D4D

Hasta La Muerte, Motherfucker

Archive for the category “Reading”

Ignition

A long, long time ago, someone on Twitter repeatedly introduced me to the chemically geeky “Things I Won’t Work With” blog, which basically did what it said on the tin.  Chemical compounds and experiments that were… on the energetic side, shall we say?  The way it was written made me laugh, and I loved seeing the sporadic updates.

Then it disappeared, and I pretty much forgot about it.

Only it turns out to have been (still sporadically) updated, but on a different site – something I found out this week. I’d been on The Twitter to mention to that original someone about a newly reprinted copy of “Ignition!” (which , from memory, had been one of the inspirations for “Things I Won’t Work With”)  and then other Twitterers reminded me of the name of the blog.

Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants” is fascinating.  Originally written in the early 70s, it hadn’t been reprinted in decades – (but there’s obviously been some demand for it, as the publishers weren’t going to go to the effort if there weren’t) but it was on my ‘want to read’ list if I ever found a copy.  When I saw earlier this year that it was being re-printed, and available as an eBook as well, I pre-ordered immediately, and it arrived this week.

The book itself has an irreverent style to it, which is fine – and even understandable, considering that the author was part of a very select group involved in all this stuff.  I’m not a full-on chemistry geek, so some of it is a bit mind-boggling, but it’s been a great read.  I’m really glad I managed to get it in the end.

ReKindled (Again)

Just to top off a pretty expensive fortnight, while I was away over the weekend the Kindle broke. As with previous ones, the screen film cracked, so half of it is working and the other half isn’t. In short, fucked.

As it turns out though, I can’t be too annoyed (annoyed, sure, but not too annoyed) as it turns out I’ve had this one just short of three years. Considering that before that I had a spate of broken screens in less than a year, it could’ve lasted a lot less time.

Yes, I’d rather these things were more resilient, were designed to last longer than 18 months.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how things have progressed with Kindles, and whether they’ve improved the ways to reload content onto a new device. It was horrific three years ago, so I’m hoping for improvements, it’s fair to say. (And if that doesn’t happen, I’ve got a backup from the old device – so maybe I’ll just be able to roll that onto the new one.)

We’ll see.

Early Justifications

Whenever I’m going somewhere, whether to meet friends, or just for a timed event, I tend to be pretty early. Stupidly early, in some cases – mainly because I just figure “Well, once I’m there, I can find something to do“.  At worst, I have a Kindle and a phone, so I’ll always be able to do something with that time.

I don’t expect others to follow the same thing, though – that’s just a world of hurt, because then I’d still be earlier than the expected early time,  and it can get stupid. (I have one friend who’s of a similar mind-set, and we ended up being – unconsciously – competitively early for a while, ’til we realised it was just getting dumb)

Sometimes, though, it turns out that there’s a good reason for being early to things. Saturday was one of those times.

I was going in to London for a concert in the evening, and then booked a lunch at Hibiscus as well.  My plan was to park up at an Underground station I knew well, Tube into Central London (well, kinda – I still wanted to walk as well), go for lunch, wander around London a bit/lot, get back up to the concert venue, meet up with another friend, go to the gig, and then get back to the car and drive us both home.   That plan survived until the first stage…

What I hadn’t realised was that the Northern Line (the only line from the station in question) was shut for the weekend. No trains at all.  Of course, London Underground being the useless shitbricks they are, there were no signs at the entrance to the station or car-park, so I’d paid for parking (fortunately only £2 for the day), walked into the station, to be faced with “Nope, no trains”.  The useless bell-end outside had no idea how I’d get back from the gig at all – well, he suggested taking no less than four buses, at midnight on  Saturday-into-Sunday. So that was no use.

But, I’m well early at this point. So it’s time for a replan.  Drive down to the concert venue, find somewhere close-ish to park, and juggle things from there.

And that’s what happened. Drive down (only about four miles, in fairness) and find a side-road with parking. Permits only, but only Monday-Friday. It’s a Saturday, so I’ll go for that. Check the parking meter. Nope, that Mon-Fri only too. Double-check with the online-app for paying, and nope, can’t take any money for that parking, sir.

Then start walking to find where the hell I am – I know I’m closeish, but not exactly where – turn the corner, and oh look, there’s the venue. Literally two minutes, car-to-venue.  Wander past to find a bus into central London, oh look, there’s one that’ll do it, hop on, and job done.

That entire re-plan and reorganisation, and I was still at Hibiscus 45 minutes early…

So sometimes there’s a really good reason for being idiotically early to things. If I’d been cutting things fine already, that change would’ve completely chiffed me for the day, and been uber-stressful all the way. As it was, it was still an absolute doddle, and everything went well.

Indeed, it actually made life easier – because coming out of the gig, we were in the car and out of London before we’d probably have even got to the original station…

2014 Media – Books

In 2014 I read 105 books.

I know this because for the books I recorded it all on GoodReads, where I’d set myself the challenge of ready 100 books in a year. I did the same in 2013 and cleared the total easily, ending up at about 130 for the year.

This year I read less – mainly because I had three months while working for The Twat in London where I didn’t have the time to read much at all, due to excessive work and travel times. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d have been up around the same level again this year. As it was, I just scraped over the bar.

I’ve set the same target again for this year, and expect to do it, but probably by a similar margin to this year. The reason? I want to read some more of the classics, some stuff that makes me think more – and thus is perhaps a bit harder to get into.

