Leviathan Wakes – James S. A. Corey


Leviathan Wakes is the first book in the Expanse trilogy. I only have one complaint. The next book isn’t going to be available till 2012. I guess I might be a little too demanding on the authors of books I like though šŸ˜‰ At least I’m not going to pull a Misery on them.

It’s a sci-fi thriller, with some horror aspects to it. I thought ‘Dead Space’ more than once. Yes, that’s a tiny bit of a spoiler. But only a tiny bit, as the first place I thought it was right in the prologue, just a few pages in. It’s not, however, really a horror. You’ll just have to trust me on that, unless you want to read the mild spoiler below.

[spoiler]It’s not a horror, in the same way that The Rock isn’t a horror, regardless of how nasty VX gas is (well, the fictionalised one). A plot element, not the focus. Mostly. :D[/spoiler]

As Sci-fi goes, it’s fairly hard. Humanity still sticking to the solar system, subject to inertia, and presumably the speed of light. No FTL travel or comms here. Nothing really radical, just ‘like now, but more futuristic’. And no real techno-babble either. That tends to annoy me. Nicely factionalised politics, too. Earth. Mars. The Belt and outer planets. All keeping each other in the kind of uneasy balance that makes for a good start in a thriller with a large scale.

There are two main groups of protagonists, the crew of an ice mining ship, and a worn down detective from an asteroid colony. (Ceres! Well, a dwarf planet, sitting in the asteroid belt, and making up about 32% of it) It’s a good mix, with the differing personalities clearly visible. Different kinds of idealism. No-one’s perfect, they’re just different kinds of broken.

I’m going to be interested to see how the series progresses. A lot of possibilities have been opened up.

[spoiler]I also happened to think it was similar to a film with a similar name. Just not so b movie ish :D[/spoiler]

Read on the kindle. Linky

Green Lantern -3D


Not a bad film. Not bad at all. No idea how close to the source material it is, bar the ring use, and as normal, I don’t care.

It’s another big dumb summer action movie, with a slightly less dumb thread on the nature of fear and courage. There’s nothing to complain about plot wise, or in the execution of that plot, with no gaping holes or ‘WTF’ moments. Guy meets alien, alien gives guy ring, guy becomes superhero after a little soul searching. Not complex, and while possible to screw up, that’s not what happened here. What I did find interesting was the number of innocent casualties. Well, innocent except for being too dumb to live. šŸ˜‰ It’s not so common in super hero movies for people to die in droves. And they do. I like it.

As for the characters, they were well enough defined. Hal Jordan, the willful test pilot with commitment issues,Ā  Carol Ferris the love interest (who was more than the screaming sidekick. Nice.) And a bunch of others. Nice to see Amanda Waller too. I really only know her from Justice League, but with luck she’ll show up again. Angela Bassett was a good choice.

I saw it in 3D, because I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the next 2D showing, and because it was on the biggest screen that the cinema had. Real-D so it was just a pair of glasses. Did make it a bit darker than I’d have liked, with some of the colours washed out, but livable with. No significant headache either. Looks like it was actually shot in 3D, though I won’t swear to that šŸ˜‰ No ‘throw something at the audience’, that was out of place. I think it didn’t add anything, but it’s not taking something away, like some films have managed to do.

And there’s a mid-credit stinger. Points to there being a sequel šŸ˜€


See it on the big screen, as it’ll lose something coming to TV.




If you think this is a movie about delicious hunks of beef, cooked medium rare and served with sides, but no sauce, you’re A: wrong, and B: making me hungry.

This is a movie about vampires and vampire hunters, set in a recently post-apocalyptic USA. These aren’t sparkly vampires they’re dumb. As in mostly brain dead, brought down to a feral state.

The film is structured as a road movie, with the two main protagonists on their way to New Eden, as Canada seems to now be called. It’s about the trip, rather than the destination. Feels a lot like The Road, with less naked Viggo, and more travel by car (and more vampires, duh). Not trying to save the world. Just get somewhere. If that doesn’t work for you, don’t waste your time. It’s only very intermittently actiony.

Visually it’s very good. Bleak, but not formless. There are plenty of run down factories to shoot in šŸ˜‰ The audio is pretty much the same.

