Archive for March, 2005

March 18th, 2005

Da Vinci Code redux

Aaarrgghhh!!!! The Catholic Church or at least individuals withing the church – Its not a huge monolithic eeeeeeeeevillllllllll organisation like some people would have you belive (OK it is, but thats beside the point) – has come out against the Da Vinci Code. Which is stupid for lots of reasons.

Firstly, its a bit late. The book has already sold 18 million copies and all this is going to do is encourage more people to read it. The “if the church is against it it must beworth looking at” factor. Watch Dan Brown count up another million novels sold after this.

Secondly the book is fiction. lets say that again FICTION! There is a clue to this in that it you can purchase it from the FICTION section of reputable (and not so reputable) bookshops. Not the history or archeology or religous studies, philiosophy or even new age sections. the FICTION sections. Fiction books can claim whatever they like – even that they are based on real events and/or real people and they don’t have to mean it. In fact they can even lie about it because they are FICTION and thats what it means. Point out that slowly and carefully to punters. “The Catholic Church does not comment on works of fiction. Particularly badly written works of fiction”

Next if you want to criticise any novel one way to do it is use literary criticism techniques which were developed to decide if books were any good or not.

3) To enable us to form judgments about literature.

One of the purposes of criticism is to judge if a work is any good or not. For instance, we might use a formalist approach to argue that a John Donne poem is of high quality because it contains numerous intricate conceits that are well sustained. Or, we might use the mimetic approach to argue that The West Indian is a poor play because it fails to paint a realistic picture of the world.

Personally. I can’t say how the Da Vinci Code would hold up to such scrutiny. but I can guess. And I imagine the Catholic Church cuold round up a few experts in literary criticism to give the book a good going over.

Furthermore, people like Ken MacLeod may believe thatknowledge and understanding of history is the secret weapon of the Science Fiction writer, indeed any writer. But that doesn’t mean that one should use works of fiction as their primary source of historical fact or conjecture.

Finally if all that doesn’t work then go for the jugular and demand irrefutable proof in the form of, I don’t know Primary Sources. Ask to see authentic handwritten accounts and proofs of all the theories in the book. While you are at ask how if the author has mastered aincent hebrew, greek, latin and medieval latin, french and english in his efforts to produce a book from primary source material he doesn’t mention it in his biography. Or have a couple of PhDs in aincent studies.
For anyone who thinks languages haven’t chnaged THAT much. They are correct for different values of “that much”. I point to Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s website as an example. (hint: first para starts “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…” as should be obvious from the context)

March 18th, 2005

mucho bloggage

there are a lot of posts today. That not because I ate and drank to excess last night and now I don’t have the enthusiasm or motivation of a dead sheep. well not only that.

Blogger has been pretty unreliable the last few days so there has been a backlog of posts and stuff to blog about. I am once again seriously thinking of getting my own site and running wordpress or similar. Normal once a day (or less) Posting should resume soon.

And I’ve been busy. Of course I have. I have a thesis to write after all!!!!!!

comments that start “after all what” will be deleted

March 18th, 2005

REMEMBER

~ Raquel from Corrie ~

1991 – 1999

In 1996, Raquel Watts/Barnes/Wolstenhulme left Coronation Street for good. Or so we thought, but she was back again at the end of 1999 to pull at Curly’s heartstrings. She wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree, but she didn’t mean no harm neither. Don’t forget Raquel or the people of Weatherfield living under the oppression of Alex Ferguson.

Join some society, club or take a walk.

The weather is nice!

March 18th, 2005

Dinner

Yesterday we had a psuedo-impromptu dinner party in the apartment. Ronan usually cooks dinner for the WAR group on Paddy’s day (well he did it once last year and we were making him do it again this year). But his dad is not well at the moment and he went home to help out and do agricultural stuff. So Nev and I stepped up and offered to cook. Maria chipped in with a starter and so all was set. Ultimately, Mike and John brought dessert and John and Danny brought alcohol and coke (one really needs a hit of coke after a good dinner party)

Most of the day was spent wallowing in domesticity, housework in the morning, followed by a quick run to Superquinn for supplies, a quick detour to my Mothers to steal (umm.. borrow) plates, cutlery, dishes etc and then cooking for the evening. I didn’t go to the parade, but the I haven’t being to the parade since I left secondary school and stopped marching in it.

