Monthly archives: January 2011

links for 2011-01-29

  • The Q cleared workers of the Department of Energy carry a very heavy burden that they can never put down, even the former janitors.. They have been entrusted with the nuclear secrets of the nation and you’d be surprised how informative very peripheral information, like frequency of trash collection, can be. For this reason, they aren’t free to speak…EVER.You disappear behind the Q and cease to be an individual, you are part of the complex.

links for 2011-01-28

A step forward in the climate change debate

The Daily Mail reports on how a warmer Arctic could mean harsher winters for Britain. This in itself isn’t new news- the article mentions The Day After Tomorrow, the overblown disaster movie from a few years ago which used an extreme version of the theory as its basis. More recently I wrote Mia in the Snow based upon similar observations.

The big leap forward is that this article appeared in the Daily Mail, one of Britain’s foremost climate change denial newspapers. There’s the caveat- “No single season or year’s weather can be attributed to changing climate.”- but it’s immediately followed by- “However, the UK could see more snowy winters, similar to last month’s freeze.” Straight reporting of climate change from the Daily Mail, where they accept that the scientists know what they’re talking about and therefore have more merit than some bloke down the pub? Hell (but sadly not the Arctic) may well be about to freeze over.

Of course, the comments thread is full of the usual pseudo/non-scientific blather you’d expect from the denial crowd, but that’s to be expected.

links for 2011-01-27

  • Each Kindle Single presents a compelling idea–well researched, well argued, and well illustrated–expressed at its natural length. From an elaborate bank heist in Lifted, to Congolese rebel camps in The Invisible Enemy, to Jodi Picoult’s moving portrayal of family in Leaving Home, they offer nuanced journeys of both fact and fiction. This first set of Singles was selected by our team of editors, and includes works by Rich Cohen, Pete Hamill, Darin Strauss, and Ian Ayres. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have.
    (tags: kindle)

Guest blog: Cole Drewes

Hounds of Heaven coverMy path of being an indie author…it isn’t as lonely as you think!

So most of you have probably been reading about the buzz of self-publishing within the last couple of years. Authors like Joe Konrath, Zoe Winter’s, and Amanda Hocking are some of the author’s I’ve kept an eye on because of two reasons. The three above with countless other authors have broken the mold of self-publishing authors (indie authors). The above authors have sold the same amount or more books than most traditional published authors and they are doing it without the backing of a large publishing company.

I wrote Hounds of Heaven two years ago. One year was spent writing and the next year editing. All of this was done while I was working a full time job, being a full time husband and a new father! I still find time to edit my novel here and there before I release it on Amazon in March! I’m excited and extremely nervous as the release of my first novel approaches! Will people hate it or will they love it? I’ve tried to edit as much as I can but I wasn’t born to edit!

Now what I find interesting is how many are quick to bash the bad novels coming out of the new self-publishing revolution. I’ll agree that many people are publishing their novels simply thinking that they’ve written something of pure genius. Why edit my novel? Why spend time on the cover or market my novel? I shouldn’t have to do any of that because my novel is that amazing! It’s this group that gives the haters ammunition against self-publishing authors.

You can subscribe to my blog at:

I’ve recently started a project through Kickstarter which is a donation website for indie projects. On the site you’ll find artists looking to fund their movie, music, or writing projects. My goal is $500 but I didn’t really start the project for the money. I saw it as a way to advertise my novel and give away some really cool gifts that won’t be available anywhere else! My kickstarter project is below:

Note This is the post Cole wrote for me as part of a blog tour. I have a post at his blog all about why I haven’t been writing as much as I should so far this year.

links for 2011-01-26


I am, eventually, going to Interrail around Europe. I’ve been promising myself this for the last few years. It’s already looking like this isn’t the year I’ll do it, though it should be the one where I start putting aside the money to fund it.

In the mean time, I’ll keep adding places to the list of locations to visit. Such as Bierwelt, profiled today on BoingBoing, a Bavarian beer-centric theme park. The park is 90 kilometres from Munich and can be reached by train. The fact that it involves beer automatically puts it near the top of the (as yet unstarted if I’m honest) list.

Bierwelt website.

links for 2011-01-25

A little wander along the Manchester Ship Canal 3

For several years I’ve been saying I wanted to cycle the length of the Manchester Ship Canal, starting or ending in Port Sunlight. This year I need to stop saying it and actually do it. On Saturday I did a test ride along a bit of the canal.

For the ride proper I intend to catch a train to or from Port Sunlight so that I’m only riding one way. For Saturday’s partial ride there was to be no train intervention. I set myself a basic target- reaching a landmark I had identified on Google Maps or doing 15 miles from home base- at which point I would turn around and come back.

I had to ride out to the Trafford Centre then the Barton road bridge, where I would join the canal. One of the wonders of Google Maps is the satellite view, which let me get an idea of the lay of the land along the canal’s banks. This led me to the North shore being a better bet for access to land close to the water. I’m easily distracted, though, and stopped off in Stretford to get a couple of photos.

Unhappy boat deco frontage

Love that Deco frontage. I’ve taken a few photos over the years of the curved frontage of the bingo hall just around the corner, but only just noticed this. An architectural wander of Stretford is in order, I think.

I resisted photo ops the rest of the way to Barton, crossed the bridge, headed down side roads and gingerly made my way past a gaggle of geese and swans (swans are huge, and I still have a little bit of fear of them left over from the time one attacked me when I was about seven) and found myself on Langland Drive.

