Tag Archives: plant

Friday Photo Blogging: Buddleja

This is the view from my kitchen window, beyond which the buddleja grows rampant.

Summertime from my kitchen window

It’s even more impressive if I tell you there’s a twelve foot drop from that window to the ground…

However, news comes from the housing association that the buddleja will have to go, because it threatens to damage the walls of the flat below mine. Somewhat like the broken pipework round the side of the building, then, which has been reported for over six months but is yet to be seen to. Priorities, eh?

I’ll miss the buddleja; when it comes up this high, I can pretend I actually have my own garden while I do the washing up.


Writing about music

First pieces from newly-recruited reviewer Duncan Harris went up yesterday and this morning… he’s shredded both his first assignments in high style, too[1]. I think he’ll work out rather well! 🙂

Album of the week

Red of Tooth and Claw by Murder By Death. Released late March, but only crossed my desk the other week; very surprised I’d never heard of them before. Bluegrass meets Rat Pack meets rockabilly; very unique, very moody, very smooth.

Writing about books

The notes for the Snow Crash piece have reached a sort of critical mass, and I’m trying to remove unnecessary bulk in an effort to make it slightly shorter than the book it discusses. The focus will be on the ways in which it’s a failure as a piece of literature, and the ways in which those failures actually enabled its success as a geek touchstone[2].

Freelance

Chuntering along; no major concrete developments that I can show you, but I can say that a certain writer who is probably very well known to regular readers of VCTB has just commissioned a project from me, which I’m very pleased to be working on.

More stuff lurks in the pipeline, also. Such is the way of things. I really must finish doing my accounts this weekend, too…

Futurismic

We’re nearing the end of the month, and now that the migration has settled down, it’s been interesting to look at the stats for Futurismic. For a start, we seem to have dropped some RSS users, but I suspect that has to do with an old duplicate route to the feed being cut off in the migration process[3], as the click-through/usage stats for the smaller subscriber figures are now much stronger.

We also had the StumbleUpon blizzard early in the month; the spike has settled, but we appear to have picked up a general increase in ambient click-through as a result. That spike means the ad earnings will be disproportionate this month (albeit in a rather pleasant way), but over time the values have trended upwards generally in the same way as the traffic, which is great news.

On a slightly less business-minded angle, Mac’s essay on the Grays brought the cranks crawling out of the woodwork…

Books and magazines seen

A few fantasy paperbacks and a vampire-shagger from Orbit, but nothing of note in the inbox to report this week. My Moleskines[4] must still be in the bowels of the postal system. 🙁

Holiday!

My train tickets have arrived, and my hostel room is booked – I’m going to Berlin, baby! 😀

I’m formulating plans for doing things that I can turn into marketable magazine articles, as well… I rather like the idea of taking a holiday and earning some of its cost back in the process! I hear that Berlin has a lively squat gig scene[5], for example, and that a friend of mine has an email address for a promoter in the area… 🙂

Coda

An overcast morning has given way to a clear hot afternoon; from the street comes the sound of cheerful small children being herded toward the seafront. I am choosing to take these things as omens of good things to come over the weekend. Not that I believe in omens, but, y’know. If I did.

No, there’s only room for one irrational ritual in my life… and that is the ritual whose genuflections and obeisances I must now begin, in order to receive the bounteous blessings conferred by the gastronomic benediction of The Friday Curry.

Have a good weekend yourselves, whatever you choose to get up to. Hasta luego, amigos!


[ 1 – It’s much easier to tell a PR that you gave an album a kicking if you can blame it on one of your staff. I now realise why I used to get sent so much dreck by some of my former editors. That’s not the only reason I hired Duncan, though. ]

[ 2 – They really are the same things, too, as far as I can tell. ]

[ 3 – I had to do some horrible things in a legacy .htaccess file thanks to restrictions on the new host. Horrible things, I tell ya. Still having nightmares now. ]

[ 4 – Yeah, I’ve bought into the hype. I can’t find anyone with a bad thing to say about using Moleskines, and I know for a fact I’m tired of using crappy W H Smiths ringbound notebooks for my scribbling. You get what you pay for, or so the saying goes – I plan to put the saying to the test. ]

[ 5 – No, the other sort of squat. Now go and wash your filthy mind. ]

Friday Plant Blogging: happy cactus

We return to the original meaning of FPB because hey, look – one of my cacti has started to flower!

