Tag Archives: sky

Save money on Sky HD TV

No, VCTB hasn’t been hacked, and I’ve not started doing paid posts bigging up products I don’t use. Well, not yet, anyway. 😉

This is a favour for a friend, and also a sort of word-to-the-wise and SEO-boost in one. My buddy James (who, despite claiming to be a doughty Anglo-Saxon warrior, is probably the most amiably geeky death metal fan you’ll ever meet*) is about to move house.

He loves a bit of that television stuff**, and he’s been researching how much it’ll cost him to get kitted out with all the High Definition channels and other bells and whistles. The packages Sky offers are pretty pricey***, so James took a look around at alternatives … and guess what, savvy consumers?

It appears the best way to save big money on Sky HD is to get your HD from elsewhere.

This has been a public service announcement. As you were!

[ * That’s the price you pay for my favours, James. Muah-hah-hah! ]

[ ** No television in this house. Looking forward to the annual visit of the scanner people, who always leave disappointed after I’ve showed them every TV-free nook and cranny of the flat. ]

[ *** SRSLY – that package price would cover all my utilities – including broadband – for a year, and still leave enough to take a few mates out for The Friday Curry. I’m sticking with books and music, I reckon. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: beams and sky

Digging in the crates this week, I’m afraid. Here’s the awning frame at the front of South Parade Pier …

South Parade Pier

I’ve not gotten round to doing any photography, as you may have guessed – I’ve been too busy with other more urgent concerns.

It’s a shame, as the weather has been bright and sunny up until this morning. Selah.

Writing about music

Well, I got all the overhanging deadlines for other people out of the way as promised, and with a few lingering exceptions (mostly situations wherein I’ve been offered albums or interviews I couldn’t get on my own), the decks have been cleared.

So now it’s a case of gradually ramping up to a steady turnover at The Dreaded Press – which, given the amount of stuff I’m getting sent through already, shouldn’t prove difficult.

Writing about books

No literary scribbling this week, to my shame.

I did, however, discover that I’ve been accepted for the SFF Masterclass for the second year running. Which is super news; now all I have to do is work out how I’ll be able to afford it!

I’m pretty sure I can claim it as essential career development and training, so at least I can write it off against tax …

That said, the day I’m earning enough outside my day-job to warrant me actually paying any tax on it will be a happy day indeed.


After last week’s revelation (and thank you all for the good wishes, both public and private – it’s excellent to know that people believe in me), it should be obvious that Futurismic has been chewing up large chunks of my time this week.

Most of it is the sort of tedious web-admin stuff that no amount of pre-planning can make easier, involving as it does wrestling with the support systems of web hosts and registrars. It’s been … interesting, let’s say.

I meant to post some of my thoughts and plans right here over the course of the week, but time has not permitted; this weekend may see them surface.

But the good news is that we’re on track for the 3rd March relaunch – so watch this space. Or rather, watch that space!

Velcro City disruption possible

While on the subject of web hosting and domain registration*, I’m currently waiting on the transferral of control of this domain to the registrar that holds and hosts all my other sites.

As I’m moving away from UK2 (who are a notoriously grasping bunch of shysters that I won’t honour with a link), this has cost me a lot of time and money, and caused me no amount of frustration so far**.

Thankfully, as with many such processes, Google was far more helpful than the company themselves (not to mention damning). The web is still very much a frontier town – it pays to ask around before you go into business with someone.

I believe the process is in action now, but if VCTB disappears for a few days, at least you’ll know what happened. Fingers crossed, everything will work out fine.

Books and magazines seen

Only the one incoming title this week, the result of me exercising my editorial privileges as Reviews Kaizer at Interzone:

Solaris Book Of New Science Fiction Volume 2

The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Vol. 2ed. George Mann

Literally fresh from the press, no less – they’d just received the ARCs when I requested it. Cheers, George! 🙂

I think I may well end up bouncing in and out of it over the next few weeks as a way of breaking up the Wolfe omnibus – not because I’m finding it boring (which I’m most certainly not) but because it’s bombarding me with so much imagery and so many set pieces to absorb that I’m finding it hard to concentrate on reality***.


