I meant to do this all year: keep track of the books I read. But of course, I didn't. Now, though, I want to talk about the last few I read. So here they are, in chronological order:
  • Skullduggery Pleasant - one I read with (read: to) my girlfriend. It's young adult fantasy, not quite magic realism in the vein of Potter, but a bit older in tone and attitude. That will turn some people off right there. The prose isn't amazing, and the plot retreads a few tired standards of the genre (vanquished bad guys seek to break truce by capturing fabled ancient artefact that no-one believes exists), but it's refreshingly direct; the lead character is an animated skeleton who can summon and control elemental forces without so much as a magic word. Bam! Exploding doors! It's pretty exciting. Unfortunately all this overt magical violence makes the inclusion of the standard issue "young girl new to this whole other world of magic" rather less believable than usual, though at least she still has a family (they're the equivalent of ignorant muggles, though they have suspicions). Never mind; it was fun. I may not bother with the sequels, though.
  • The Pirates! in an Adventure with Napoleon - the fourth (and latest) in the series, and another I read with my lady. The Pirates, as you may or may not know, are a band of brigands of the "affable cuddly daft anti-hero" variety, led by the Pirate Captain, and none of his crew have names either (except Jennifer, who used to be a Victorian lady). Their latest adventure is almost entirely on shore, but Napoleon does feature heavily. It uses breaks some of the previously established conventions of the series, so it bucks the trend, and it's probably as good as the other sequels but none have yet bettered the original (The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists).
  • The Inmates Are Running the Asylum - Alan Cooper's so-accurate-it-seems-obvious critique of the software industry and the lack of design. This book has single-handedly changed my entire attitude to my day-job industry, mainly by reminding me of the thing I was most interested in about computers - how they interact with humans. Software, largely, is awful, and this book details why, how this state of affairs came to be (and continues), and how to fix it. Damningly, it's from the last decade but every bit as relevant as it was back then.
  • ...and it's goodnight from him - the autobiography of The Two Ronnies, written by the smaller one, Ronnie Corbett. Fills what I never realised was quite a massive gap in my knowledge of British comedy, and documents a friendship and professional partnership that spanned decades. It's delightful, touching, and rather funny; given my own experience with comedy partnerships, it was also quite an eye opener. Not being very familiar with their work, I will now have to re-watch and re-evaluate the Ronnies with fresh eyes. I was sad to hear they were rather hurt by the Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch lampooning them; I rather liked it, but I guess my scant familiarity with the original meant I never appreciated how wide of the mark it must have seemed to the Ronnies themselves.
Next year, I have a reading project: one book written by every author mentioned in the Moxy Früvous song "My Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors". I'll read them in order, for good measure; that means I'm starting with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Any suggestions?
Okay, so I have been seriously thinking about getting a 3G phone. I really want something with Internet, that has decent battery life, and which I can use to sync with or access my online calendar. And it seems all these desires point to iPhone. Today, I found out my telecom company, Virgin, now offers them, and on a pretty good deal. Plus, well, I started running a (very sporadic) D&D campaign recently, and... Well, I just found Mach Dice. It's not just a dice roller, it's a ridiculously pretty dice roller.

I can't quite get past the fact that I just bought an 80GB iPod mere months ago. Even though I'd primarily use an iPhone as a phone (and even a 16GB one couldn't hold all my music anyway), I don't know if I can justify having two super expensive gadgets like that. I didn't even get a DS until it was my birthday. And yet...well, it just seems to do what I want better than anything else on the market.

It doesn't help that I just adopted my work's only Macintosh, a little Mac Mini, unused since our previous developer left many months ago. It's feeding my love of all things Mac, and by extension Apple. If they can make a Mac, surely they can't mess up a phone?

February 2012

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