Langland Drive Short track

The GPS on my phone went a little mad on Langland Drive and put me in a lot of places other than where I actually was. There’s a lot of work going on on the wasteland west of the motorway, but no indication yet of what’s going to be there. After a while I reached a lock complex, which was closed to the public. The road curved away from the canal so I started following paths through the undergrowth and trees. This was almost too much for my tourer, a cyclocross bike might have been better suited, a mountain bike would have had no problems but would also have been overkill. Just beyond the locks, on the other side of the canal, was a loading dock of some sort.

Mystery Dock

A little further on was a spur off the canal, with a scrap yard and this precarious piece of parking on one side of it.


There are still reminders of whatever used to be here, in amongst the trees.


I could have joined the road soon after this, but I stubbornly stuck to the path through the trees until I reached Irlam Locks.

Irlam Locks Irlam Locks02

Pride comes before a flat, and my front tyre punctured a little way on from the locks. I’m surprised that I only picked up the one thorn considering the number of brambles draped across the path. For some reason, my phone’s GPS could work out where I was to within 7 metres whilst I fixed the tyre. To make things worse, the puncture had happened within sight of my target.

Ghost Train Old Railway bridge Under the bridge The other side of the bridge

(Not the locomotive- satellite view’s not that good- the bridge.)

My landmark, the first option for turning back, was thirteen and a half miles into my ride. I didn’t feel like retracing my route, so I carried on, knowing there’s a road bridge over the canal a couple of miles further on. I headed back toward the Trafford Centre on the South side of the canal where, as I’d thought, it was harder to get close to the water’s edge. However, I did find this redundant level crossing on the road to Flixton.

End of the line

The brief period when I could get close to the water did give me a different view of the mysterious dock from earlier and the locks just upstream from it.

Mystery Dock 2 Mystery Dock 3 Locks Locks 2

Then it was on to the Trafford Centre for doughnuts (to undo all the good that 30 miles of cycling had done) and a poor coffee before finishing the trip.

Next time I think I shall carry on along the canal to the end. I doubt I can make it all the way along the northern shore, and if I do I may then have to backtrack several miles until I can get across to the side with railway stations on it. I think I’ll wait until it’s a lot warmer.

RIP How to Save the World for Free

How to Save the World for Free was my Green blog, which I ran for a few years. I haven’t posted on it for a while because I decided to bring all the subjects I cover back onto Spinneyhead rather than carrying on running multiple niche sites. The domain will lapse soon, and I’ve decided not to renew it. For posterity, and the search engines, I have imported all the posts from the site into Spinneyhead.

I shall continue covering Green issues here at Spinneyhead. In fact, a bit of nostalgia for How to Save the World for Free makes me think I should increase eco coverage here.

links for 2011-01-24

Let’s add some more to the wishlist

Today is my day to covet cars I find on eBay. I’m watching Top Gear on iPlayer and not being impressed by the supercars, as usual. I’d rather have something like this Ginetta G15, a two seater sports car powered by a Hillman Imp engine. This one’s got a few race inspired modifications, including a rather funky front spoiler. It needs a little work, but at £4,300 it costs less than the wheelnuts from a Lamborghini.

Less sporty, but in its own strange way a bit exotic, is this old Russian Volga. For £1,850 I could see it becoming the basis for a very special lead sled.

Back onto sporty cars, how about a Datsun 260Z, or Sunbeam Alpine?

As this is me day-dreaming about classic cars I’d usually end the post with a Citroen DS or Traction Avant, but I can’t find any listed today.

Kindle book review: Fifth Avenue

I found out about this book on a forum. The author was offering reciprocal reviews for anyone who would review it. Then it turned up in the top sellers list at Amazon, so I thought I’d buy it. I have not taken up the review offer, maybe I should.

The action takes place, mostly, on the eponymous Manhattan street as billionaire George Redman gears up for his biggest ever deal. His favoured daughter Celina will play an important role whilst neglected child Leana is left to her own devices. However, someone wants to scupper the deal and destroy the family. (I won’t spoiler the bad guy for you, though the Amazon blurb does.)

Throughout the book I was reminded of a sort of mini series popular in the eighties, where unpleasant things happened to unpleasant people and we were supposed to care just because they were rich. None of the characters is particularly likeable, though that may be because none of them ever develops much of a character to care about. They just lurched from one unlikely event to the next, reacting in ways that left me wondering how Redman and his nemesis could ever have become so rich whilst being so dumb and devoid of empathy.

Sometimes you can get past flat characterisation with a fast paced plot, interesting background details and neat set pieces. Sadly Fifth Avenue doesn’t supply those either. The lives of the rich and infamous are reduced to name checking expensive brands and little else, and one of the most important and dramatic scenes in the book left me unmoved. The ludicrous revenge plan which drives the whole story is equally empty and uninspiring. What could have been a key sequence- where the big deal is brokered and the battling corporations make play and counter-play, revealing and tipping each others hands- all happens offscreen whilst uninspiring melodrama continues on the page.

I didn’t enjoy this book. But the author got my money, and the book is a best seller, so perhaps I’m the one who’s doing things wrong.

On second thoughts, maybe I won’t ask for the reciprocal review.

Fifth Avenue on Amazon UK.

Fifth Avenue on Amazon US.