Yearly archives: 2013

Celebrate New Year as it goes round the world with Superfi

I’ve been scheduling posts on the Facebook page of my employer, Superfi to mark the turning of the year as it works its way around the globe. Thanks to some dateline shenanigans, Samoa are already in the future, having celebrated New Year at 10am UK time. Tune in every hour for more videos and countries.

Fiction: Chosen Ones

The bell sounded, and all the men moved clockwise around the room. One of the men, looking up after he had taken his seat, had an uncommon tingle of recognition that became a cold rush of adrenaline.

The golden skinned woman across the table returned his stare. Her gaze didn’t waver, but muscles in her face twitched as she tried to hold her expression. They both slowly raised their hands above the edge of the table and laid them, palms up, on top of it. The uncomfortable introductions were over at all the other tables and the volume of the conversation was rising.

“You’re the lost prince of Atlantis.” the woman said.

“One of them. There’s another one causing a fuss now. You’re the hundredth daughter of Zeus.”

“I am.”

“What are you doing here?”

“What does one normally do at a speed dating event.”

They relaxed some, the initial tension slipping away. He crossed his arms on the desk and leaned forward. “What are you doing out in the normal world?”

“I was raised in the normal world.” She, too, leaned forward, to whisper, “If truth be told, I never felt comfortable with the Olympians. They were very grateful that I saved them, so they forgave me all my faux pas over etiquette and lack of knowledge of their history. But it was all so stiff and formal and…. not fun.” She sat back. “And what are you doing here, specifically, at a speed dating event? The tales say you fell for an Atlantean princess.”

“Me and Tula were thrown together by the adventures. We soon realised it wasn’t going to work out. We’re still friends, but she’s being wooed by some Duke from the Marianas, real deep nobility. What about you? I heard you shacked up with a demi-centaur.”

She exhaled violently, a dismissive and disappointed sound. “Quarter horse, all ass! That is another reason I stay away from Olympus, I may tear his throat out should I see him again.”

“I will never ask about him again.” He tapped the blue bordered sticker on his shirt. It said ‘Charlie’. “Obviously, this is not my real name. I’m Carlo.”

“Ariadne.” Her name badge said ‘Anne’.

The bell sounded. “That was quick.” said Ariadne. “Let’s swap war stories over a few drinks when this is done with.”

“Okay.” Carlo scraped his chair back and moved on to the next table along.

* * *

“A duck?”

“A duck.”

“Your father manifested as a duck to impregnate your mother? I thought he got jiggy as a swan?” Carlo’s gesture sloshed beer from his glass. He turned to apologise to whoever he had soaked, and found empty space. They had been at the bar some time, and the crowd had thinned as they had spent the hours reminiscing.

“I think he was drunk.” Ariadne sighed. “I’m the daughter of a duck and a woman who fell asleep by the wrong river.”

The picture in Carlo’s head made him laugh so hard he slipped off his stool. Somehow he kept his drink upright on the bar. Ariadne scowled at him, but then she viewed the scene through the haze of alcohol and joined in the guffaws.

When they had stopped laughing long enough to get their breath back, Ariadne picked up a shot glass of Ouzo and threw the liquid down her throat with a theatrical flick of her head. She let it burn for a moment, then rinsed her palate with a big mouthful of craft lager. Another mouthful and she had finished the beer. Carlo drained his. His Ouzo had been emptied earlier.

The barman recognised their needs and poured them generous shots of spirit then went to fill clean glasses with beers. They were tipping well, so he had become tuned to their requirements.

“I’m a shapeshifter, you know.” Ariadne announced. “I inherited that from my father.”

“So…. You can change into a duck as well?”

The barman returned with their beers. Carlo slid notes across the counter top to him, then picked up the large shot of Ouzo. “Slorp!” he said- an old Atlantean drinking salute- then knocked it back.

“Gia sou!” Ariadne downed her Ouzo, then chased it with some lager. “No, I cannot change into a duck. Nor do I ever, ever, want to. I can change into a cat.”

“What kind of cat?”

“Golden, with sleek hair. And I can make myself any size from a large pet to a puma.”

“I’d like to see that.”

“Stick around, maybe you will. What can you do?”

“I’m an Atlantean, I can breathe under water. And I can swim almost as fast as a tuna.”


