Daily Archives: Sunday, 29th Apr 2007

Tut tut. Not good enough.

Mutter. This morning’s weight was up again, to a level I’m not really happy with. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have the motivation to actually do anything about that right now.

And I’ve got three nights in a hotel coming up, so don’t expect any significant drop before this time next week.

Doctor Who – Survival

No, this isn’t the slightly overdue latest episode review, it’s the latest DVD release from the classic series. And it’s a bit of a special one – first shown in late 1989, Survival was the last story in what turned out to be the last series of Doctor Who until 2005.[1]

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy this time round) takes his companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) back to her home town of Perivale for a visit. But something’s wrong – her old friends have disappeared, and it’s not long before the travellers find out where they’ve gone.

They’re transported to the planet of the Cheetah People – humanoid, horse riding predators. The planet is unstable, and appears to be about to break up. And it seems to have a strange effect on the people who are taken there – they gradually become wild and cat-like.

All that would be a lot of fun, but just to make things more interesting, the Master (Anthony Ainley) is around, in full evil form. Somehow the Doctor has to escape from the collapsing planet make sure Ace doesn’t change irreversibly. Of course, the Master has other ideas, and once again his determination to destroy the Doctor gets him into more trouble.

As was normal at the time, this is a three-part story, making it not a great deal longer than a single parter in the current series. And at the time, the series had been cut back to just fourteen 25-minute episodes, meaning that there was a lot less Doctor Who around than we get these days. Interestingly, this final story has some details in common with the revived series – the suburban setting, mostly Earth-based…

Apart from the entertaining story, there’s a nice collection of extras:

  • Cat Flap – a two part documentary on the making of Survival
  • Endgame – a look at how the series came to be cancelled, and how it might have developed if the 27th season had been in 1990 rather than 2005.
  • Little Girl Lost – a look at the development of Ace’s character
  • The usual production subtitles, plus out-takes and much much more

All good stuff, and every fan should watch it!

[1] Insert standard stuff about not paying much attention to the Paul McGann TV movie

Alastair Reynolds – The Prefect (aka Aurora Rising)

Update: For reasons of, err, who the heck knows, The Prefect is being reissued under the title Aurora Rising. This may be related to the forthcoming sequel, Elysium Fire, but it’s likely to cause some confusion.
Woo hoo! Al Reynolds is back with another novel set in the Revelation Space universe. This one is set at an earlier time than most of the novels, set in the Glitter Band, a glorious gathering of thousands of artificial habitats orbiting Yellowstone, the planet that’s home to Chasm City. This is before the Melding Plague, the terrible infection that turned the Glitter Band into the Rust Belt, and made Chasm City a nightmare, and focuses on Tom Dreyfus, a Field Prefect – an agent working for Panoply, the closest thing the Glitter Band has to a police force.

As is usual with a Reynolds novel, the story is as much a mystery thriller as hard sf, and all the better for it. The trouble seems to start when a habitat is destroyed, and all its occupants are killed. The trouble gets worse when Dreyfus’s deputy, Thalia Ng runs into problems while performing what should be a routine upgrade to the voting system on another habitat. Big problems. Really big problems, in fact.

And from there it starts to get complicated. Secrets from the past, betrayals, confusion and the realisation that hardly anyone is whom they seem to be add to the fun.

To defeat a deadly enemy, Dreyfus is forced to track down and deal with something lethal from his past, something he thought had been destroyed.

Like every other Reynolds book, it’s enormous fun, and had me hooked from the start. As it approached the climax, I found myself both desperate to find out how it would end, and at the same time not wanting it to finish.

I hope it won’t be too long to wait for the next book. And I hope we’ll be seeing more of Tom Dreyfus.

Saltwell Park – 11 April 2007

On my way to the Angel of the North, I took a stroll through Saltwell Park, where I took these pictures. There are some views of the Dene, a squirrel, and lots of birds.

What? No Alexa?

More observant readers might have noticed that I used to have an Alexa rank badge icon thingy on the sidebar. For the benefit of the less observant[1], Alexa is an Amazon-owned service that shows the relative popularity of websites. Now this might be useful information, but there’s a wee bit of a problem with it.

It works by recording the web browsing activity of people who have installed the Alexa toolbar. Now most sensible web users avoid installing extra toolbars on the grounds that they’re nasty things that report on their behaviour to the people who create them. I don’t think I know anyone who uses the Alexa toolbar. What’s more, Alexa’s toolbar is only available for Internet Explorer.

So, Alexa’s stats are for a quite specific subset of web users. People who browse with IE[2] and who are happy to install toolbars that report on their habits.

I was prompted to think about this by Matt’s recent comments, which led me to Aaron Brazell’s thoughts on the subject. And I have to say that I agree with Aaron. The ranking figure Alexa shows is quite irrelevant, and doesn’t give any real indication of how many people are visiting a site.

So it’s gone. And I’ll bet most of you never even noticed it.

[1] Or those who just can’t be bothered looking that far down :wave:
[2] A large, but shrinking proportion of web users

Newcastle City Library: Picture update 3

This set was taken on 27 April.

Newcastle City Library: Picture update 2

This small set was taken on 19 April, and shows some odd burrowing.

Newcastle City Library: Picture update

Yes, I’ve got a wee bit behind with sorting out my pictures, but I’ve started catching up. This set was taken on 17 April, and shows some nice destruction. At this point, the Door to Nowhere has gone.