May. 21st, 2017

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Looks like I've got another blasted sinus infection - that makes at least 4 so far this year (plus several bugs which didn't hit my sinuses). Which is a bit worrying as my sister tends to get them near constantly through the winter and I'd prefer not to go the same way, thank you!

I initially thought it was just the weather had turned cold on Friday, but mid-afternoon I turned really feverish and ended up sleeping under the quilt on the couch from 4 through to 11 (on the plus side, 7 hours sleep is as much as I've had at one time in the last fortnight, so unexpected bonus).

I thought I'd kicked it when I woke up feeling okay, but it was just lulling me into a false sense of security and the sinus headache kicked in once I left the house. I had planned to get lunch over in Rochester, but the parking was abysmal. On the two streets I favour for giving me reasonable access to the high street in the chair there were probably five spaces, two thirds of one here, half of one there. Some of it was probably just circumstances, but at least one guy was deliberately taking up two spaces (parked outside the private school - sense of entitlement in action?) There probably wasn't any point in checking the actual pay car parks for spaces at that time of day (plus the traffic to them is regularly a nightmare), but I might have found somewhere a little further out, however I was feeling decidedly cranky by that point, so I gave up on lunch and went to grab some shopping from Asda.

On reflection I should have realised Asda was going to be irritating. It was mid-afternoon on Saturday and everyone was out doing their weekend shop. Plus the wheelchair shopping trolley isn't nearly as manouverable as the standard versions*, which means people are constantly in my way. But I couldn't help noticing that it was the same three people who kept getting in my way - especially a woman who was wandering around with a phone glued to her ear and paying no attention to anyone else whatsoever. This was not a good combination with cranky, headachey me.

I survived and got home again, and promptly fell asleep on the couch once more. I've been awake since midnight, playing XCom to occupy myself. I'm feeling (very) mildly headachey, and now I think of it I notice it there's a bit of tinnitus going on as well

Dear Sinus Bug, Bugger Off!!

* 4 casters means a standard trolley can move on the diagonal to move around people. The wheelchair trolley-wheelchair has six casters between chair and trolley, and two non-castering main wheels on the chair, which means you have to turn 4 times to get around people, pivoting the trolley about the chair, and with a full trolley that's quite hard work.



davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

Well, actually about six months worth of reading, since the last of these appears to have been in early December.

I'm not certain what I ended up reading around Christmas, I may have a poke around and see if my Kindle will tell me, but the New Year started on a bit of a tangent. I used to be fairly current on modern naval stuff, partly as a spin-off from the job, partly from personal interest, but that had gradually drifted over into a focus on between-the-wars stuff. Until January, when for some reason I can't recall, possibly just a news report or something else that caught my eye, I took a look, realised how out of date I was, and decided to bring myself back up to speed. Mostly I've been doing it through online stuff, but I've also been buying and reading a lot of stuff for the Harpoon naval wargame rules (written by techno-thriller author Larry Bond), which works to sieve down a lot of information into a condensed form. So that's been one thing, and has probably consumed several hundred hours - realistically that's more than I wanted to spend on it, but I do tend to obsess, and obviously that ate into time where I might have been reading fiction.

Spinning off from that (or possiby vice-versa?) I re-read all of 'The Last War', an ongoing web-based alt-history based on the Berlin Wall not falling and a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict in 2003. I used to read it regularly (it has its own Yahoo group), but hadn't followed it actively in years. It now stands at somewhere over a million words to date, and he's only a couple of weeks into the war.... Very detailed, in the style of Clancy's Red Storm Rising, and wryly amusing for his habit of using TV characters for a lot of roles - so, for instance, you have Dirty Harry Callaghan as head of LAPD running their response to KGB-initiated rioting, and David Woodward's Callan acting as control to a rather nasty assassin. It gets truly bizarre when you have different characters played by the same actor running into each other, as has happened on a couple of occasions.

In fact big re-reading projects pretty much sums up the year to date. Reading Charles Stross's 'The Annihilation Score' led me to re-read the entire set of Laundry Files books up to that point (I'm still behind as 'The Nightmare Stacks' has just dropped down to a price I'm prepared to pay). I thought I'd reviewed the Laundry Files, but I've just checked and apparently not, so I'll leave those for now and come back to them en masse. As a spin-off from reading the actual Laundry books I also bought and read the RPG based on them, plus several of the supplements.