“And there was some prophecy stuff, without which I might’ve got killed. But that was all specific place and time stuff. Not been able to do most of it since.”

“I know how that feels.”

“Hey.” Carlo dragged something up from his memory.  “There were a bunch of ducks in Central Park killed a couple of months ago. They said it looked like it was done by a big cat.”

“I could not possibly say anything about that.”

* * *

“What ever happened to this being the city that never sleeped? Sleeped?… Slept?… Sleeps?… Sleeps. The city that never sleeps.” Ariadne asked.

“We were the last of his customers. Poor man has to get up some time tomorrow and start all over again, he deserved some rest.”

They were propping each other up and proceeding along the middle of the street by starting to topple forward and then catching themselves when they’d tumbled forward some more. “All the lights are on up there.”

Ariadne gestured with a sweep of her arm, “But down here there’s not even a cab.”

A car horn sounded behind them. They both jumped, then turned slowly to see a battered old Crown Victoria yellow cab which they were blocking. The driver leaned out of his window and said something uncharitable in Urdu.

Carlo straightened himself up, pointed a wandering finger at the cabbie and replied in the same language that actually, his parents had been married thank you very much, the lady he was with was from a noble family and, if the driver would be so gracious as to apologise, they would like him to take them home.

The driver stared, mouth and eyes wide open, then clasped his hands together and begged forgiveness. Carlo bowed and graciously accepted the apology. “I have a gift for languages. I inherited it from my mother, I’m told. So, your place or mine? You may like to know that mine has a generous supply of whisky and gin.”

* * *

Ariadne clasped the small cubic alarm so tightly she might crush it. She couldn’t find the button to switch off its squawking, so it might be the only way to shut it up. Perhaps it understood this, because it went quiet all by itself. She grunted in satisfaction, then began moving it back and forth until her hungover eyes could focus on the screen which covered the face nearest her. “Your machine says it is Sunday. What happened to Saturday?”

“I think we drank it.” said Carlo from under a pillow. He steeled himself and bravely lifted the covering from his eyes. The light was harsh, but not as bad as he had feared.

“This is your bed.” Ariadne noted, after tossing the alarm aside and pushing herself up. “Did we…?”

“Well, my jeans are still on. What about you?”

“My clothes are crumpled but intact.” Ariadne almost sounded disappointed.

Carlo carefully swung his legs over the edge of the bed. The floor was a minefield of empty bottles. Ariadne surveyed them. “I haven’t had such a night since I went drinking with my brother and all the other demi-god in crowd.”

Carlo tried to stand, got dizzy, and sat down again. On the second try he managed to stay upright. “I think I need a shower.”

“What happens to and Atlantean when they take a shower?” Ariadne wondered aloud.

“Why not come along and find out?”

* * *

Clothes, and then boxes from pizza and Chinese places had joined the empty bottles on the floor.

It was nearing dawn on Monday. Carlo stood naked before the window and watched the city as it began to hustle. He could just make out the Hudson between the buildings opposite. “So few normal people have the stamina to match the daughter of a god.” Ariadne said from the bed.

“Or Atlanteans.” Carlo replied.

“My goodness, we have made a mess.” Ariadne noted. “I must help you tidy up.”

“Thanks. Do you have to get to work?”

“No. I’m between jobs. But I get money from father, more than enough to get me through. The ancient Greek economy is doing better than the modern one, it seems. You?”

“This building has been in the family for years, so I get this place and a share of the rent paid on the other apartments. There’s money from Atlantis too, but the exchange rate ain’t so good on money from a place most folks don’t think is real. Sometimes I swim around the Hudson and sell the stuff I find down there on eBay. Or drink it. I found all this whiskey in a sunken rum-runner when I took a trip up to the Great Lakes last year.”

“So you are getting by.”

“I guess so. But…. I don’t know…. Do you ever miss the adventures?” Carlo picked his way through the debris of their excesses and sat on the bed.

“Somewhat, I suppose. My life has been dull now since I fulfilled the prophecy.”

“Yeah. I mean, it’s like we’re not needed any more and we just have to put up with it. We lose our families, or spend our whole childhood running from something we don’t understand. Then we spend our teenage years going from fight to fight, losing friends along the way, until we save the world, or our corner of it. And we’re lauded up and down for a while until another prophecy is discovered and another kid comes along and then we’re forgotten about.”

