Star Wars Day 2020

May the Fourth be With You!

I realise that Disney / Lucasfilm is a gigantic corporate entity that has already sucked millions of dollars out of the global population for the Star Wars franchise alone, and that they do not need my help or anyone else’s help in perpetuating the presence of this cultural behemoth in the zeitgeist, but…

It really is a nice, fun thing in a World that is locked down and in fear of a virus that has re-written our understanding of epidemiology and our assessment of our own mortality. COVID-19 has changed the World, in a few short months and not in any way wanting to brush aside the seriousness of the situation, or the unmitigated tragedy of the deaths of which a good number may well have been prevented, Star Wars Day has been a pleasant distraction, and so I embrace it.

I posted on Facebook that I chose the young Captain Ackbar from the Clone Wars era (who would later go on to be the Flag Admiral of the Rebel Fleet at The Battle of Endor) to be my character totem for the day. The rich diversity of characters and the epic sweep of time that go together to make up the Skywalker Saga within the wider Star Wars Universe is a joy to contemplate, from the scum and villainy of the Bounty Hunters and Interstellar Pirates to the Clone Armies of the Republic and the Droid Armies of the Separatists to the Empire, the Rebellion, the First Order to the Resistance and the Dark Shadowy Sith, the canvas is vast.

Who would you be if you could insert yourself into the Universe for a day? What would you want to experience?

Would you visit the Night Sisters of Dathomire and witness the secret rites with which they held sway over their World? Would you quest for the Zilla Beast on Malister Prime? My choice for this year is in no small part chosen because of my fascination with underwater worlds, and Captain Ackbar is a resident of the watery Mon Calamari. During the Clone Wars (I forget exactly which season of the show) he fought side by side with the newly crowned King of the Mon Cala against the Separatists under the waves of his planet’s oceans.

These little imaginings go a long way to freeing me, and indeed us all, from the tyranny of reality, even if only for a moment or a few minutes of a daydream, but that is the joy of imagination.

So, Happy Star Wars Day – The Fourth will be with you, always…


Loch Arklet

Loch Arklet (from the Western end dam, looking East)

I really don’t often show people my attempts at Landscape photography; I am rarely pleased with my efforts. This is an exception to the rule, so I hope that you enjoy it.


Photos from The Second Patr(e)on Gig in London by Amanda Palmer (click to view on Flickr)

Amanda Palmer and Friends at Gatsby's Drugstore, London


RIP Michael Parks…

I hate to report that my cinematic muse #michaelparks has passed away. Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I've ever known. I wrote both #RedState and @tuskthemovie FOR Parks, I loved his acting so much. He was, hands-down, the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform. And Parks brought out the absolute best in me every time he got near my set. From the moment I saw him steal the opening scene of #fromdusktildawn at an advance screening at the Sunset 5 back in the mid-90's, I said to @samosier "Could you imagine what it must be like to work with a Yoda of acting like that guy? I gotta write for him one day." It took me 15 years but my dream came true on Red State (for which Parks won Best Actor at the @sitgesfestival) and then again years later with #tusk. Only Michael Parks could have delivered the line "Is man indeed a walrus at heart?" and make it scary as fuck. My favorite memory of Michael is watching him and #johnnydepp act with and at each other, like a couple of dueling wizards, in their shared scene in Tusk. Parks was in Heaven that day, sharing the screen with another brilliant actor and creating an unforgettable performance. He elevated any flick or TV show he was in and elevated every director he ever acted for. I was so fucking blessed to have worked with this bonafide genius. But really, I was just lucky to have known him at all. My heart goes out to James (Michael's son), Oriana (Michael's wife), Quentin Tarantino (Michael's biggest fan) and any movie or music lover who was ever dazzled by the talents of Michael Parks. Farewell, old friend. I'll see you farther along… #KevinSmith #actor #genius #rip #walrusyes

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New developments on Plataea

I have been doing small amounts of work on my old Spawn base on the Minecraft Server that I administer.

I will try and do some better screenshots at some point soon, but basically here is the much overhauled structure, no longer just an ugly Cobblestone cube, it now has rooms and balconies and battlements and a covered area for the small farm, so that the water does not freeze.


Of Interest to (Programming) Geeks Everywhere…

So, when I was back in the UK and regularly attending Clojure meetups I got to know a guy called Malcolm Sparks. Malcolm was already an accomplished Clojurian, but he still came along to the dojos and I got to work on problems along-side him a couple of times and then to talk to him over a beer or two a couple more times. He and Bruce Durlingand a couple of other people (Neale, Jo, Bodil, Tommy — you know who you are and I am probably missing people out anyway) were really generous with their time, with me and many other people, even though I was a self-taught PHP developer (the horror!) who was trying to swim way out of his depth in something that plenty of people had told me was “hard computer science”, and that I should leave well alone. Now I’ll be honest, getting to grips with Clojure and Functional Programming was no picnic for me, but with some effort and with their help, I got my head around it. You know why I am still in love with it, still excited about it? It makes programming FUN, and it makes programming insanely productive. I’ve been programming PHP for 15 years, Python for 13, Ruby for 8 not to mention JavaScript the whole time, but no other language than Clojure has allowed me to do as much in as short a time and as low a line count.