I do recommend seeing it, but it’s the kind of film I’d see once.

How to live safely in a Science Fiction Universe


Charles Yu

Umm. I have to admit, this really wasn’t what I was expecting. There are strong similarities to Thursday Next series, but more in the self referential style than the plot.

This is a book about time travel. But not time travel where you can actually change anything. The Norikov self consistency principle holds. It’s not this universe either. He’s got a dog that doesn’t actually exist, for example. The book does explain what’s going on, as much as it can.

While I did enjoy reading it, it was more of a struggle than most. Very few characters, most from the viewpoint of the narrator.

Best description I have for it is odd. And there’s not a great deal I can say about it, without giving spoilers.

Kung Fu Panda 2


I saw this in 2D, rather than 3D, so I can’t comment on the quality of the 3D. However, as it’s an animated film, it’s probably not bad. Far easier to manage decent 3D in a film without live actors šŸ˜‰

When I’m rating this film as five out of five, that’s a high five. Seriously worth watching. If you’ve not seen the first, rent or buy it, then go see this one on the big screen. The quality of the animation is great, in both the rendered portions and the portions that are more stylized. Might have helped that I’ve got new glasses too, so I’m picking up more fine detail, but I don’t think that’s all of it. It’s detailed, the slightly ruffled edges of fur, that kind of thing. The motion is fluid, with no jerkiness; which is somewhat important with the high-speed martial arts šŸ˜‰

The story’s good too, following on from the first one, Po as the dragon warrior, not quite as skilled as some of the other furious five, but still more than capable of holding his own. I’m not going to go into detail on the story, but it touches on Po’s past, why he’s been raised by a goose, and yet another occasion to save China.

The voice acting is excellent, with a decent script. The jokes are both verbal and visual, handled well in both mediums. There were more than a few occasions where I was crying with laughter. It manages the solemn moments and high drama moments well, without it slapping you in the fact with the contrast from the humor. Except when it’s done deliberately. The balance is maintained without it feeling like the writers were thinking ‘It’s been too long without a joke’.

There’s a moral buried in there, but it’s not slapping you in the face. Show, don’t tell. šŸ™‚

Duke Nukem Forever – Hail to the King.

They finally did it. After many long years of waiting, Duke Nukem Forever has been released. I’ve had a play through of it, and have to say, not bad. not bad at all. I’d say four out of five. [rating=4] I’ve seen lower scores, but a lot of them seem to be marking it down for how long it spent in development hell. Which is hardly fair.

This isn’t a game for the easily offended;or young. Though I suspect teenage boys are hardly going to be warped by it. There’s far more on the net. Duke Nukem’s always been a stronghold of the unrepentant chauvinist. Expect bad jokes, mostly naked women, too many guns, and lots of references to old action films. On the other hand…. Come get some šŸ˜€ You’ve got a wise cracking tough guy from the same mould as every 80’s action movie star. The game isn’t self consious when there’s swearing. It just fits in context. And to be honest, it’s nice to have a protagonist who isn’t silent. Sure, it ‘spoils immersion’, but this game was never supposed to be immersive. It’s just an old fashioned First person shooter.

That’s where it’s dropping its score however. There were parts of it that felt just too much like the old school FPS, giving it a somewhat dated feel. And those bits were the boss battles. Don’t get me wrong, they were pretty inventive in how they did them, but too often they broke down into ‘Hide behind cover, till the boss stops shooting, then unload your rocket launcher into them. wait for the next pause to run to the ammo crate. Repeat until almost dead. Finish with a button hit at close range.’ Don’t get me wrong, each battle was individual, just repetitive within that battle. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time dying šŸ˜‰ My reflexes aren’t what they used to be. I guess I did make my life harder by going for the achievement for carrying your initial pistol all through the game. With only two weapon slots, it’s kinda limiting. There were no random ‘alien jumps out behind you, when you’d cleared a section’, which is always annoying when it happens. It was scripted a couple of times, but always with something bursting through a door, or something similar. There were a few bits that felt a little random, which mostly lead to me dying a half-dozen times, but I got past them in the end.

There were some nice ‘mini-game’ bits to it. Nicely tied in, too, unlike the hacking games you get in some *cough*Bioshock*cough*. Other than those, like an extended driving bit, the game was pretty much a run and shoot. Low on the puzzles.