“That is the way of the world. Very few prophecy kids are as productive in adulthood as they were as teenagers.”

“It sucks. It’s almost as if we only exist to have a few tales told about us and then when they’ve dried up and everything’s back to status quo we’re tossed aside and everyone’s off to find a new story to be thrilled by.”

“So we drink and make love and…. exist in our own little bubble, outside the world we grew up in and the one we’re heirs to. Yes, I see what you mean. It is not a great way to spend the rest of our lives. But what can we do about it?”

“We could make our own adventures. I have been thinking about things to do with my abilities, like salvaging what’s at the bottom of rivers and lakes. But me and a guy I know from the Bronx have been planning a heist. I think our crew could use a shape shifter….”

To Be Continued?

Is there life on Mars (and did it come from Earth)

Panspermia – the idea that organisms can “hitchhike” around the solar system on comets and debris from meteor strikes – has long fascinated astronomers.

But thanks to advances in computing, they are now able to simulate these journeys – and follow potential stowaways as they hitch around the Solar System.

via BBC News – Dinosaur asteroid 'sent life to Mars'.

Should newspapers ban climate deniers like Reddit’s science forum? | Environment |

Free speech is an important human right. However, when name-calling and repetition of outright falsehoods is being used to stifle debate and the free speech of others, I think you could make a case for banning it. So I think that the Reddit science thread’s approach to aggressive and uninformed climate change denial is appropriate.

Should newspapers ban climate deniers like Reddit's science forum? | Environment |

It’s my job to finish Whitehaven station

It’s my job to finish Whitehaven station, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

This is the model of Whitehaven station, some time in the fifties or sixties, for my Dad’s railway layout. My sister drew up the blueprint, I designed the 3D printed windows and doors and Dad built it. It’s about 95% complete.

Dad passed away this morning- peacefully, at home and surrounded by his family. The next few days, and all the way to the New Year are going to be hard and busy, but after that I intend to do the last little bits to complete it.

This government is so bad I don’t even know where to start

I want to direct some justified anger at the government. They seem intent on destroying everything good about this country and leaving behind a wasteland which only benefits billionaire tax evaders, incompetent bankers and Paul Dacre.

The problem is, almost every week they do something else appalling and the anger gets diverted and redirected. It’s almost as if their survival policy is to keep wrong-footing decent people by throwing up a smokescreen of ever changing petty, sociopathic, shit ideas so that we’re too confused about what we should be aiming at. Anyone who tried to confront Cameron, Osborne or Clegg with even a small list of the things they’re fucking up would run the risk of looking like a babbling, incoherent weirdo.

Having said all that, here’s another five reasons to hate these scum.

It used to be that when politicians wanted to bury bad news they’d orchestrate its release to time with a distracting event. Seeing Iain Duncan Smith publicly criticized for wasting at least £140 million of public money over Universal Credit at the start of this month, it struck me how we’ve slowly reached another level. “Unmitigated disaster”? “Alarmingly weak”? These words were used to describe Universal Credit but could easily have been levelled at a number of largely unreported changes to the benefit system. Nowadays, bad news is buried by even worse news. The sheer volume of inefficient and unethical changes to social security this Government has enacted means some of it doesn’t even get noticed. Which, for a set of politicians hacking at vulnerable people’s support systems, is worryingly convenient.

So, here’s five benefit changes the government doesn’t want you to know about.

5 benefit changes the government don't want you to know about.

Mega delusional: The curse of the megaproject – opinion – 02 December 2013 – New Scientist

Worse still, what we often have is an inverted Darwinism: the survival of the unfittest. It is not the best projects that get chosen, but those that look best on paper. And these are the ones with the largest cost underestimates and benefit overestimates. They are disasters waiting to happen.

It has become increasingly clear that when megaprojects go wrong they are like the bull in the china shop: they can damage national economies. It has become similarly clear to many involved that something needs to be done.

Mega delusional: The curse of the megaproject – opinion – 02 December 2013 – New Scientist.

Let’s go asteroid mining!

I’m looking forward to the release of Elite:Dangerous sometime next year and, eventually, having a computer powerful enough to run it. I just hope it’s not so realistic that I have to run this version of the Drake equation whenever I want to go pulverise some asteroids with a laser and scoop up the debris for profit.

Alien-hunting equation revamped for mining asteroids – space – 04 December 2013 – New Scientist.

