Farewell Iain.

Iain M. Banks

I’ve just learned that Iain Banks is dead.

Dead because the cells in his body went haywire and we couldn’t fix it. We can spend trillions of dollars killing one another in the name of all sorts of causes but we can’t fix those little building blocks of life that we’re all constructed from. I knew he was sick, I knew it was an inevitability but the insidious nature of cancer means the hope that there is still time. The slap in the face, the shock and tears, those came from reading Neil Gaiman’s tribute.

Those who knew him described him as funny, exuberant, full of life, fiercy intelligent. I hadn’t met him in person; I was never that fortunate. I did however travel the galaxy of the far flung future on immense sentient starships with outrageous names and intellects and met all sorts of wonderful characters doing all sorts of unbelievable things.

Iain M. Banks opened my mind in ways few authors ever have – his books are remarkable and he will not write another. An important part of the human collective has passed away; a man whose work will continue to inspire and have us reaching for a future I desperately want to live in.

I am surprised by how hard I’m taking this. How disappointed I am in our species which channels orders of magnitude more into death than life. In cancer as an inevitable end for so many great people. Into the fact there will never be another quirky GSV to ferry me away across the galaxy.

So long Iain, in the world I choose to live in the only, and inevitable, outcome was that you were whisked away by the Quietly Confident before the end. Happy travels.

Tapping the Dark Places

All hail the Crimson King

Sometimes, during a creative writing exercise, entire scenes arrive in my head fully formed and gravid. I seem to be able to spin the words into a single harmonious thread that begins and ends with barely a break and almost never an edit or rewrite. Sometimes the end product is light and inspirational, sometimes I tap the dark places that exists deep down in each and every one of us and the stories are scary and taboo. Either way I write until the ink is done. What remains, the story and the characters, seem to have a core of truth to them. I want to go back and explore what will happen to the people and places spun from imagination. This is one that scared me a little but I know I will have to come back to soon – I have to find out what happens at the top of the ladder. Readers of the incredible Dark Tower series may recognise the Crimson King in the image above, king of spiders say true.

‘I don’t want to go!’ The boy said, his eyes blazing fiercely in the candle light.
‘I know.’ The woman put her hand on his shoulder to reassure him. ‘I know.’ Her eyes glistened, pain visible on her face, she knew what she was asking.
‘If you don’t we’ll starve.’ The unwashed sullen man said. ‘You want your kin to starve boy?’
‘Ted!’ The woman snapped. ‘There is a way to go about this. He knows the consequences so back off!’
Ted dragged the tin cup unsteadily toward himself and quaffed a mouthful of the homemade spirits. He belched and a smell of paraffin and old leather filled the small dug-out.
‘I’m scared of the monsters.’
‘I know … we all are … ‘
‘They won’t hurt me will they?’
The woman gave the child a hug. ‘No, no they won’t. They may scare you but they won’t hurt you.’
‘If you go … they’ll hurt you?’ He asked. There was a desperate searching quality in his eyes. A last ditch attempt to change the very nature of things born from his childish hope that believing in a thing could change it in the end.
‘Yes.’
The hope in his eyes died as it did every night.
‘They’ll take you back to the dark places and they’ll …’ His voice faltered and he looked down at the floor.
‘Yes.’
‘But they leave children alone?’
‘Yes.’
‘Why?’
‘Because they’re clever bastards!’ Ted belched again. ‘Because they know children grow up to be adults. Because they know if they eat all the children then one day they’ll all go hungry.’
‘That’s horrible!’ the boy said.
‘Yes it is love.’ The woman said, ‘but Ted speaks the truth. Ever since the fall it’s been that way.’
He was silent for a bit, digesting the information that he knew already. It was the same every night.
‘Mother, when will I be big enough for them?’
She tried to hide the fear that crept in behind her eyes but her tears betrayed her. The truth was, with the children out of the shelters scavenging for food there would probably come a time when the tasters would decide they were big enough. And then they would not return. It was the lot of most, except for those who would be chosen to stay behind, to continue, to endure.
‘I don’t know. Not for many years still.’ She said it with all the conviction she could muster.
‘Okay.’
The boy stood and she did not miss the way he held onto the table.
‘Okay!’ he said more firmly.
She led him to the ladder, the one leading up to the narrow opening where he would slip out into the night. The one too small for them to squeeze their bloated chitinous bodies through, the one protecting them from the spines and the long lancing grippers.
‘Okay!’ he said, more softly and began to climb before his nerve failed him again.

Quote

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.

Isaac Asimov

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You know, I wouldn’t be laughing as hard if I hadn’t seen this more than once on the train over the last month. To make it more accurate replace the paper books with eBooks.

Google Plus: Does not play well with others

Does not play well with others

I’ll be perfectly honest, I love Google+ but I’m considering shelving it. The problem is that it does not play well with others. Google+ wants you to jump ship and lock you into the Google ecosystem at the exclusion of other channels. It seems to have taken a leaf out of Facebook’s, well, … book.

For long time users of social tools like Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr and Foursquare this is completely out of the question. Many of us use each tool in slightly different way, have a number of important social interactions in each ecosystem and, through the magic of in-app sharing or sites like ifttt can get them cross posting pretty efficiently.

Twitter: 140 character mini mind-dumps. Social interaction on a broad scale across a number of interests.

Facebook: Closed ecosystem of real friends and family members. I share photos of my kids with these people. I would invite any of these people to my house for dinner and a glass of wine.

Tumblr: When I have a bit more to say and Twitter just won’t do. When I want to share a photo, video, quote or short creative paragraph.

WordPress: Personal branding. This is where my long, thought out articles go. This is where I market me; my photographs, short stories, or novel.

Foursquare: A little geo-location fun. Useful for saving lists of top restaurants/coffee houses and for exploring what’s around you.

And then there is Google+.

I love the quality of content on G+ – there are so many interesting people and topics of conversation. I love the notifications, and the iOS app, and the concept of circles of interests. I seriously could make this the source of truth, replacing Twitter and probably a lot of what I use Tumblr for. But, it would still need to play well with all the other tools listed above. It would still need to cross post to Twitter because I have spent years interacting with amazing people there and I’m not going to cut my loses and just move on. It would need to talk to Facebook so I can share interesting content with my friends and family. It would need to post up to Tumblr and WordPress so I can target those platforms from time to time.

But it doesn’t, or not that I can see. Please someone show me a way where I can use a #fb tag in a Google post to target Facebook without having to rely on flaky 3rd party RSS workarounds. Please show me how I can post a tweet and update Google+ without having to copy-paste between two apps or websites.

Until Google+ realise that they are losing more people by closing their ecosystem than they would by embracing a truly social model I am forced to cut my loses and stick with my traditional, if somewhat wired together, social model.

Come on Google, what have you got to lose?

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scienceandandrogyny:

Bacteriophages (bacteria-infecting viruses) target a single bacterial cell. The viruses anchor themselves to the bacteria’s cellular surface using proteinaceous tails before injecting their genomes into the bacterial host.

Using the natural evolutionary specificity of bacteriophages could contribute to medical biology by targeting and curing increasingly resistant bacterial infections such as tuberculosis and streptococcus.

Photo Credit: Lee D. Simon/Photo Researchers

Incredible photograph of viral bacteriophages at work. One bacteria is about to have a very bad day.

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A celebration of tomatoes.

Made a tomato, chilli & basil soup and just loved the colours & oily reflections. Hobby win, cooking & photography.