The plot was just an excuse for action, but then again, I really didn’t expect anything else. It really is the game equivalent of a big dumb summer action movie. Which works for me, as I like big dumb summer action movies.

The engine used was up to the job they threw at it. The surroundings were nicely detailed, and there was a good variety in the actual game play. The load screens between levels felt a bit clunky, but the checkpointing was almost perfect. There were a few places I’d have put the checkpoint just a little later, so I could skip exposition after dying, but not too many. Nice selection of weapons, two powerups that did a little too much to my screen for my liking, and a decent night vision mode, which had bits of maps designed to need it. And the underwater sections were pretty good, with enough breath to get where you needed, but not so much that you didn’t feel some tension. Movement speed felt pretty good. Nice and fast, and that’s without the sprint option; no shooting when sprinting.


Total hours of gameplay: About 10 to complete it. One of the developers said 16, but I suspect that’s for people who explore every nook and cranny, looking for the ‘ego boost’ bonuses; they’re basically max health increases. 10 wasn’t trying for a speed run or anything (good thing too. it’d suck for a speed run), it’s just me sitting down and playing it on normal.

Replay value: Not high for single player, unless you want to try on a higher difficulty level. Can’t say how the multiplayer is yet.

I played it on the PC, having bought it through Steam. Plenty of achievements, with just the right number of ‘did it for the achievement’ achievements. No multiplayer only achievements, which I prefer. Always annoys me when I won’t get half of them, as I play single player only.

After you complete the single player campaign, it unlocks a few bonus features, like development artwork, screenshots, and a timeline. The last feels just a trifle apologetic šŸ˜‰

Cooking for a Single Guy 1 – Store Cupboard

Being a single guy, and doing some cooking, I thought I might as well display a tiny bit of my ego and share what I think are a few nuggets that will make life easier for other people in my situation. Some of it is generally useful too, but in the end, it’s probably most useful for someone like me. Single, living by himself, and more than a little lazy. It’s better than takeout every night šŸ˜‰


Most of the recipes I’ve already posted are somewhat relevant, but to start with, I’m not going to talk about them. What this post is about, is what you have in your cupboards. And what you have to cook those things in.


Quality matters when it comes to cookware. You can buy cheap pans, and have to replace them every few years, or you could spend five times as much, and never have to replace it. The more expensive pans tend to be better for cooking with, too.Ā  My material of choice is stainless steel. Not non-stick; except in a frying pan. No-where else matters, and will lead to things wearing out faster. Stuff doesn’t stick to a non-stick pan, but the non-stick coating isn’t too good at sticking to the pan, either. Buying them over time is probably the way to go.

  • 1 x 20cm saucepan, with a lid. Glass lids are good, but make sure the handle on that lid is plastic. Metal will get too hot to use without a cloth. If you can get one with a pouring spout, that’s good. If you can get one with a pouring spout and a lid that works as a strainer, that’s even better. Draining potatoes is a pain, and that makes it easier. I got one from the Judge Vista line and it’s doing pretty well so far. Not cheap, but it seems to be worth it.
  • 1 x large frying pan. Here non-stick works. I got a Tefal one with a red spot. the spot’s stopped working, but the pan is still fine. 26cm or bigger. As long as your cooker can handle it.
  • 1 x deep stock pot. If you’re ever making chilli, Bolognese, or soup you’ll thank me for getting one. A saucepan just isn’t big enough. Something like this would work. You’re wanting a pot that’s around 18cm deep and 25cm wide. Bigger isn’t bad, but will make other pans harder to use at the same time.
  • At least one baking sheet for the oven. Anodized aluminum is a good idea. I’ve got a Mermaid baking sheet and it works well, being almost non-stick. It also won’t rust, which is a big plus. Measure your oven before you buy, as some won’t take the big sheets.
  • Plastic boxes. Lots of plastic boxes. You’ll be storing your food in these, as everything makes more than one serving. I like the lock n lock ones.