HappyCactus 006

Looks like it’s the only one that will do so this year (my Christmas cacti haven’t even hinted at a late budding, worse luck), but one is better than none.

The weird bit is that this particular cactus is the one that has suffered the most from being knocked over and generally battered by bad circumstance, and came to me after having been sat in a Fratton garden for an entire British winter … the bad-boy just keeps on ticking. Respect, innit?

A bonus photo for those of you of the opinion that plants aren’t a sufficiently manly subject (even spiny phallic plants): here’s my growing collection of sound-mangling boxes through which I run my guitar.

Effects pedal pr0n - show us yer signal chain!

I think the collection should cease growing for now, because the overdraft has suffered terribly. That said, I still need a delay pedal … hmmm.


Eastercon

So, if you’re wondering “why no pictures from Eastercon?”, the answer is simple – I just didn’t take any. I was far too busy watching or appearing on panels and hanging out with great people, and I’m afraid I don’t feel a jot guilty*.

Even listing just the highlights of the weekend would take a considerable amount of time, but it would be remiss to not mention:

  • celebrating The Friday Curry with the Third Row Fandom crew, plus Shaun C Green and Paul “twice Hugo nominee for a Doctor Who script” Cornell
  • China Mieville‘s staggeringly good Guest of Honour speech
  • Neil Gaiman‘s relentless aura of nice-blokeness
  • the Friday Flash Fiction workshop, and meeting all my fellow Fictioneers
  • the embarrassing yet hilarious Sex & The Singularity panel
  • Ian Sales falling off a chair
  • Ian Watson telling me a story about kidney stones that will stay with me for life
  • drinking, talking and getting lost in hallucinogenically similar corridors

Great stuff – many thanks to everyone who helped make it such a great event, both those I met and those I didn’t.

Writing about music

The Dreaded Press rolls on, with a bit of a gap for the bank holiday weekend. No live reviews or interviews lately, though I’m off to do one of each with Brit rockers Brigade this very evening.

The inward flow of albums has seemingly levelled out at a pace I can stay on top of without too much panic, and I’m gradually integrating TDP tasks into my daily regime.

I was very chuffed to find I got a link-back from Wikipedia for my review of the spectacular album Board Up The House by Genghis Tron – Wikipedia links give great SEO justice, and they’re like gold dust in the early stages of a site’s life.

Hopefully that’ll nudge me up a PageRank next time the updates go through. 🙂

Writing about books

As I explained at great length to a few people at Eastercon, the final phases of Book Of The New Sun became progressively more infuriating to read.

The biblical mirroring is a lot easier to stomach in the earlier stages, but the fourth book cranks the proselytising up to eleven without the benefit of the story moving well to keep it interesting.

Still not completely finished, but once I’m done I’ll not run short of things to say in the review, that’s for certain.

Meanwhile, roaring my way through the Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Vol. 2, which isn’t a bad selection at all, from my perspective.

For those who’ve read it already, I can say that I’m about two thirds through, and my favourite piece (as well as the one that has stuck with me constantly since reading it) is the shortest one.

The book needs to be finished and reviewed with the pending batch of print reviews for Interzone – by the end of this week, in other words.

I loves me a good deadline, I does. 🙂

Futurismic

I’ve got the next new piece of fiction for Futurismic in hand, ready to be polished and unleashed next week. I’ve also got a second non-fiction piece ready to roll, a one-shot guest column in the pipeline and a potential new columnist in the offing as well; all great news there.