After that I had a bit of a reading hiatus, so deliberately picked up something I knew would be a light read to get myself started again just before Easter. That was the first book in Mercedes Lackey's Collegium series, which is a new timeframe in her Herald books. That turned into seven books in five days, all five of the Collegium series, plus the first two of the three book Herald Spy series. I slowed down a bit for the last of them, then decided I might as well re-read the entire series as the collections were cheap on Amazon. So that's another three trilogies: Arrows of the Queen, The Mage Winds and The Mage Storms (which I thought I hadn't read, but had). Annoyingly I can't find my copy of 'By the Sword', which lies between Arrows and Winds, and is probably my favourite of them all. And annoyingly it doesn't seem to have an ecopy available. I'll probably go on to read the Owl Knight trilogy, and maybe the Griffins prequel trilogy, I'm fairly sure I haven't read either before, but, like the Laundry Files, I'll probably cover all of these in a separate post. I have lots of thoughts, some favourable, some very much not.

And the most recent thing I've re-read is Mary Gentle's 'Grunts', which was an utterly bizzare turn for the author who had just produced the gorgeously gothic 'Architecture of Desire' etc. 'Grunts' is the story of what happens when great orc Ashnak of the fighting Agaku, plus a few of his nestmates and a couple of amoral halflings, are sent to rob a dragon's horde of weapons during the run up to the final battle between Good and Evil. It turns out the dragon was a militaria collector, and his entire horde is weapons the like of which the orcs have never seen, an entire hollowed-out mountain stuffed full of AK-47s and M-16s (not to mention tanks and gunships and worse). The dragon's dying curse is that the thieves will become what they steal, and the stuff they steal includes a complete set of US Marine Corps manuals. In just a few pages the Orc Marines have staged a fighting retreat from the plains of faux-mageddon and are figuring out what to do with themselves. If they can just stop magicians spelling their weapons into not working then they have a weapon against which magic has no defences (yes, that's a bit chicken and egg). They're orcs, they don't mind being cannon-fodder, but they much prefer being cannon fodder that wins (and they've had more than enough working for Dark Lords). That sends Ashnak and a few of his best orcs off on a quest to get the required talismans, which brings them back into contact with the two halflings, and their mother; which sets up unending emnity between Ashnak and the sons, and a rather more complex relationship with their mother. And then a whole lot more stuff happens: war crimes, election campaigns, alien invasions, and war crimes trials, and if no one actually says 'peace through fire superiority' then it's a concept the Orc Marines would understand perfectly (well, apart from the peace bit).
 

I remember thinking 'Grunts' was wonderful when it first appeared, but re-reading it a quarter of a century on I can see its flaws (and realistically I suspect I've changed a lot in the past 25 years). Some of the humour now makes me wince. Yes, they're Orcs and “naterally wicious,” (to borrow a line from Dickens), but beyond the pratfalls and the humourous fraggings those really are war crimes (and rape humour) we're being asked to laugh at. And more fundamentally, there's something a little incoherent about the narrative. It's basically Ashnak shooting his way to running the planet, and it is reasonable that we get the final battle between Good and Evil out of the way quickly, as it's a story about winning the peace, but the major portion of the book seems to be more 'and then this happened' than any clearly plotted progression. There's some nicely handled character progression - an elf who turns into a perfect Orc marine while stuck in an Aliens scenario, for instance  - but there's also what looks like it should be a major character arc around an actual US Marine, only for it to be over in four randomly scattered scenes.

I still like it, and it was innovative when it was written, but it hasn't aged as well as it might and if things still make me smile, then it's more often a guilty smile than I'm comfortable with.

Aaargh!!

May. 21st, 2017 12:20 pm
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

One of the things we did while I was up in Durham was set up lasting Power of Attorney for my sister WRT my mother, with me as reserve. The forms were much longer than we expected, about 42 pages of print-out in the end, which caused a problem as my sister's ancient inkjet laboured to get that printed, with the end result I had to make certain everything got signed in the the right place and the right order before breakfast on the morning I was catching the train down to Kent.

That's now come back to haunt us slightly as, while the financial one was fine, they're saying there was a missing signature on the medical one, which means that primary decision making will rest with the doctors rather than us if my mother is unable to make decisions. Now if we missed a signature I'm damned if I know where it was, I caught two that weren't covered in the notes on what to sign, but there's not a lot we can do to argue about it. So £84 down the drain.

Apparently if we move quickly (the next couple of days) we can get the problem resolved (for a bargain price of only £42), but my mother has slightly thrown the cat among the pigeons by declaring tht if it came down to it she wouldn't want resuscitation anyway, which is the most likely scenario for needing medical PoA rights (to object to an unwanted DNR), and my brother-in-law has pointed out that even without a medical PoA in place for his mother the doctors always ran everything past him anyway. 

So given that, and needing to respect my mother's expressed wishes, my sister wants me to figure out if there's actually any point in chasing after the medical PoA. Which would be easier if I hadn't had a sinus headache for the last three days. Can anyone think of a scenario where we might need medical Power of Attorney outside of objecting to a DNR?

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davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
David Gillon

June 2017

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