  • A pasta pan is so useful if you eat a lot of pasta. Those are the tall pots with the strainer that fits inside them. Not the most efficient way of cooking, as there’s a lot of water, but easier to drain. Works for potatoes too. Rice is too small and if you get the measurements right, you can avoid needing to drain it.
  • A saute pan. These are much like frying pans, but have straight sides, and come with a lid. Don’t get non-stick here. These are useful if you are making something with a sauce, as frying pans are more likely to slop it around. If you get one with a metal handle, you can stick it in the oven too. I’ve never done this, but some people like to be able to. Don’t forget the oven gloves šŸ˜‰
  • A second 20cm saucepan. Or maybe a smaller one. handy if, for example, you want to heat some baked beans, while you boil some potatoes. Smaller has the advantage of things not getting spread out as much when you’re reheating something, which reduces the chance of something burning. But it means you have less space to work in.


  • Tongs. Ribber tipped works well, especially is used with your non-stick frying pan.
  • Spatula – Wooden. Mine are Beech. More than one isn’t a bad idea.
  • Spoons – Wooden. Again, Beech. Get more than one. One with a blocked out corner is a good idea, for stirring round a large pan.
  • Chopping board(s). Have a few, in more than one color. That way you can keep one for raw meat, one for veg, and so on.
  • Knives. A few knives are good. The main one you’ll want though, is a decent chef’s knife. I’ve got a kitchen devil professional one, which has lasted me years. As for the size, go for at least a medium. Go larger if it feels comfortable in your hand. All other knives are optional. A paring knife is handy. Those are the two I use more than any other.
  • Peeler. Pick the type that works for you. I’m using a Y peeler. (because the blade is held in a y shaped handle).
  • Measuring Jug. Pyrex or similar.
  • Measuring spoons. Teaspoon and tablespoon are the important ones.
  • Oven Gloves. While you could use a tea towel, a decent pair of oven gloves is really a must.


That’s pretty much the basics covered. There are a few Electrical small goods that I really like having though.

  • Slow Cooker – 3.5ltr. Ideal for a lazy cook. Bung stuff into it, turn it on, and several hours later, you have a meal.
  • Hand Blender – I don’t use this much, but good for soups, and making sauces less chunky. Or working out the flour lumps you accidentally made in a gravy.
  • Food processor – I don’t like the coarseness of most mince, so this lets me break it up further. Also for chopping onions, mixing batter, etc, etc.
  • Microwave – For reheating or defrosting things, this is hard to beat, speed wise. These days, on the other hand, I don’t use it much.


Food in your store cupboard/freezer/fridge

Store cupboard first. These are the core ingredients for cooking with. you’ll buy stuff to use with them, but they’ll be sitting there, day in, day out.

  • Chopped Tomatoes. Or Passata. I normally have at least 4 cans. You could just buy the canned peeled tomatoes and break them up yourself, but that’s just far too much work for me šŸ˜€ Passata’s sieved crushed tomatoes, so it’s basically just a sauce. For when you want liquid, but no lumps.
  • Tomato Puree. Normally have a couple of jars sitting. I buy this in jars, and then store in the fridge when I open them. Cans are a bad idea, if you’re not using the whole can at once. Tubes are just too much work and are harder to judge how much is left.
  • Tuna chunks in brine. If you like tuna, this is the core of a whole number of meals. Normally 4 or 5 cans. Depends on the deals on at the time šŸ˜‰
  • Stock cubes. Chicken and beef. Handy for bumping up the ‘meaty’ flavour of something
  • Pasta – Spaghetti and some other shapes. I tend to buy in large bags(3kg), as it lasts. Different ones for variety.
  • Rice – easy cook white rice. The 15 minute or so cooking time one. Again, large amounts. This works well in a slow cooker.
  • Herbs and spices. Go nuts here. These are what move food from bland to interesting (normally. Some foods don’t need them, like a decent steak). Premixed works too, like the Italian herb mix I use, from Just Ingredients. Chili powder. Curry powder. Cumin. Ginger. Paprika. Thyme. Rosemary. Get a basic selection to start with, and expand it as you need to.
  • Worcestershire sauce. This is to bump up the umami (meaty) flavor of things.
  • Soy Sauce. Dark for cooking, light for garnish.
  • Beans. Baked beans. Kidney Beans. Black eyed beans. That kind of thing. Canned rather than dry, as dry takes ages to rehydrate. This is for lazy cooks šŸ˜‰