With the sheer amount of BUSY I’ve had this week****, I’ve totally failed to say how nice it was to meet some of the gang at TTAcon last Saturday (and to put some faces to the names and email addresses at long last), as well as briefly meeting Pat Cadigan and Ellen Datlow and catching up with my great friend Liz.

As a side note, Jetse mentions a conversation we had at the time regarding McDonald’s Brasyl; for the record, I don’t remember claiming Brasyl was an inferior novel to River Of Gods, but I’m sure I said that it wasn’t as immediate a story (as I put that very phrase in my recently submitted review). We’d both had a beer or two, though, which may explain the crossed wires*****.

Anyhow, go read Jetse’s analysis – because in addition to being an amiable Dutch man-mountain and beer-machine, he’s a damn good writer and an exceptionally clever fellow as well.

That aside, I’m going to keep FPB short this week and forgo the normal blathering, as I have a gig to attend this evening (EP launch party for local prog-hardcore gang Munroe Effect), and I have this week’s Free Fiction round-up yet to do for Futurismic

And there’s The Friday Curry to be shoehorned in there somewhere, as well! So I’ll bid you a swift farewell, and wish you a good weekend.

Adios, amigos.

[ * That sound you can hear? That’s my teeth grinding. ]

[ ** “Thank you for filling in this intensely obtuse web-page form that doesn’t work in Firefox and has a tendency of clearing all fields when you attempt to submit it. Now please fax the DNA sequences for both your parents and at least one living uncle or aunt to the following number, along with the deeds to your home and a document that transfers possession of all your worldly goods to a three-legged armadillo named Napoleon, and we’ll consider looking into your support query some time this week. Thank you for using UK2!” ]

[ *** So, no change there, then. ]

[ **** One of these days I’ll go through past FPBs and count the number of times I’ve described myself as being ridiculously busy. I would do it now, but naturally I’m far too busy. ]

[ ***** Yeah, I had a few beers. It was a con, after all! I’m being frugal and healthy, but I’m not becoming a Puritan. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: clear skies over the harbour

I got a new phone this week – a Nokia N73, thanks for asking – and in addition to a pretty decent camera (considering it’s a phone), it supports direct uploading to Flickr. Which should be pretty handy for those must-have photoblogging moments (which are, erm, frequent?), but is also of great utility on a typical not-taken-any-photos-for-FPB Friday afternoon.

So, without further ado, here’s the view from outside my workplace where I stand to have a smoke:

Blue sky in autumn

There’s good odds that I shouldn’t have taken that shot at all, because it’s technically inside the restricted part of the Portsmouth Naval base (so if it disappears at some point, you’ll know why), but I doubt it’s that big a deal.

I’ve just been really impressed by the recent rash of lovely blue skies we’ve had … not to mention slightly resentful that we didn’t have any of them back in the summer, when they would arguably have been of more use.

Still, a day on which I don’t get rained on during my journey home is a cause for celebration, regardless of the season. Atypical weather patterns, I salute you.

Writing about music

Another big batch of my reviews got published this week, though a lot of them were of distinctly average (or worse) albums. I have yet to discover the bitter acidity of the more experienced music hack when presented with something he or she just simply cannot get to grips with … though I am assured it will come with time.

But then, I’m not like other music journalists – and I have that on the authority of no lesser man than David Yow, former singer of The Jesus Lizard and current singer of Qui (pronounced ‘Kwee’, and don’t you forget it).

I had the great privilege of interviewing Mr Yow last night, and he was a lot of fun – the fact he was drunk may have contributed, but it’s safe to say he’s nothing like his stage persona. Well, maybe a little bit … but there’s a lot less fury and violence involved in just talking to the guy on the phone. Unless you mention English food. Or Morrissey …

I’ll link to that interview when it goes live. In the meantime, you can always read my chat with Larry from Hundred Reasons, whose ideas for dealing with religious fundamentalism suggest to me that he’d make the sort of politician I could support wholeheartedly.

Shortly after chatting to my good buddy David, I trundled off to The Wedgewood Rooms for a show. A lot of people whose opinions on music I respect greatly had been talking up a storm about a band called Cardiacs, who I’d neither heard of or heard anything by, so I thought “why not?”, put on my independent web-hack hat, and headed down to review the gig.