What’s not so great is that it’s high time I started going through the old posts that were created on the previous CMS and adding tags to them. One of those “a little bit every day” jobs, I guess – you have to take the rough with the smooth in this publishing business, y’know.

Other freelance type stuff

Waiting on some details and confirmations, but there could be some great news in the pipeline in this respect. Watch this space.

Books and magazines seen

Well that’s it, I’m officially baffled. April’s F&SF has arrived, after I’ve ignored any number of renewal slips.

I think maybe their database has me down as a life subscriber or something, becasue I’m positive my sub must be over by now. Still, free fiction isn’t something to complain about. *shrug*

Nice apocalyptic cover, BTW:

Fantasy and Science Fiction April 2008 cover

No books have come in the post, but it would be churlish not to mention the titles I picked up at Eastercon**. I came away with:

Appleseed by John Clute

ILLUMINATIONS

Still pig-in-mud happy about the Friday Flash anthology. My mother’s copy arrived by post at her house yesterday, so she phoned me and squee’d a bit, which was a lovely moment.

I still have hard-copy versions available and will gladly sign them for purchasers; don’t forget you can get the PDF version for a donation of your choice at the Odd Two Out website. I can’t sign those, though, and they’re just not as totemic … 🙂

Coda

Well, that’s more than enough blather to make up for a missing week, I think. And anyway, I’d best get on – I need to grab and eat The Friday Curry (regrettably minus the Third Row gang and other fandom types this time) before trundling off to The Pyramids to do this interview.

And so with little extra ceremony I shall bid you all a good weekend – hasta luego, amigos.


[ * The absence of last week’s FPB should make it plain that I didn’t make much use of the laptop either. As it happens, I’m going to sell the thing and swap it for an Asus Eee, so if you’re in the market for a laptop with a decent spec and one careful owner, give me a shout. ]

[ ** I’m actually rather proud of my restraint – as anyone who’s been can attest, the Dealer’s Room at a con is like a finely tuned machine for extracting money from sf/f fans. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: spider plant

Yes, it’s another “Paul’s been to busy to photograph anything” week, so here are some spider-plant babies that will need potting up now that autumn has arrived … the poor things never do well in the low light of a Velcro City winter.

SpiderPlant 001

So, what’s been keeping me so busy I couldn’t take the camera out of the house then, hmm?

Delegation – the first principle of editorship

Over the course of the last week, I’ve been doing something I probably should have done la long time ago – I’ve recruited a bunch of new bloggers at Futurismic.

Futurismic was the first website to take me on as a writer (besides my own VCTB, of course), something like two years ago – and I’ve been posting there as close to daily as possible ever since.

In case you weren’t aware, Futurismic is a paying market for sf short stories, though this part of the remit has been on hiatus for a while for various technical and logistical reasons.

The former was an increasingly troublesome and bug-ridden installation of Moveable Type (horrible engine, and not worth the fee, IMHO); the latter is that which afflicts pretty much every genre small press enterprise – namely a scarcity of time as a resource.

Things are moving ahead slowly. We changed over to WordPress as our engine a little while ago, which has made things ten times easier, and now we’re just waiting on getting a new visual theme and template fixed up before we start publishing fiction and non-fiction pieces again.

But the strain of being the only person able to blog daily and keep the site ‘alive’ has been considerable, not to mention chewing up a good three to four hours of every single day.

So, as self-styled (but unopposed) Non-fiction Editor, I finally put out a call for volunteer bloggers last week, and have spent this week easing my four new recruits into the process of posting once a day – which they have taken to admirably.

I can’t describe how nice it is to see a regular stream of posts on relevant subjects appearing there every day – or how relaxing it is to be faced with a personal daily routine with two or more free hours than I had previously.

Now I’ll be a lot less hurried over my other writing jobs, and will have more time to concentrate on my own poetry and fiction … and blogging here more than once a week, which is a cause for celebration if ever I heard one. Ahem.