  • Chopped onion. Lasts well, cooks from frozen, and you just pour it in.
  • Chopped mixed peppers. Add a handful to a dish to pep it up. Means you don’t have a half pepper just lying around in your fridge
  • Kidney Beans. Even easier than canned, you just dump in a loose handful.
  • Other vegetables. Green beans, mushrooms (if you like them), that kind of thing. They last well in the freezer.
  • Sausages.
  • Mince. I’d buy it fresh and freeze it yourself. while you need to defrost it, that’s a ‘take out before work, and it’s done when you get back in’. Beef and pork.
  • Bacon. As above. I’d suggest unsmoked.
  • Chicken. Breasts or diced. I’d say, don’t buy the ones that come in cubes, as that’s really not particularly nice looking meat. Fresh and freeze it yourself.


  • Chopped garlic.
  • Chopped Ginger


And that’s about it. This isn’t prep for a particular recipe, but just general living. You can get by with just a couple of saucepans, but having different sorts makes life easier. Or buy a cheap set of pans, and replace then with decent ones as time passes.

X-Men First Class


To give a little understanding of where this review is coming from, I’m not a comic geek. I do like comics, but not bought one by one. If I do buy, it’s the trade paperbacks I get. I couldn’t tell you how many times Magneto has died, or if Charles Xavier has been thrown down the stairs more than once (Mr Sinister did it in Ultimate XMen, I think.)Ā  So, I don’t know if this contradicts any of the comic continuity or not. Not that I’d particularly care, either. It’s not like there’s a single continuity anyway.Ā  Throw in the whole Ultimates line, which I like, and it’s obvious there are multiple. As a side note, if you do want to read the comics, and not spend a boat load of cash on them, take a look at the Marvel Digital comics subscription. at 60 a year (pair yearly), you get access to a lot of comics. just not in paper.

Back to the film. They reused the scene with Eric and the Nazis, which was nice. Then extended it to show you what happens after he gets hit in the head. It was something that always bugged me a little; how would he get away, and not just try killing people. Hard to control the master of magnetism šŸ˜‰

I’m not going to talk too much about the plot, as I don’t like spoilers, but I did like the way it went. Not particularly complex, but enough to hang the story on. It did hit on some of the major issues of the day (in 1960-something. By the looks of it, the timeline of the Cuban Missile Crisis was massively compressed. Or they just ignored months of time between scenes) and there’s the ever-present Mutant’s v Humans theme. Especially brought out with Mystique and Beast. While they’re far from the least human looking mutants, they’re pretty much the worst as far as the films go.

While Shaw’s played up as the big bad guy, this is really the story of Charles and Eric. How Magneto came into existence. Thing is, Magneto’s not the bad guy. Never really has been. That’s always cast him in a light he shouldn’t be cast in. Well intentioned extremist is probably a better description. Or possibly the freedom fighter/terrorist dichotomy.

Anyway, visually it’s a good film. The scenes are set well, and the cast was a good choice for each. Though Little Raven was more than a trifle disturbing to see. The scenes were interesting, with a decent flavour for the time period. While some people might think Emma Frost’s outfit a little extreme, it’s toned down from the source material.

If you liked the first, you’ll probably like this one. If you like comic book movies in general, you’ll probably like it. And it doesn’t depend on you knowing anything. It could be used as an entry point. I’ve seen confirmed reports that there is no stinger at the end of the credits, but I didn’t check, as I’d have missed the last train home.

Nice cameo by Hugh Jackman, too šŸ˜‰


We live in the future

Things have changed a great deal over the past few years. And while I still want my jetpack, unless there’s some major(exciting!) new discovery in the world of physics (or Science!, with a capital S, and the exclamation mark. that’s not optional), I suspect I won’t be getting one.

