Fictional history

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I’ve read some amazing books recently, but I wanted to focus on just two of the works I’ve enjoyed, or am in the process of enjoying. The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson I seem to have hit a seam of interest in historical fiction recently (as you’ll see with my other choice), and have swanned about from Tudor London (the wonderful Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom) to 1930s Berlin (with Philip Kerr’s Private Investigator, Bernie Gunther).

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Nebraska

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Last weekend, we finally finished watching one of the best films I have seen in weeks: Nebraska. I say finally because we had to return the first DVD to Lovefilm because it was scratched so badly it wouldn’t play. To divert from my subject for a moment, what the heck do people do with rented DVDs? We fairly regularly get disks that look as if someone has decided to give them a quick polish on the playing surface with coarse sandpaper.

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LaunchBar 6

I know from bitter experience of using other people’s Macs that I find it very hard to use a computer without a launcher of some kind installed. Having to mouse around to launch applications or files (let alone all the other things that launchers let you accomplish) feels positively archaic once you have got used to relying on one. As I wrote about when LaunchBar 5 was released, I’ve used (at one time or another) almost every third-party launcher including Quicksilver, LaunchBar and Butler, but in recent years, I have settled in to using Alfred exclusively.

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Cloud Atlas the film

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I recently plucked up courage and watched the recent film of Cloud Atlas. Cloud Atlas, the book, is one of my favourite books ever, and I have read it twice so far, enjoying it enormously and getting more out of it the second time around. As ever with a beloved book, I was nervous that the film would somehow pollute my enjoyment of the book forever. However, I saw a trailer and was genuinely curious about how they would tackle the story and its unusual structure and changes in tone.

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Koken

A few months ago, I started using a bit of software called Koken to publish a kind of portfolio of my photos. I loved it, and was really happy to have somewhere to display my favourite photos that was tailored to my own needs and — more importantly — on my own server and under my own control. I was about to write a review of it when I had to switch to nginx as a web server rather than Apache and managed to break everything.

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Sage Barista Express

Before Christmas, we had a bit of a ‘home appliance breakdown’ period chez Bsag. The biggest (and most expensive) casualty was our central heating boiler, but we also had a succession of other things break, including my beloved Rancilio Silvia espresso machine. Not having any heating or hot water is one thing, but no coffee — that’s insupportable. I opened up the machine and found that the boiler had developed a substantial leak through a crack in the boiler wall, so steam was escaping all the time that the machine was on, and the temperature and pressure was not holding.

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Warhorses of Letters

I am in awe of fabulously creative writers. I’m talking about Robert Hudson and Marie Phillips — the kind of people who can write a radio comedy series about a love affair conducted by letter between two warhorses, or as they describe it, “A gay, equine, military, epistolary romance for the ages”. Not only have the three series of ‘Warhorses of Letters’ been hilarious, but the very last episode that I listened to last week (and again this morning) was so utterly moving that I was astonished to find myself with big fat tears rolling down my face.

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Second impressions: Sony RX100 Camera

I wrote about my brief first impressions of this camera back in August, not long after I had bought it. I thought it was probably time to do a second review, now that I’m about 5 months into using it. First, you need to know a bit about what I want out of a camera, and what sort of photographs I enjoy taking. I would say that I’m an intermediate photographer in terms of expertise.

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Editorial

Everyone loves Editorial, the new iPad text editor. if you have missed hearing about it, a good place to start is with Federico Viticci’s wonderful and very thorough review. I’ve only been using it for a short while compared to Federico’s 6 months, but I already love it. I’m pretty sure that it will become my standard editor for doing any kind of writing on the iPad. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many text editors I have downloaded over the years for the iPhone, and more recently, the iPad.

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First impressions: Sony RX100 camera

Choosing a camera — like choosing many other technological tools — is a matter of balancing compromises. Digital SLRs have a great choice of interchangable lenses and superb image quality, but they are large, expensive and heavy, and you can’t really carry them around with you every day. Compact cameras, on the other hand, are usually cheaper, smaller and lighter, but the image quality is compromised, and you are stuck with a single (albeit potentially a zoom) lens.

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