24Feb

Comic Book Stars Hit By Recession

Well now I am sad. Things are getting tough even for comic book stars.

While Batman has yet to have to tighten his utility belt, his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, has disappeared in a recent story line, leaving the board of Wayne Enterprises struggling to keep the company afloat.
And he’s just one of several superheroes looking to get up, up and away from their financial problems.

“I don’t see how it doesn’t work into our storytelling if not only our readers are feeling it, but our creators are feeling it,” said Dan DiDio, executive editor at DC Comics.

The economic downturn has hit some of Marvel Comics’ characters hard: Tony Stark, the billionaire behind Iron Man, is on the run with all his assets frozen after being blamed by authorities for failing to stop an alien invasion.

19Feb

Diabetes Sufferers & Access To Blood Testing Strips

K asked if I could blog this for a bit more awareness on the issue of diabetes sufferers, and access to blood testing strips.

…in many parts of the UK people are being deprived of home blood glucose testing equipment and supplies because of postcode prescribing, blanket bans or restrictions imposed by Primary Care Organisations (PCOs) or through clinicians’ inadequate knowledge of diabetes or the individual patient’s needs.

Diabetes UK believes that people with diabetes should have access to home blood glucose monitoring based on individual clinical need and not on their, or the NHS’s ability to pay. It is counter productive the try and save the NHS money in this way. There are considerable cost savings to be made from supporting self management, by reducing the frequency of support needed from the NHS and preventing people with diabetes from needing hospital treatment either with diabetes emergencies or long term complications.

Restrictions on the type and numbers of testing strips is unacceptable as this does not meet individual needs and circumstances. National guidelines and frameworks set the standards of care that people with diabetes should expect and prioritise information, education, training and support to enable people to manage their diabetes themselves.

Find out how to get involved.

17Feb

Pride and Predator

For me, I could never get past the death-by-semicolon nature of her writing. For others, it might be the fact that she conveniently forgot the social problems of the times (you know, the Napoloenic wars and stuff). Or, I’m sure, the fact that she means the tedious sight of a thoroughly middle-class costume drama on the BBC. However, I believe we have come to a consensus on how to rectify the problems of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Just add seven-foot killer aliens:

It might prove something of a boon to those who reach for the remote control when yet another costume drama comes on television: Elton John’s Rocket Pictures is developing a new spin on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, this time featuring a nefarious seven-foot extraterrestrial with hideous mandibles and a penchant for human blood. Yes, it’s Pride and Predator.

Will Clark, best known for his award-winning gothic comedy short The Amazing Trousers, will direct the film, which is being produced by Rocket partners Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish.

“It felt like a fresh and funny way to blow apart the done-to-death Jane Austen genre by literally dropping this alien into the middle of a costume drama, where he stalks and slashes to horrific effect,” Furnish told Variety.

13Feb

Proof Copies Arrive

After marching around the house preparing to curse the postman for every minute he was late, they arrived. Here, finally, are the proofs (advance reading copies) of Nights of Villjamur. (Thanks, Julie!)

It’s not quite the final product, but it will certainly do for me. This, incidentally, will be sent out to various reviewers, in the vague hope they will praise it immensely, and not rip it to shreds. It also acts very nicely as a paperweight, raised gaming terrain and fuel (in these harsh economic times), should the reviewer find the literary substance somewhat lacking, which I hope they don’t. And it’s also uncorrected, so I’m bound to have littered it with hundreds of brand new grammatical constructs. Marvel at how I push language boundaries unintentionally! It’s received the high-level structural edits, as well as the line edit, so it’s pretty polished, but the copy-edit has only recently taken place – which means that there will be the odd typo. The main thing is that reviewers can get their paws on it before the book hits the shelves in June.

The pictures aren’t great quality since they were rushed on my iPhone whilst trying to contain stupid sounds of glee. What I’m most struck by is how much the artwork looks like a photograph of a fantasy city if you’re casually glancing at it. I’d certainly recommend a visit there…

11Feb

Photography, Not Terrorism

I saw this fascinating article over at Socialist Unity concerning the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.

Under this new Act it is will be an offence to take a photograph of police officers ‘likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’. And if guilty you could be looking at a 10 year stretch… So, photographers on a demonstrations, protests and so on could be defined as terrorists. This attacks our core civil liberties as photographers involved in documenting police actions whether violent or not can be arrested under Section 76.

This erodes basic human rights and freedom of expression. Documentation of events are an important aspect in a democracy, this legislation gives further powers to the cops to stop anyone documenting any kind of disturbance or altercation with Her Majesty’s Finest.

If anyone’s interested, there is a protest orgainsed by the National Union of Journalists where over 200 photographers are expected to demonstrate on Feb 16th against this rather questionable attack on a free media.

7Feb

Change Of Weather

The texture of her world is suddenly different. Remembering that the weather hasn’t been this much fun in years, she walks through the snow-strewn lanes as if she’s discovered motion for the very first time, taking tentative steps. Then suddenly she lets go fully, and takes a proper stride. Pulling at the edges of her scarf, there’s now a look in her eye that’s nearly hopeful, as if this snow has made her rediscover something important about herself. Past the dirtied-limestone buildings, along a ground brighter than the sky. Under the naked trees, past the afternoon families and those wondering what all the fuss is about, past the snowballs that seem to occupy some unlikely physics, and heading towards somewhere that she isn’t sure about, just somewhere else.

6Feb

Book Scraper

Quite possibly a waste of time, but at least one with some spurious literary credentials, so you don’t feel as though you’ve really been a slacker, because it’s words, innit.

Welcome to Book Scraper, a tool The Times has created to let you explore some of the world’s most famous books.

We have created a database of 126 classic publications by 53 authors. They contain 12,817,682 words in total, and have a combined vocabulary of 105,836 words.

Book Scraper lets you explore them in different ways.

You can search by author and learn, for instance, that Shakespeare’s written vocabulary was in the order of 24,000 words.

You can search by publication, and discover that the longest word in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is pectinibranchidae, which is 17 characters long. (It’s a type of mollusc.)

Or you can type in a word, and Book Scraper will chart its use across time. (The word thunderer has been used in 6 books in our database, the first mention being in Don Quixote – some 200 years before it became the Times’ nickname.)