Soldier arrested in Germany following discovery of nail bomb in Salford

Terrorism news from a little too close to home. I can’t really see Patricroft from my flat, but it’s this side of the horizon when I look out of my kitchen window.

(Please also note “extreme rightwing” leaflets were found along with the bomb. We seem a touch too eager to forget that white folks can be terrorists too.)

Mellor Street

via Soldier arrested in Germany following discovery of nail bomb in Salford | UK news |

Germany says hundreds of unsolved killings may be linked to neo-Nazi group – Telegraph

As many as 746 murders and attempted murders, over a 21 year period, may be linked to a German neo-Nazi group.

The investigation stretches back to 1990, the year of German reunification. A surge of racist violence followed, particularly in the formerly communist east and poorer parts of the west.

It ends with cases from 2011. Late that year, the self-styled National Socialist Underground emerged as alleged suspects behind the murder of eight Turkish men, a Greek and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. The group, whose sole surviving alleged member is currently on trial, also is suspected of carrying out two bombings in which dozens of people were injured.

Germany says hundreds of unsolved killings may be linked to neo-Nazi group – Telegraph.

e-publishing on the rise in Africa

The great thing about writing for e-readers is that my customers can, theoretically, be anywhere on the globe. My Kindle books are already available in two of the BRICs- Brazil and India- and that’s likely to keep expanding.

The article argues that the rapid growth in internet access and smartphone usage in Africa is creating reading populations that never before existed. I should investigate ways to reach them.


via BBC News – Will e-publishing help Africa switch on to reading?.

Missing WW2 mega-submarine found off Hawaii – Telegraph

Scientists have solved the longstanding mystery of a Japanese submarine missing since 1946 after stumbling across it in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii.

The Sen-Toku I-400 submarine – one of the largest pre-nuclear underwater vessels ever built – was discovered lying 2,300 feet beneath the surface of the ocean off the southwest coast of Oahu.

via Missing WW2 mega-submarine found off Hawaii – Telegraph.

Plotting by Post-It note

Plotting by Post-It note, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

Stories start differently. This one is forming through the notes on the
wall method, which I haven’t used for a while.

The green notes are my early ideas, back when they started to form. Then I
went and bought some different colours. Red ones are character basics, pink
ones scenes and yellow ones themes.

The glue on the pink and yellow notes doesn’t want to stick as well as the
other colours. Maybe I should start writing scenes whenever I have to pick
them up off the floor.

Well, Boris, it would seem you just failed the intelligence test | Andrew Rawnsley | Comment is free | The Observer

I don’t know whether the mayor of London is familiar with Huxley’s novel. He might like one of its conceits: to sustain the placidity of the population, recreational and promiscuous sex is strongly encouraged by the state. I am sure he would protest that this was not his intention, but the vision of society that he promotes is not entirely remote from Huxley’s chilling dystopia. The mayor, who presumably regards himself as an Alpha Plus, is effectively telling the person who cleans his office, whom he dismisses as an Epsilon Minus, that their unequal fates are preordained at birth.

“Why on earth enter this territory?” asks one close ally of David Cameron. “Anything that has the whiff of eugenics is just not smart. A lot of people read that and thought, ‘Oh, fuck, Boris. Do you really want to say that?'”

Well, Boris, it would seem you just failed the intelligence test | Andrew Rawnsley | Comment is free | The Observer.

An architectural wander around Pendleton


At noon and six pm (and around 10 am on Sundays) church bells play a tune over Pendleton. I think this church, St. Thomas, is the culprit.

Heading east from St. Thomas, I found the first evidence of what would become a recurring theme.


The Pendleton Cooperative Industrial Society put their name to a lot of buildings in the area.

Post-industrial Pendleton seems to have mostly gone over to recycling based businesses. In its run-down, faded way, it reminded me of Ancoats and canal-side Manchester in the nineties and early noughties, though I’m not sure it will ever be rehabilitated and gentrified in the same way.


Laundry Street is just as sad and abandoned as the sign suggests.


This spire standing by itself in the middle of a housing estate intrigued me. Why was it left when the rest of the church was knocked down?


The rest of this building has been demolished, so all you get is the end of its name.


….and two different dates.

There are more images in the Pendleton Architectural Wander set, and more to explore. I’ll get on the bike some day and have a longer wander around the area.