But things aren’t all bad. In fact, they’re very very good. I mean, the phone in my pocket has more processing power than my first PC. Much much more. Let alone the computing power that had a man standing on the moon. I’ll admit, I’m a little disappointed about the lack of people zooming round the solar system (barring the 7 billion going round and round and round) but it says something, that I, as a private citizen, have so much computing power available to me. And I can even use it to call people! Weird, I know. Mobile phones have made such massive societal changes in the first world (probably the other classifications too. But I don’t have a good viewpoint to observe from). And with the addition of cameras to them, well, there’s a reason that everything gets recorded. Throw in twitter and blogs (even vanity ones, like this one) the world becomes a very small place indeed. Privacy has suffered, but that’s unavoidable. People have always gossiped. You’re not going to stop that. The modern world is the small town, writ large. If you choose to live in the public eye, then you can’t really complain when the public just keeps on watching you. Try to hide something, and you’ll just have the Streisand effect blowing up in your face. Huh. Firefox knows how to spell Streisand properly, even when IĀ  typo it. Anyway, yes, sometimes it goes too far, but then again, sometimes you get obscenities like the super injunctions that have been talked about in the British press lately. If you do something, like have an affair, and someone reports on it, tough luck. You went against societal norms, society will talk about it. If it’s not true, well, that’s what slander or libel laws are for. And just a tip. Getting an injunction makes you look guilty.

Bah, little bit of a ramble off topic there. The real causes of this piece are a couple of things I’ve got in the last six months. First, my Kindle. It’s great. Just the WiFi model, but there’s normally some WiFi nearby, or I can tether it to my phone. It’s not like I’m web browsing on it. The thing that really brought it to mind, was when I was reading the blog of an author I like, Seanan McGuire, I came across a link for Zombiesque. Granted, it was for the US site, but that’s not hard to change to the UK site. Now, I could have bought the paperback copy, but it showed the link for the Kindle copy too. 5 minutes later I had my copy. If I’d had to wait for delivery, I’d probably have passed. But the Kindle is bad for people with poor impulse control (me! :D) I can just click and click and click, picking up reading material for the next few days, with ease. When I’m reading a new series, well, new to me, I have this bad habit of buying the first, then just buying all the others. The kindle makes that easy. And as I can get them quickly, it reduces the wait time to the point I finish them one after another, rather than buy one, like it, buy the next, wait for it to arrive, lather, rinse, repeat. Amazon Prime was bad enough for my reading habit, the Kindle’s worse. Though it does stop my bookcases from getting overly full. I only have space for maybe another 30 books, before double stacking, or sticking in boxes. I can’t fit any more bookcases into my spare bedroom/library. On a side note, Library Thing is great. Recommendations, series lists, all that good stuff. I’m a lifetime member. Dedicated eReaders might be a niche market, but they’re cheaper than a tablet, with a better screen for reading. In time, those might change. Right now, they’re a selling point. And I have a tablet. I just use the Kindle for reading. The tablet’s used for email. not reading. As a side note, the Advent Vega’s great. Not perfect, but far cheaper than equivalent competition.

The other thing, which I got more recently, is the Microsoft Kinect. I mean, wow. It’s not perfect, but it does a damn good job of mapping where limbs are, and the stuff that’s been done with it, well, it’s just amazing. Forget the Wii and the Playstation Move. They may be good implementations, but they’re still not tracking you. Is it good as a game controller? I’m less sure about that. But as a guide to what’s not possible, it’s amazing. Yes, I used the word twice. Because I am Amazed. Body mapping, without the person needing to do anything special, opens up so many possibilities. The voice recognition’s pretty good too. Maybe not for general computer use, but if I could control my tv that way? It’d be good. TV: Channel eighteen. TV: mute. without using the remote. Maybe hand gestures for browsing up and down through the channels.Ā  And Dance Central is quite fun too šŸ˜‰


So. We live in the future. You just need to step back to appreciate it.

Recipes and google rich snippets – 2

Just a small update:

I’m now using the easy recipe plugin, and I can get google’s testing tool to properly validate some of them now. Mostly, I need to either fill in the calories count, or add a picture for it. Once they’re in, the testing tool picks them up.

The downside, of course, is that I don’t have pictures for many of them. And I don’t want to lie about the calorie count (the other way of getting it done) and ‘too many’ isn’t a good answer šŸ˜‰


As for rich snippets for reviews, I have the SEO ultimate plugin to take care of that. I did have to mess with the ratings plugin (the one that puts the stars in) as it had css that caused problems with the rating, but a quick edit of the plugin to change the css reference from rating to score fixed that. Now I just have to hope that google pay attention to the updates, and start showing the rich snippet additions.