Car! Books! Stuff!
27 October 2000
Woohoo! After four, yes, four months of waiting, we've finally got the car we won in July. I went along to Abercromby Toyota last Monday to pick it up. I think the sales people were a bit confused when the first thing I asked was, "will you buy it back off us?" They got over it, though, but the price they offered wasn't quite the price we were hoping for. So now it's on the open market.
Would you buy a used car from this man? Of course you would :-)
The long wait is finally over: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman is finally out in hardback. This is the third book in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, which started with The Northern Lights and carried on in The Subtle Knife.
Last Christmas Abi gave me the first three Harry Potter books. I zipped through them in a matter of days, and found that I was thirsty for more young adult fiction. (For the last few years now, I've had an idea for a YA trilogy of my own bubbling about in my head, but it hasn't emerged onto paper yet. I was hoping to stir up some more creative juices. Hardly surprisingly, it still hasn't happened yet.)
At one of our local Waterstones, in the YA section, I found a pile of books, all apparently in the same series, that caught my eye straight away. The name of the author: Philip Pullman. The book covers were colourful and moody, the lettering of the titles bold and sublty ornate, like a finely crafted sword. Whoever came up with the design deserves an award--they are some of the finest and most inviting covers I've ever seen.
As I read the blurbs, I discovered that there were two series: a Victorian trilogy (The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North and The Tiger in the Well) and the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. At the time I didn't realize that only the first two books of this trilogy were available.
Can I just say, "AAARGH".
The Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife are just stunningly good books. They may be targeted at a youthful audience, but any adult will be equally bowled over by them. The characters are engaging, the world Pullman has envisioned is wide in scope, filled with genuinely innovative fantasy ideas (like Lyra's world, where everyone has a personal daemon, a kind of animal familiar that is almost part of one's soul), and the adventures portrayed are gripping, fast-moving, and filled with tension and action. Plus, they introduced us to Tokaji wine :-)
So, for the last nine months or so, I've been eagerly waiting for The Amber Spyglass to appear. Fan sites originally said it would be coming out around April, but the release date was set back to November (although it's out already). Some rumours say that this was to avoid conflict with the launch of the fourth Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, others say that Pullman delivered a larger than expected manuscript to his publishers, and that it required extensive editing to bring it down even to the eventual 550 pages of the UK hardback edition. (I suspect the former, myself.)
But now it's finally here. I picked it up yesterday evening, and I'm looking forward to some long and pleasurable hours over the weekend. Once we've finished laying a new floor in our loft, that is.
Microsoft Certification update
After having been a "temp" MCSD (two of my qualifying exams expired three days after I'd achieved got my MCSD), I've now upgraded myself to permanent MCSD status. The dreaded "70-100 Exam" (Analysing Requirements and Defining Solution Architectures) turned out not to be so hard after all, and I passed it with a modest 99%. No, really.
Fifteen weeks down, twenty-five more to go. Abi is just starting to show, or maybe she's just getting fat. (Ouch--stop hitting me!)
Well, more like yet another set of upgrades to the old one. Frankenstein, which was build from scratch from individual components back in 1995, has now shed its last original part--the keyboard. And that was only because it had too large a connector to plug into my brand new Abit KT7 motherboard. Mmmm....Donuts...
To go with the motherboard is a new AMD Duron 800 chip, which is a serious eye-opener after my old K6-2 400. I can now finally run Deus Ex at an acceptable framerate--even on my old Voodoo Banshee video card. Okay, so it's only running at 640 x 480 resolution, but that's just fine by me. It still looks great. (And as for Quake 3, can we say 79fps? Sure we can!)
At the same time, I also decided to give up my treasured Linux project. I like the idea of Linux, and I love puttering around with it, writing little scripts, hacking around with CGI and perl. I don't love having to spend several days trying to figure out how to get my modem working, how to set up the drivers for our wireless ethernet cards, how to configure Samba to serve up our MP3 collection, and how to configure a proxy/firewall to allow both Abi and me to share our internet connection.
All of the above had been in my original plan for yon wee Linux beastie in the corner. But when I can reformat the hard drive, install Windows 98 and WinProxy and have the machine doing all of the above in under two hours with Microsoft software, then it really isn't much of a contest.
I figure I'll probably end up with a Linux machine somewhere inside the firewall, and maybe I'll mess around with it occasionally. I hack around with computers all day for a living; when I get home, I really just want things to work first time. Unfortunately, Linux just doesn't cut it on the ease of use and configuration front yet.