In hindsight, I realise this will be immensely challenging. Cardiacs defy easy description, as I’m sure anyone who knows their work will agree. The closest I can get in a sentence would be “a three-way car-crash between new wave punk, sixties psychedelia and surrealist British prog-rock”. In other words, absolutely mental, and unlike anything I’ve ever heard before (or am likely to again). I’ll be linking to the review when it goes up at The Dreaded Press.

And while we’re on the subject of music, I will take a brief moment to gloat, as I have an album that I expect a number of VCTB readers will be interested in hearing (in marked contrast to the raucous crap I usually deal with): the new Sigur Rós double-disc set, Hvarf / Heim. And yes, it’s lovely. But then what did you expect?

And an extra bonus musical gloat that deserves its own header:

I’m seeing My Bloody Valentine next summer!!

my bloody My Bloody Valentine ticket

Get in.

Writing about books

I finally managed to nail the Brasyl review, or at least the first draft. How do I know it’s a first draft? Because it clocks in at about 3000 words … so I’ve asked for suggestions on where it should be trimmed, because I had run up against the wall of overfamiliarity.

I find that if I’ve been working too long on a review or essay, I become unable to approach it with the slightest bit of objectivity, which makes constructive editing an impossibility. The last time this was a serious problem was with my review of Extended Play for Strange Horizons – and that was fixed by helpful editorial comments, so hopefully the same will apply here.

So, next task is the combined review/interview of Iain M Banks’ Matter, which I finished last night and is now festooned in miniature post-its in what has rapidly become traditional fashion. I have the answers to my first batch of questions from the good Mr Banks in hand, and need to boil up batch the second, which will be the more detailed stuff, along with clarifications and expansions.

It’s harder than you might think – interviewing anyone you’re a huge fan of is always tricky, and IMB is pretty much my literary hero (inasmuch as I have such things). I’m even able to forgive him for being a devoted Mac user!*

Oh, and by the way – any VCTB readers going to the BSFA interview with IMB on Wednesday 28th November (next week)? It would be cool to meet up with people, so feel free to come and say hello – I’m easy to pick out of a crowd! 🙂

Writing about other stuff

Minimal writing work outside of reviews this week, because I’ve decided that I should bite the bullet and learn XHTML and CSS properly, as opposed to just faffing around with other people’s code.

It’s heavy going, but it seems that those years of programming lessons at school and college sunk in – logical thinking is like riding a bike.** Still, end result should be the ability to build CMS themes pretty much from scratch, and have them work properly.

How far away that end result is remains to be seen. There is a reason for all this, as well.

Books and magazines seen

After last week’s bonanza, it should come as no surprise that this week has been devoid of reading material arriving in the post box.

However, if I was to list this week’s influx of CDs, you’d still be scrolling down on this post on Sunday morning …


Seven days always seemed so long when I was a kid … sometimes it feels like I start one FPB the moment after I publish the previous one. Still, it’s good to be busy – I can’t remember the last time I thought to myself “I’m bored”, and I spent years thinking that. I must be doing something right!

In the spirit of public thanks, a big cheery wave to Penny and Chris Hill for sending me a postcard from their trip to New York! If you’d like to donate to my slowly growing collection of postcards (and receive the dubious honour of a public thanks here on VCTB, feel free to email me and ask for my snail-mail address. I’m not fusy about locations – in fact, I think it might be fun to collect postcards from decidedly non-touristy locations.***

Right, that’s your lot. I’m off for The Friday Curry before a few fortifying beverages with the usual suspects, which should prep me up for what promises to be another busy weekend in front of the keyboard.

So, a belated happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, and to everyone else, enjoy whatever you’ve got planned for the weekend. Hasta luego.

[* Don’t let that make you think that you’ll be getting any slack on that front, though. Macs are for artists and dilettantes. And Iain Banks.]

[** In that you think you’re doing fine, right up until you either fall off or collide with a wall.]

[*** This from the man who, ever since a Flickr contact suggested it, has been considering photographing his entire collection of logo’d T-shirts and putting them online. Geek is as geek does.]

[tags]photo, blue, sky, dockyard, harbour, writing, music, bookstores, blather[/tags]