People started to turn up around 5ish. There was a bit of a scare when maria was having trouble getting in and I couldn’t get through to anyone to help her out (f**king stupid mobile networks). In the end John was able to pick her up and we had a first course :-)

Everything went pretty well. We sat down for dinner just before 6pm and removed to the couches after 8:30. The menu was

Antipasto:
Italian Mushrooms (funghi a la maria)
Tomato Salad
Parma Ham
Pesto
Red Onion Marmalade
Ciabatta Bread
Primo Platti:
Meatballs in spicy sauce
Spaghetti
Secondo Platti:
Vegetable Lasagne (not vegetarian lasagne – we didn’t have time to find and mince a vegetarian)
Dessert 1:
Chocolate Torte a la Nev
Coffee
Dessert 2:
Chocolate Cake a la Mike
Dessert 3:
Cake a la John (untouched due to a surfeit of other dishes)
More Coffee
Digestif

And then beer, wine, conversation. Entertainment during dinner was provided by a group of girls who started a fight in the pub across the road, which then spilled out on to the streets and ended with 3 cop cars and a paddy wagon turning up and arresting 9 people.

Music was from Nev’s differently eclectic music collection

March 18th, 2005

Would you let this man into your country!!!

How about this one.

March 18th, 2005

So tell us about yourself…

UL’s Centre for Teaching and Learning will play a central role in the running of a short mini writers’ retreat in Scotland and is offering two free places to interested UL postgraduate research students.

The retreat takes place from Friday June 24th to Sunday June 26th in Glenbruagh, Scotland. It will include some structured sessions and expert advice on your writing and publishing strategy and will operate as a collegiate, supportive forum to enhance your writing. You will make active progress on your writing task and learn some routines that will help to generate healthier, more productive writing habits in the longer term.

To be in with a chance of participating, please forward a short outline (500 words) providing details of a writing project that you would like to work on. The Dean of Graduate Studies and The Dean of Teaching and Learning will assess and select the winning submissions. We know this is very short notice, but please note that only emails received by 5.00pm on Wednesday March 16th

I am finalising my Ph.D. in the Electronic and Computer Engineering department. I have extensive work and research experience, including one year study in Columbia University in New York, and have collaborated with national and international groups for project work resulting in a number of technical deliverables and journal and conference papers. As such I believe I am in a unique position to build upon my experience and project work over the next few years as a postdoctoral researcher and assemble a state-of-the art research team in wireless networks and systems

New wireless technologies and strategies are allowing more and more people to access new and more complex telecommunications services from their mobile phones and portable computers. At the same time there are real problems in fulfilling the ideal of providing broadband capacity or better to everybody at any place at any time. Essentially, existing networks and technologies are not dense enough to provide full coverage.

Infrastructure-less wireless networks increase the relative density of services and communications in an area using users own devices to relay messages and services between the users themselves and to external systems and networks. There are two common types of infrastructure-less wireless systems, ad-hoc networks and sensor networks. The research work includes investigation of the properties and behaviour of infrastructure-less networks, as well as education and advocacy of their usefulness. Individual areas of research are quality-of-service, mobility and service provision. Together these provide a global view of the behaviour, while at the same time individually offering plenty of scope for innovative and novel research.

One of the weaknesses identified, as part of the project has been my relative lack of experience in co-ordinating, planning and editing of technical papers. As I complete my Ph.D. thesis and plan for follow up postdoctoral work, I would like to enhance my writing skills to be better able to professionally contribute to, co-ordinate, edit and present technical documents and papers for both a technical and non-technical audience.

The writing project initially includes a Ph.D. thesis and associated journal papers; for publication in technical journals and fora. In particular I would like to focus on developing one or more of my Ph.D. chapters for consumption by a wider audience. Technical writing has tended to be inaccessible to the casual reader and I think there is an opportunity both to raise my own profile and to generate interest in the research area amongst the general public.

In the longer term it is envisaged that postdoctoral work and further postgraduate research will be conducted in infrastructure-less networks. This requires a co-ordinated 4-5 year plan including an overall project description, identifying, as much as possible, deliverables, expected contributions and results and interaction with other groups at home and abroad. This will then form the basis of further theses, journal and conference publications and technical reports all of which must be integrated around a common theme, possibly as a book

(483 words)
fingers crossed!!!