Plus, Futurismic has gained a sense of vitality from the influx of new blood, which is great to see. If you like the stuff I collect in my daily link-dumps at VCTB, you’ll enjoy what we put out over there, so why not sign up for the Futurismic RSS feed? I promise you won’t regret it … and when we start running fiction again, we’re going to be kicking arse and taking down names, yes sir.

Editing at Interzone and TTA Press

Of course, Futurismic is only one of my two editorial posts (how this has happened in such a short career of writing, I still cannot comprehend), and the realities of my job as Interzone‘s Reviews Editor are slowly starting to settle into a shape I can grasp without panicking.

That said, there’s still a lot to learn – but it’s mostly a case of developing procedures with multiple layers of redundancy so as to avoid missing out important tasks. In other words, keeping a lot of lists as current as possible.

The extra burden comes from my plan to invigorate T3A Space – the TTA Press website – and simultaneously expand Interzone‘s review coverage; in other words, I’m now commissioning reviews that will go straight to the web, enabling me to cover twice the number of titles per issue-period.

So watch closely at T3A Space for more material (available via RSS, naturally), which I hope I will maintain at the same high quality that the magazine is known for. It’s a lot of extra work, but it’s pretty satisfying – and I’m learning a lot about discipline and personal organisation.

Other writing

The barrage of music writing shows no sign of slowing – in fact, I appear to be doing even more than before, and I’m starting to plan the launch of a dedicated music reviews site of my own – working on the theory that if I’m going to spend this many hours a week writing about music, I might as well be seeing some financial comeback from it.

Plus it’s a better idea than going cap-in-hand to the increasingly beleaguered music press in search of paid work; it’s an industry that is firing way more than it’s hiring, so I might as well strike out on my own. The added bonus will be that I’ll never be told what I can or cannot write. Watch this space – and if you’re interested in becoming a contributor, feel free to drop me a line.

A lot of work that I’ve done over the last month has gone live this week, and I’ll relink to a few items that may be of interest to readers here:

As may be plain from reading those pieces, another part of my urge to go solo with the music journalism is that it really is a whole lot of fun. I’ve been hanging around with musicians of one stripe or another (and at times attempted to be one myself) since the early nineties, and I never tire of talking shop.

[Plus, the free albums and gig tickets are always nice! :)]

Books and magazines seen

Another slow week, but that’s not something that bothers me at the moment (as the above may go some way to explaining).

The only magazine to arrive was Interzone #212 (with my brief editorial on the contents page, as well as the first print instance of my status as reviews editor … if the thrill of seeing that is even a quarter as big as the thrill a fiction writer gets from making it into print, I can totally understand how they get addicted).

My name in a masthead!

The only book this week is a copy of Gareth L. Powell‘s print-on-demand poetry collection, Los Muertos.

In the last nine months or so, Gareth and I have become pretty good buddies, both online and off, but I still maintain that I’d like his writing if I didn’t know him from Adam, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with poetry.

Coda

So, there we have it. A busy week, but a week whose busyness should ensure lower level of busy in weeks to come – which is a fine thought from where I’m sitting.

In light of the cold I seem to have acquired, when I head off to get The Friday Curry, I shall be requesting that extra chillis be added to it in the hope of burning the bad bacteria from my body (don’t laugh, it has worked before). Here’s hoping your weekend is enjoyable, and as devoid of phlegm and mucus as is possible. Hasta luego!

Friday Photo Blogging: fresh growth

Part of the joy of houseplants (for me at least) is observing their slow but steady growth. Despite the paucity of sunlight we’ve had this summer, my poinsettia is still cheerfully branching off new shoots every few weeks. I’m hoping it goes properly red come the winter season.

Poinsettia Close-up

[As the above picture may suggest, I’ve not been out and about with my camera in the last week or so, as explained further down …]


Terrorist or tourist?

One of the downsides of working on a Naval Base is the occasional bomb scare, often caused by some hapless visitor leaving a rucksack on the ground and forgetting about it. Not usually a problem, but today one caused the closure of the gate I usually leave by, necessitating a somewhat longer journey home. Such are the terrible trials of life.