Anyway… About a year, maybe eighteen months, before we left for The Philippines Malcolm and a friend of his, Jon Pither, started a Software Consultancy specialising in Clojure, both the development of solutions in the language and consulting for companies adopting it. Unlike a lot of organisations that simply list Clojure amongst the technologies that they use, Juxt are clear that they will only use Clojure and ClojureScript as the mainstay of any project that they take on (they use a variety of other supporting tools / technologies like ElasticSearch and Cassandra etc., but no other programming languages).

They are called Juxt

Recently they have been putting together a “Tech Radar” for the Clojure eco-system, rather than a more general industry-wide one like the one that ThoughtWorks do, and I was among the people to offer feedback before it went live, though I did not end up contributing as much as I gained by looking through the article. If Clojure has ever piqued your interest – you’ve heard it talked about but never given it a try, or you’ve dabbled but never connected with the community – then take it from me, as someone who owes the community a lot at the moment, as someone yet to give back to the extent that I have received, this Tech Radar is a very good place to look for inspiration, for an idea of the extent of the power and flexibility of the language(s) and as an example of how you can run a business, be successful, but at the same time put something very worthwhile and useful back into the community.

Seriously, check it out -> Juxt Tech Radar for Clojure 2016

These guys are at the top of the software game, and no mistake. Jon and Malcolm have spoken at major conferences around the World (and not just Clojure ones) and they have led some amazing projects – in short, they know what they are talking about. That said they are open about the fact that this Tech Radar is based on their opinions and the opinions of their associates within and without Juxt, which is a mark of their no nonsense approach to the whole industry that I for one feel marks them out as people who have something to offer rather than something to take. This Tech Radar, along with the regular blog articles that they publish about new ideas and case studies, when added to their involvement in the UK Clojure and Software communities through organisations like SkillsMatter and so forth tell a tale of an organisation that are interested in doing more than just making a buck. These guys are nurturing their corner of the emerging Functional Programming industry as well as their corner of the Open Source movement, and I know that they are doing it because building software in Clojure is fun and they want other people to have the fun too, just as much as they want to do good work and make a living.

(If you / your company is thinking seriously about engaging with a consultancy to get a greenfield or re-code project off the ground, then you would do well to give them a call, even if all you are looking for is mentoring and guidance for a team or teams that you are cross-skilling to Clojure, though from where I am standing the real win is in getting them to build you a team and your system, rather than just mentor and train.)


Supergenius…

My brother, Edward, has been making music for almost as long as I can remember. As you may recall, dear reader, I have been a staunch supporter of his many adventures in music, and this latest venture is no different. G’Wan, give it a listen – I promise you will not regret it 🙂


Thought for the day…

“Life is in essence a series of decision points tied together with experiences; the trick is to make no decisions that radically diminish your sense of self-worth or compromise the core beliefs that you hold.”