There’s also going to be – probably – less reading time, as I want to be doing the other stuff on the project list as well. I don’t know if it’ll work out that way, but that’s the general intention.  If I don’t make the target number, I’ll be OK with it this time, because there’s a lot of other stuff happening too.

Come Jan 2016, we’ll see how I did on all of it.

 

What Kind Of Year Has It Been?

(With apologies to Aaron Sorkin for nicking/appropriating a title he’s used in every series he’s written)

2014 hasn’t been an easy year, with some real ups and downs. Some of the downs have been pretty bloody down, and back in August/September was about as low as I’ve been in a long time, with the finances right back to Ground Zero. The last couple of months of the year have been a massive improvement, a real resurgence that’s left things on a very positive note, and that’s nothing but good.

But man alive, there’s been a lot going on.

Work

I’ve had two spectacularly bad jobs – both permanent roles – this year, the second of which took three months to escape from, cost me a buggerload of money (the owner decided to arbitrarily cut my offered salary by £10K, a drop of just under a thousand a month, with no warning or notification) and affected me a lot more than I’d ever have acknowledged.  In small ways it’s still ongoing – I’ve invoiced the dickhead for the money he screwed me for, and my New Year’s present to him will be a claim through Small Claims Court (well, now Money Claim Online, but who’s counting?) so that should be fun.

I’ve also had three contracts (plus one that over-ran into the start of 2014) with two being OK and one being less so. That one was an easy life, which was more about being a bum on a seat “in case anything happened”, rather than actually doing stuff. Easy, but not my kind of thing, as has been written about elsewhere.

The final contract of the year – which flows into the start of 2015 – has been the catalyst for getting things on a more positive footing. It’s been work that suits me, as well as being one where I’m able to work from home for the majority of the time, which also suits me.

Finances

As per the work notes, the London job cost me a lot of money, with the savings I’d made up ’til then getting used for keeping things afloat while I still believed that The Dickhead would actually pay what was owed. Even while everything was down at lowest possible, I still got through – no borrowings, no late payments etc. So it’s not as bad as it could’ve been, and yet again showed how far I’ve actually come – but it’s still annoying to have been knocked back after a year of being successful on it all.

I’m back on the up now, things in credit and so on. I still need to build up the funds again, but that’s happening, and will continue to do so through into 2015.

Creative / Writing

This year’s writing and so on hasn’t been great – because of everything else going on, it just hasn’t happened as much as I wanted it to.

Writing-wise, I have done some stuff. I’ve entered some small pieces to some competitions, although without any decent results. However, at least it’s been about getting things done and submitted – which is more than I managed in 2013.

Photography’s been a lot slacker. Along the way I’ve got out of the habit of carrying a camera all the time, and it’s proving harder to get back into doing it. I love the SLR I’ve got, but it’s a pain in the chuff for most of the time.

The daytrips of late have been partly about taking photos again as well, although they’ve all ‘only’ been taken on the iPhone, but at least I’ve been taking photos again, and they’ve been pretty decent.

Summary

So while 2014’s been a ropy old year in many ways, it’s ending up with a lot of promise, and lot of optimism for 2015.  Whether that will be justified or not, who knows? But I’m going to give it my best.

And really, what more can anyone ask than that?

 

 

Mislaid

I am, on occasion, a bloody idiot. Last night was a prime example of that.

I went to the cinema to see the new Captain America film, and also had a meal. Because I was out like that, I took my Kindle, and because it was chiffing cold, I also took a jacket. (I’m normally pretty immune to cold, and don’t bother with jackets or coats at all)

When I got to the cinema, I put the jacket down by the side of the seat, with the Kindle in its inside pocket.

When I left the cinema, I also left the jacket – because it’s not in my mental software to get it, I completely forgot about it. I am, in short, a complete fucking idiot.

I went back this morning first thing (I had a day off anyway, for a number of reasons) to see if they’d found it, but no-one had handed it in. I’ll check again, just in case it’d been held over somewhere, but the odds are that the jacket and the Kindle are gone.

Of course, things could have been so much worse. It could’ve been an expensive coat/jacket, I could have left my wallet in the jacket as well. The Kindle could have had my payment details in it, or personal information. A couple of years ago, the loss of something like this would have knackered me, would have led to some financial juggling and so on just to replace it.

Now though, I’ve already registered it as lost, ordered a replacement, and it’s really not a big problem. It’s annoying – and of course a reminder that I’m a fucking idiot – but it all could have been so much worse. Indeed, it’s gone some way to showing me the changes that have happened over the last year or so, and in that, it’s no bad thing.

Collect Plus

Collect PlusFor returning the broken Kindle, this time Amazon made me use a new (to me) service called CollectPlus. (or Collect+, depending on whether you believe the URL or the logo)

Collect Plus have created a network of locations – usually corner-shops, garages/filling stations, newsagents and the like – where you can drop off a parcel for delivery. It is – I assume – a kind of private mail/courier company, the sort of thing that’s risen from the ashes of Royal Mail’s service (or lack thereof)

So far, from my side, it’s been a pretty positive experience. I went over to the local(ish) collection/drop-off point on Sunday – yes! getting a parcel sent on a Sunday! – and went through the necessary bits. I’d printed off the label from Amazon, stuck it to the box, and all was prepared.  Then I simply gave it over to the person on the till, got my receipt, and job done.

I got the email today from Amazon to say that the parcel has been delivered to them – not the world’s fastest process, but it’s cost me nothing to do, and it’s all run pretty smoothly so far. It’s also been a lot quicker, easier, more effective and less painful than anything Royal Mail ever managed…

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