Dawn of the Deadlines

Other than that, this week has been fairly devoid of exciting events, I’m afraid. I was a judge for the Wedgewood Rooms Showcase again on Tuesday night (it runs over the entire summer, essentially, wrapping up with the final in October), but that’s been about it as far as leaving the house is concerned. As I mentioned earlier in the week, a whole lot of deadlines have coincided on one small patch of time, so I’ve been focusing on getting things done that need doing … hence blog silence but for the daily link-dumps.

A similar state of affairs may well persist for the next few weeks, too – I’m covering for a colleague’s holiday leave for the next fortnight, which means I’m working the equivalent of full-time hours over that period, and hence my evenings will be largely consumed with various reviewing and writing tasks that I’m committed to doing. Hopefully I’ll find time to do something more substantial here once or twice. After all, you’d be destitute without my gritty pearls of wisdom. Or something.

But hey, at least people are asking me to write things for them – and while none of them are paid work, it’s a change to be asked rather than having to hustle. And one little project may turn into paid work in the long run – a friend is involved with the start-up of a downloadable gaming magazine, and they’ve asked me to do a column on Second Life. It’s gratifying to get a chance to write about things that you know well and care about!

Books and magazines seen

A slow week, really.

One magazine, in the form of July’s F&SF – arriving three days after the issue succeeding it, naturally. Three cheers for the weirdness of transAtlantic surface mail!

And one book of a totally non-science fictional nature – I am the proud possessor of a copy of the Catalogue of Oil Paintings in Public Ownership for the Hampshire region. Because there are some pictures from the RNM listed in it, they sent us a few free copies, and one of them has ended up with me thanks to my name being plucked from the metaphorical hat.

So I have a very classy and intellectual-looking coffee-table book of prodigious size … now all I need is a coffee-table to put it on.

Albums seen

In the absence of much literary traffic in my postbox, I’ll take the time to plug a few CDs that I’m very happy to have been sent in the last week-and-a-bit:

  • Mercury by Laika Dog – Laika Dog are the current band of ex-Terrorvision frontman Tony Wright, arguably the most earnest and affable man in British rock music during the nineties. Laikadog aren’t quite so rocky as Terrorvision, but if you like Tony’s songwriting, you’ll not be disappointed by this at all.
  • High by New Model Army – New Model Army should need no introduction to anyone who’s going to be interested in this album, so suffice to say it delivers exactly what we’ve come to expect from the band over their lengthy career. Good stuff.
  • Transworld Ultra Rock by Electric Eel Shock – Japanese band who do a great tongue-in-cheek pastiche of classic Sabbath-style metal. Loads of fun, and if you ever get the chance to see them play live, rest assured you will not resent the very reasonable ticket prices. Real performers, and a great laugh.

Aaaah, free music. I wish I’d got onto the reviewing train earlier in my life, I’d have saved myself a fortune – and been far more clued up by now.

Coda

Well, that was comparatively brief and painless, wasn’t it? I always feel a bit disappointed when I have little to report on a Friday afternoon, though I don’t operate under the illusion that anyone else is that bothered. I think it just reminds me that my life isn’t really as thrilling as I might like to think … but then, that’s no one’s fault if not my own, I suppose.

Things would be simpler if the exciting stuff was more evenly distributed, but instead it appears to lurk like seams of mineral deposits in tracts of otherwise featureless stone. Selah.

Right. Friday afternoon, work and FPB done for the week – which means it’s nearly time for The Friday Curry Of Legend And Myth. I’m hoping to get enough of my writing work done over the weekend that I have time to get outside for a while, but having heard the weather reports I’m not sure if that’s going to be a wasted effort or not. Let’s hope the reports are wrong, eh?

Anyway, whatever you have planned for the weekend yourselves, I hope it goes well for you – indoors or out. Hasta luego, amigos.