March 14th, 2005

Ireland 19 France 26

So we don’t get a grand slam decider in Cardiff after all. Not a bad match overall, it just didn’t seem to come right for us, as it did for the French. Keeping up with past performances there was lots of beer to enhance the rugby watching experience followed by lots of beer to commiserate, with extra-special helping of argumentitiveness, followed by a break for Indian food followed by more beer and scrabble!

By election victories for Fine Gael and Catherine Murphy. And possiblilty of an FG-Lab pact. It remains to be seen if they can get it together with as a potential alternative governmnet as opposed to a large protest vote gathering organisation.

Sunday was quiet. Spent some time in UL setting up machines for a demo Adrian is doing today. Lunch in the White House later followed maybe by beer this afternoon. Aerobics and Gym may miss out.

A quick Joke

So this gorilla walks into a bar. The gorilla slaps a $10 bill on the counter and says, “Give me a beer.”

Bartender figures what does a gorilla know? So he gives him the beer, but only gives him $1 in change. It’s a slow night, though, so the bartender figures he should make some conversation. “We don’t get many gorillas in here,” he says.

Gorilla says, “Yeah, well at $9 a beer I’m not surprised.

March 7th, 2005

I can’t write when they make me…

I came in a wee bit late this morning; but just in time for coffee – coffee time is great; it imposes an upper bound on how late one can get out of bed, get the 10:40 bus and still have time to acquire a bittle of water and a morning dose of carbohydrates (in this case a blueberry muffin) and make it to the lab for brown caffinated beverages and conversation.

This morning in my semi-comatose, albeit muffined and watered, state I discover that not only is the wireless group weekly meeting moved 2.5 hours earlier12:00 this morning, so I have no time to prepare my presentation, but also it would be great if someone were to write up a review of SSMH from Friday night for the Student Newspaper. And that it is due tomorrow!!!

First things first, the presentation went fine, 3 whiteboards worth of diagrammatic goodness framed in an interactive 40 mins monologue interspersed with a few flashes of inspiration, a couple of insightful questions and a lot of “did someone write that down?”. In other words, the usual. Sean likes it (he may be too close to it), Ronan doesn’t, Maria and Nev seemed happy, Edu thought it was nice presentation of a good idea. Billy wasn’t there (bad Billy!!) and there is A LOT of work to be done yet.

So with a lot of work to do this is the ideal time to write about Friday’s gig. The next bit may even make it into An Focal. So any suggestions, witticisims and comments will be appreciated, if unacknowledged ;-)

Went with the lads to Super Smash Monkey House in The Stables on Friday night last. Now some might say we have a vested intrest in the band’s success just so we can have some peace and quiet around the office and so Skitz and Maz won’t be all stresses out for weeks before a gig. But when your friends are in a band you are kind of obligied to turn up. Lucky for me then that SSMH are quite good at what they do!!

Super Smash Monkey house is an all singing, all dancing UL postgrad, postdoc and just plain graduate covers band without the all dancing bit. As a covers band their repetoire caters for every taste, but it is obvious that the band has a leaninfg towards the rockier/trashier side of the charts especially the lead singer Maz who really comes alive for Zombie (ironically enough) , 99 Red Ballons (especially the German verse) and Angel of Harlem. Marcus the Bass Guitarist stands in a lead singer now and again for Fisherman’s Blues and Late Night Radio. Which is just as well as he has a dedicated and devoted following and cries of “we want Marcus” echoed around the bar sporadically. Skitz is the lead guitarist and overall get-it-together guy whose inspirations are quite obviously Kelly Jones from the Stereophonics and Oasis. O does backing guitar, keyboard and a mean “Robert Palmer Girl” impression in no particular order. Leon on drums, provides a solid, occasionally inspired backdrop to the occasion. Billy is a sound man!!!!

Much kudos is due to Sorcha and the PSA for turning Friday night into Postgrad night in The Stables. This was SSMHs third gig in The Stables. They debuted here way back in October 2004 and more recently played the Peace Society Tsunami Night in January. There is no disputing the fact that the band are finally beginning to find their feet and now play very well together and are just about ready to leave the cosy confines of UL and venture out for bigger and brighter things. In the meantime more information on the band can be found on their website http://www.ssmh.info with some sample tracks downloadble from http://www.ssmh.info/about

No monkeys were smashed in the writing of this review; although not for lack of trying.