C. Oliver Godby – 28th May 2015, Makati City, The Philippines


Pictures first, words to follow…


NaNoWriMo 2014 – Day 9

“I don’t expect you to to take it all in right away. I have to be honest, the only reason that I am telling you is that you saw me survive an attack that I should in no way have survived and I felt that I was left with no options other than tell you or disappear. If I trusted you any less I would have put my plans for leaving Caine Foster behind into motion ahead of schedule and disappeared, but I do trust you, not that I can explain precisely why, so here I am doing something that I almost never do, telling someone my truth.”
“Well, I appreciate the trust, Caine, I just hope that I can live up to it. So what’s the plan, I mean you must have some idea who attacked you and why. Does it have anything to do with your, er, status?”
“I’ve been thinking about it, and I did rather expect you to ask that. There are other people like me, I know because I have met some of them, and they in turn told me of others, but there is no great contest going on where we secretly fight one another with swords and try to decapitate each other. That really is just the movies, well and TV too, but frankly they never should have done that TV series. I digress. My point is that I don’t think my ‘status’, as you put it, has anything to do with the attack. In fact I think that it may have been as mundane and pathetic as my having upset a group of religious nutcases with my last book. I don’t know if you read it, but the main character was a vocal and rather disrespectful atheist?”
“Of course I read it, everyone did after all the attention that Transom got. The first genre novel ever to make it onto the Booker shortlist and then It didn’t win! Everyone wanted to see what you would do next. Of course now I know that you didn’t do it next, but at the time we were all eager to read the next Caine Foster novel. I remember the character, Guy Forrester, right? He was a bit of a prick about the religion thing, but I don’t remember him being particularly extreme.”
“Well, I didn’t think that he was either, but about a week after “Ride the Moon” came out I started getting death threats, through my agent not directly at first anyway. They were all from a group calling themselves The Soldiers of Christ, and basically they were repeated admonishments over my Godless ways and notifications of my imminent demise at the hands of their faithful warriors. We told the Police, but none of us took any of it very seriously. For one thing no one had heard of the group and even if they had, there were strong indications from the threats that they were in the US and seeing as I was not it became even less likely that I was going to worry about these people. Of course when Bradshaw was caught and the Police got that confession out of him it did cross my mind that maybe he had targeted Fran as a punishment for “Ride the Moon”, after all his spouting about God and cleansing the souls of his victims and all of that was enough to make me wonder. It turned out he had the reading age of a nine year old and the Police found no indication that he had ever read one of my books, so I stopped worrying about that connection as well. Anyway, the threats stopped coming after about six months and I thought no more of it until last night in the hospital. The person that attacked us, and I am assuming that they were male but I can’t be sure, was not a petty criminal, they knew how to use that knife and they were not interested in robbing us. The only thing that person was trying to do was kill me, and perhaps you too Andrea, and so I started to wonder about the threats again. I began to wonder if they had simply been biding their time, or worse still if they were not very clever and it had taken them this long to find me, but either way it seems that someone is serious enough about doing me harm that they are prepared to get someone capable involved.”
“What do you mean capable?”
“Whoever that was, they knew how to fight, properly. That was an assassin, plain and simple. What I don’t know yet is whether or not they were simply a hired gun, so to speak, or if they were actually invested in the attempt beyond a paycheque. If they were, then I expect that I am still in danger, and my concern is that I am unlikely to get the local Police to take it all that seriously and then there is the issue that if you are around me then you are probably either a target as well by this point, or at least at risk of being considered an acceptable collateral loss. I think that we might as well assume that getting out of town and lying low somewhere might be a good idea. If the assassin is motivated to try again I would rather make it hard for them to find me, find us.”
“Where do you want to go? More to the point if it’s going to be safer maybe we should go to different places and meet up in a few days or weeks? I’ve found you now and we’ve definitely gotten past the hard part of the whole ‘hi I’m your dead wife’s half-sister that you never met’ conversation, so perhaps we should be as cautious as we can be. I have a flight back to the States in eight days time anyway…”
It occurred to me for the first time that Andrea probably had a job to go back to, a life, her own future. Sure she had traveled to the UK to find out about her sister, but she had not been planning on staying; she had probably not been planning on meeting an immortal and having her entire understanding of the world stood on its head. I had formulated this entire thought about her and I hitting the road together to lay low, when in reality she was going to have to leave me and my world and go back to her own. It certainly changed my outlook on the whole idea of laying low, and now I was starting to think about other alternatives, choices which I could not make with Andrea in tow.
“Well, Andrea, I’ve been thinking about taking a trip to the States for a while, and there are a few people I might try to see here before I do, so I guess it would make sense for us to take separate roads for a while and then meet up again in a couple of weeks. I had not really considered that you would need to go home at some point, Hell I haven’t even asked you where home is.”
She chuckled, not at my oversight, but more at the absurdity of the situation, I believe.
“Caine, it never occurred to me, but there’s a lot of things that by now a normal friendship would have covered long ago. I live in Maine, I work at a small municipal airport in a place called Greenville, as an administrator. I’m planning to go back there, in fact I’ll fly all the way home thanks to the discounts and so forth that I can get as an insider. If you want to come and find me there in a few days, even a couple of weeks then that would be great, but I don’t want you to think that I expect you to come. I mean it’s in the middle of nowhere, in the heart of rural Maine, so if it was not on your list of places to visit then I would understand.”
“Andrea, I would love to see where you live. I guess that I will be in touch before I get too close, see if you can’t help me out with flying in as well. I mean, I like to drive, but the idea of flying in is oddly exciting.”
We swapped cellphone numbers and email addresses and made plans to leave the next morning, then Andrea turned in for the night. I sat up for a while, nursing a large dram of single malt and trying to decide whether I would head to Scotland or Berlin the next morning after I’d dropped Andrea at the train. I wondered if the reason I could not sleep was that I was starting to fear that the assassin would be back, but I knew in my heart that it was nothing to do with that. If he came I would be as ready as I could be and that would either save me or end me. No the real issue was that I had a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that this was the beginning of something that was going to end up being bigger than me, bigger than I imagined, and I was not looking forward to that.


“You were not successful, you do realise that don’t you?”
Richard nodded
“We have confirmation that Caine Foster is still alive, despite your claim that you had dealt him a series of fatal wounds. The question that we need to answer is whether or not you were mistaken, because if you were not then something much more interesting is going on here.”