Friday Photo Blogging: still life with bug

Here’s a shot from back in May, which I’m becoming convinced was about as much summer we’re going to get this year:

Still life with bug

I have no idea what sort of plant that is, nor the identity of the little critter either. I just liked the textures and colours. Taken at the Rock Gardens on Southsea Seafront, for them who’s interested.

Speaking of plants … I mentioned last week that the builders came and took away the old condemned gas fire from my flat. This permitted a rearrangement of bedroom furniture, with the end result that a greater number of my houseplants can now indulge in the south-facing window:

Room With A View

The view would be nicer if there wasn’t a house in the way, and if the garden flat hadn’t had its scruffy but verdant garden paved over when it was renovated a few years back. Selah. It’s better than bugger all.

A first step in freelancing

Well, I’ve been battering on about it for ages, and I’ve even written a few pieces that have paid me token amounts in the last six months, but this week represented a first for me – I sent out an invoice for some copywriting work.

A real invoice, for real work, for real money! I’m pretty stoked about it (though obviously I’ll be more so once the money arrives); while I’m nowhere close to making a steady income yet, this is a first step on what I hope will be a long road … a road that gets progressively less steep, with any luck. So, yay me! Wh00t, etc.

Catching up with ex-colleagues

Went out to an friend’s leaving party for an hour or two last night; he’s just left the same library that I departed three busy months ago. It was really nice to see the old gang, and made me realise that as much as I like my new job, I really miss the sense of community I had in the old one.

They’re great people doing a tough job for worse money, and good friends too. So hello, Portsmouth library staff, if any of you are reading. You guys totally rule.

Phonecalls with the (somewhat) rich and famous

As mentioned last week, I did a telephone interview with Alan Wilder on Tuesday – and I’m pleased to report that I got the sound recorded perfectly, transcribed the conversation and sent it in to my editor at Subba-Cultcha, who seems pretty pleased with it and will be running it (I assume) next week.

Alan Wilder was once described as being ‘the only musician in Depeche Mode’ before his departure from the band in 1996; nowadays he makes music under the moniker of Recoil, a studio-collaboration project that (sadly) never plays live. Mr Wilder was a charming and interesting interviewee, and I can heartily recommend the new album, subHuman – I was a fan before doing the interview.

Books seen this week

Another slow week on the reading materials front, with only one new title. I got an email midweek from a gentleman called Peter D. Smith, wondering if I’d be interested in seeing a copy of his new book that discusses the role of science fiction in inspiring the development of the Cold War ‘Cobalt bomb’ – the device central to the movie Dr Strangelove. It sounded pretty intriguing, so I invited him to send me a copy of it:

Smith, P. D. – The Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon. [pub. Allen Lane, May 2007; ISBN 978-0713998153]

Doomsday Men

It’s a real doorstop of a hardback, too – 576 pages! But it looks like a well-researched piece of work, and the sort of thing I can probably read in amongst other titles (which I still can’t do with fiction, for some reason). I’ll share my thoughts about it here when I’m done.

The ephemera of life

After a ten month wait, British Gas have finally managed to commit the fifteen keystrokes that mean I actually receive paper bills for my electricity! I’m tempted to wait for ten months before paying them any more money as a matter of principle, but bitter experience tells me that its not worth toying with utility companies, no matter how inept and cludgy their customer service systems are.

Futurismic is back up, though not fully operational – hard-working head honcho Jeremy managed to export the hefty back catalogue of posts from the evil-tempered Movable Type installation into a nice fresh WordPress database. Now all we need to do is get the backline machinery tuned up, and a nice new theme design, and we’re back in business.

Any web-dev types fancy taking on a low-budget WordPress theme hack? Get in touch and we can talk money – we don’t need anything too hardcore, and it’ll need to be cheap, because it’ll be coming out of my own pocket.

***

I think that’s about it – if that little lot hasn’t bored you to tears or killed a dull ten minutes at work, I don’t know what will. But my stomach tells me it’s time to go fetch The Friday Curry, so I’ll wish you all a good weekend – hopefully one blessed with better weather than we have had for the last week or so.

Hasta luego!