half … I sometimes wonder if it feels that this is some kind of retirement post, a fobbing off of the senescent and surplus to purpose.

No. 12 Store 019

Still, if you’re a fan of the aesthetics of industrial decay (as I am) there’s plenty of degraded surfaces to take pictures of …

No. 12 Store 011

Breaking the silence

Sincere apologies to those of you who have an interest in reading my ramblings as well as my link dumps, but I quite deliberately did no formal blogging this week.

I have instead been catching up on a large number of individually insignificant (but collectively overpowering) little tasks, as well as keeping on top of my short-term review deadlines and doing another week of full-time hours. End result – little output of consequence here at VCTB. But I should be that little bit more prepared to deal with my workload in weeks to come.

Which is good, because I need to attack my first ever tax return … :0

Actually, the last two weeks have taught me a lot about workload … or rather, made it plain to me that I hadn’t realised quite how easy it is to take on too many things at once.

Hence the attempt to clear the decks, to use a naval phrase; I’ve been letting things collect in thickets of incompletion, which is an exceptionally unwise thing for a (partially) self-employed person to do. I’ve not finished everything, but I can see over the metaphorical heap – which is a considerable weight off my mind. Now all I need to do is maintain this state of affairs …

But it’s always satisfying to see your work announced. Martin McGrath runs down the contents of the forthcoming issue of Focus, with my “Basic Bootstrap Branding” article included, and SciFi UK Review announces the contents of Interzone #212, which has an editorial written by yours truly, in addition to all sorts of stuff that is actually worth reading. Yay, me! 🙂

Books and magazines seen

Er, none, basically. Not entirely surprising after last week’s bumper selection … and nor a cause for consternation, as I have quite enough to read already.

That said, I got a teaser package via Orbit for Yen Press[temporary site, apparently], a new manga imprint; lots of promotional bumf, and a wee sampler booklet.

Coda – a break of routine

And to shock the nation – nay the entire globe (OMG!!) – I will not be having The Friday Curry tonight, as I am going to a Turkish restaurant instead.

I have already had to deal with a number of telephone calls from astronomers and prophets expressing concern over the potential of the planets misaligning and the entire universe folding in upon itself like a used tissue, and so I shall say the same to you as I said to them – what happens happens. 😉

Anyway, folks, have a good weekend. Hasta luego.

The calendars of the ancients and the bunkers of bad guys

It’s random blog pimping time again! This time, I’m going to suggest you go take a look at a post on Subtopia, which bills itself as ‘A Field Guide to Military Urbanism’. Don’t be put off – it’s not full of pictures of people who take Neighbourhood Watch too seriously. Instead, it’s about the incursion of military thinking and architecture into urban spaces.

The post you should go and see is all about bunker touring in Berlin, complete with photos from exploratory trips into the old Nazi bunkers under the German capital:

Berlin Bunker

[Image copied from Subtopia post, in turn borrowed from Berlin Underworlds Assn. Please contact if you require take-down.]

“I wonder, how much volumetric space is taken up in underground bunkers, how much air capacity exists trapped in these concrete structures? I’ve asked this before, but could we estimate exactly how much real estate, or in this case, air space, is devoted around the world to the underground?”

There’s plenty more like that, too, plus lots of other fascinating material, all wrapped up speculative musings and philosophy that has a similar flavour to BLDGBLOG.

And talking of BLDGBLOG, I may as well give it another plug, because there’s a new post about the solar observatories of ancient cultures – a subject I’m a real sucker for, much like BLDGBLOG’s author:

“Meanwhile, I’m a genuine sucker for solar-alignment theories involving landscapes and architecture; in fact, I was just talking to someone about this the other day. Yet I’m even more of a sucker for unintentional examples of such things – like houses with pitched gable roofs that accidentally line-up with the sun every summer solstice…”

Good stuff. Take a break from the writer blogs for five minutes; you’ll not regret it.