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Iain's bookshelf: read

Yellow Submarine Goodbye, Pert Breasts: The Diary of a Newborn Dad I Shall Wear Midnight: A Discworld Novel Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1 Tales of Unease (Wordsworth Mystery & the Supernatural) Bunker 10

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Review: Armageddon Outta Here

Armageddon Outta Here
Armageddon Outta Here by Derek Landy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great collection, though some completists will likely already have about half of the material already. What’s left, though, is typically excellent.

A handful of short stories which introduce new characters – some of whom have already made appearances in the novels – and a couple which tie in with major plot threads.

Cream of the crop is one which sits nicely on its own, and doesn’t have any real attachment to any of the existing storylines – Get Thee Behind Me, Bubba Moon. Probably the creepiest story I’ve ever read by Landy.

Some may see it as a way of extending the now-finished Skulduggery series (the final book was published this month), but there’s enough original content in here to make it worth the purchase/library loan.

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Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation
Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Console Wars is John Grisham for nerds. Predominantly coming over as a “good guy vs the big bad corporation” story, and filled with industry insider detail it’s a surprisingly easy read.

The Sega / Nintendo generation was one I was part of chronologically, but not actually involved in. We had an Atari VCS which led the charge in home consoles before (partly down to wonders such as the E.T. game) crashing spectacularly and taking the whole concept of the “home arcade” with it. By that time, we’d moved onto computers (a Sinclair ZX-81 followed by an Amstrad, then Amiga and onto PCs), which was more common in the UK as opposed to the console-friendly US where Nintendo went on to corner the market.

Until Sega came along.

Console Wars is that story. The battle for market dominance between Mario and Sonic, bracketed by the demise of Atari and the rise of Sony. There are tons of little facts and background stories in here without it coming across as a book of nerd trivia. It’s about the story and the characters first and foremost.

At 558 pages it’s no lightweight, but it’s also not a coffee table book. This is written to be read, not just glanced through occasionally.

If you’re looking for a gift for the geek in your life that’ll get them off the internet for a while yet still keep them quiet, this will almost certainly go down well.

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Language Limitations

English: wiktionary:thank you diagrammatically...

“Thank you” diagrammatically shown in (BSL). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parents may get this. We had a guest at our school prize day at the end of term – Gerry Hughes. A remarkable man, born deaf, who was at the forefront of having British Sign Language recognised as both a necessity and a right in the classroom. He sailed solo around Britain in 1981 (the first deaf man to do so), and extended on this with a transatlantic trip in 2005. Then thought he should top it all off with a global jaunt crossing all five capes in 2012-13.

He’s won prizes in deaf football and deaf golf. He was the first registered deaf person to achieve chartered teacher status in Scotland (before the government abolished the scheme for reasons which I will never understand a year or so ago).

Overall, an amazing person who’s crammed more into his lifetime so far than most of us could shoehorn into half a dozen.

He was hanging around after the ceremony and I really wanted to go up and say something to him.

Sadly, that’s the point where I realised that the only British Sign Language I know with any degree of accuracy is: “Mr Tumble’s Spotty Bag”.


Film review: The Unbeatables

120px-film-strip2Been ages since I did a review, but seeing as I got in to see this one as a free preview I kind of feel obligated to return the favour and rattle off a few words. Little Mister and I nabbed free tickets to see it at the Showcase and had a nice morning together!

The Unbeatables

“Show us your cross, father!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Bad guy becomes megastar and buys out his old village, only the old foosball table has other ideas…

Released in Latin America during World Cup year, this has probably made its money back already – simply because attaching a football to anything over there pretty much guarantees a sale. From what I gathered from the producer credits at the start, it’s an Argentinian film and not originally in English, but the cast used for “our” version are very good and the dub is – on the whole – well done. I’m pretty sure a fair few of the jokes have been tweaked for a British audience, which shows a bit of extra thought from the film-makers.

Despite a couple of the lines falling rather flat – jokes that just don’t work – the vast majority is good to excellent with some really sneaky throwaway lines which will tickle the funny bones of football fans. Talking of bones, sci-fi film geeks will appreciate the pre-opening credits sequence…

The story is nothing special in terms of kids’ films, in that there’s a poor, downtrodden good guy up against an all-powerful baddie. There’s a girl who needs to be “got”, a village to be saved, and so on. But there aren’t any original stories any more. It’s how you dress them up that’s important and The Unbeatables does a good job. The animation is superb with a good mixture of humour, slapstick and wonderful imagination. In terms of looks I’d say it’s close to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs but with more realistic (i.e. less cartoony) texturing.

What was more important was that Little Mister enjoyed it. He’s six and not the biggest football fan in the world (though he did sit through a few of the World Cup games with daddy this year!), but when I asked him for his favourite bit when we left the cinema, he said he couldn’t pick one as he’d enjoyed the whole thing! The general reaction in the cinema was positive, from what I could hear, with adults chuckling to some of the dialogue and children laughing out loud at the visuals.

Overall, very glad we went and the concrete test is that had we paid for tickets I’d have been every bit as happy. Good stuff and well done to the film-makers. It’s good to see that it’s not just the big boys who can make quality CGI animated features.

A Tale of Two Companies

English: The mdonalds logo from the late 90s

English: The mdonalds logo from the late 90s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s shitty customer “service” (Amazon, DFS and so many others already chronicled on these pages), there’s passable customer service and then there’s excellent customer service. Here are examples of the latter two which I’ve experienced in the last couple of weeks.

First up – McDonald’s. I not going to knock the food – on the whole we use them more than we should because they’re convenient and everyone in the house likes at least something on the menu. However, the other week we drove up purely to get McFlurrys as a take-away dessert. Gillian went up and had to send the first lot back as they were obviously dribbly enough to pour through a fine sieve. The second batch looked passable, but by the time they got back to the house (5 minutes drive, no more) they were akin to a glass of milk with chocolate brownie floating in it.

I emailed McDonalds, and about 5 days later got a stock reply offering a voucher which is fine – money back for a retailer where we’d normally go anyway is as much as I’d expect.

A week later the voucher arrives, for “a meal worth up to £5″. The McFlurrys had set us back over £10.

So from a potential customer saver to a mild slap in the face. As I said, passable customer service. Something was done, though it just didn’t seem like they cared much.

English: innocent logo

English: innocent logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next in the list – innocent, the drink/smoothie maker.

Gillian picked up a couple of large bottles of their juices and I opened one up late at night only to see little black flecks floating on the surface of the juice. I happened to look inside the lid and discovered a small but noticeable amount of mould dangling down – white and black, possibly some yellow/orange, but that could have been staining from the fruit. Either way, not what you want in your fruit juice.

Emailed innocent and had a reply back within a few hours. They described their packing and shipping process, how the juice should be transported and stored and asked for information on when/where we bought it, and for photos of the mould so that they could try to identify it and work out where in the chain it could have appeared.

Within two days we received a bunch of vouchers – enough for eight bottles – in a hand-decorated (pretty coloured flowers in pencils), hand-addressed envelope with a personal note from the customer care person I’d been emailing.

That ranks as excellent customer service. Swift, polite, informative and above and beyond in making up for something that may well not even have been their fault.