March 4th, 2005

Why People Buy Books

From the Independent

A friendly word is best way of turning a book into a best-seller
By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent
Published : 03 March 2005

Publishers can spend a fortune promoting their hottest literary discoveries. Bookshops can deploy all their marketing ingenuity to produce imaginative displays. But when the book-buying public comes to choose a new read, it is word of mouth that counts.
A survey published today to coincide with World Book Day confirms what authors from Louis de Bernierès to Alexander McCall Smith can attest – nothing sells better than the recommendation of a friend or relative.
One in four of those polled said the last book they read was on the basis of what a colleague or family member had told them, with almost a third of under-35s citing it as the most important factor.
Only loyalty to a favoured author counted as much, with 26 per cent of readers saying their last choice of a book for pleasure was because they had read others by the same author.

In a disappointing result for the promotional teams who spend up to £100m on book advertising every year, only 6 per cent said they chose a book because they saw it advertised, with 7 per cent citing the cover design as the deciding factor.
John Bond, the managing director of HarperCollins literary division, said he was fascinated by the figures. “Publishers often stand accused of becoming ever more sophisticated and cynical in their pursuit of creating instant author brands, when ultimately it is as likely to be good old-fashioned personal recommendation that really sells.”
There has been a long list in recent years of books whose first print run was low but went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Top of the list is the global hit The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
But McCall Smith, author of a series of books about a ladies’ detective agency in Botswana, said word of mouth was not a quick way to making millions.
“I was certainly one of the beneficiaries of the word of mouth phenomenon, but it probably took a little bit of time to get going,” he said. “In my case, it was about two years after publication of the first book that people were recommending them to one another and the books seemed to be taking off. What I found surprising was an awful lot of people said they had bought six copies to give to friends. People seem to want to give books to other people and share them.”

The World Book Day was a “wonderful idea,” he added. “It really does remind people of the great delights books offer us.” Thousands of people are expected to take part in events today marking the biggest annual celebration of books and reading in the UK. It includes book tokens for every child.
In a tongue-in-cheek addition to the survey of readers’ habits, people were asked to recommend a book for Tony Blair to help him win the next election. More than a third suggested How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, with 18 per cent caustically recommending he study the 1997 Labour manifesto.
Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, was told to try If I Was Boss by Kes Gray to help him get where he wants to be. Other suggestions were A Conflict of Loyalty , Geoffrey Howe’s memoirs detailing his clashes with Margaret Thatcher, Macbeth and Machiavelli’s The Prince .

THE TOP 10 WORD-OF-MOUTH TITLES

UK sales to date

1)The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown 2,211,532
2)The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon 1,537,656
3)The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 1,301,876
4)Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières 1,292,698
5)Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss 944,982
6)No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith 908,362
7)Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks 850,790
8)Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden 676,492
9)The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 645,447
10)Schott’s Original Miscellany by Ben Schott 639,636

The only book on the above list that I have never heard of before is no 3). Of the rest I have either been recommended to me or I found them independently (that includes books I borrow/steal from people I know). The only one I would not recommend is The DaVinci Code. But you probably knew that already

In general I am pretty good at identifying books I might like from what I have bought/read/acquired over the past 17 years. So much so that my trips to the library where I tend to borrow books by authors I am not sure about or old books I may want to reread (but don’t want to pay for) are generally 100% spot of in agreeing with my preconceptions of the author/book.

The worst way to buy a book is use amazon.com recommendations, I have never seen a book other than one I already own or know I wouldn’t read there. Better ways to buy boks is to find a review site you really really like, even (especially) when you don’t agree with all the reviews.

March 3rd, 2005

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day 2005, which I think I shall make my patron holiday. People are supposed to recommend books for others to read, but I do that often enough here anyway. Instead a warning that reading Harry Potter books as an adult doesn’t really count as reading. And that reading Dan Brown books only counts as a waste of time.

I can’t think of any other reason today is special. None at all!!! Can anyone help me out ;-)