I don't seem to able to go back beyond a few weeks anymore!

It's very quiet here.

Nothing much happening. Supposedly having a short story published, but it's gone all quiet.

When should one chuck away dreams?

Two things I always wanted in life: children & writing. The children are here and despite the hard work they entail, it is most rewarding and funny at times. Although it wasn't very funny today when Christopher threw a strop in the middle of Coventry because we wouldn't buy him and a Fireman toy and he prompted to scream and shout and had to be dragged away somewhere to be told off. Funny was last week, when, on the way to the in-laws, Talia said, "Why are we going to Nanny's?"

Mummy: "We were invited for lunch."
Talia: "Well, you could have said no and then we could have gone to Leamington instead."

The reason she wanted to go to Leamington is because there's a particularly good sweet shop there...

Writing doesn't mean Software. That's the day job, and at the moment it's stuck on a disaster of a project in which requirements changed but the hardware isn't _really_ suitable and it's a constant struggle to fix this in software. Ah well. 

I'm still writing short stories in those brief moments of time between kids going to be, meals being made and other chores being done. I finished one last night. I don't do anything with them. I really should. My problem is that I'm not really sure what they are these days. I'm not even sure what's happening to the publishing industry or short story markets. The industry appears to have fallen into the same trap that other creative industry fall into: a few people who sell a lot, and that's about it. Frankly nothing bores me more than seeing bookshops filled with the same old names churning the same old stuff. I think there's even a term for this sort of selling, where the industry is effectively reliant on a few names. Ottakars found this out a few years back when their sales of Harry Potter were poor (They probably couldn't compete with supermarkets selling at a loss) and Borders found out when they ditched the variety and went with pile 'em high bestsellers and closed down pretty shortly afterwards...

Not that I care. My last book purchase was a brilliant collection of short stories by Jonathan Carroll, published by a small press.

Even my Kindle (Great device!) mainly sits idle these days (I still buy the physical product, but occasionally get an e-book if it's cheap). These days it seems anyone can publish. Trouble is, I don't trust  myself to QA things properly. There's enough badly written crap out there!

Holiday, Holiday!

We went to Somerset for a week, the first holiday (Apart from the odd weekend away) since we've had Christopher. We stopped in a cottage near Cheddar, which was handy as my Dad's sister and her family live around the area. They have not seen the sprogs. The farm was a working farm, and the cottage was pleasant, but previous users had been dog owners. I am not the biggest fan of dogs. In fact, they make me sneeze. So does the countryside, it seems, and the stench of manure was quite sickening. The kids seemed to like the play area more than the farm animals, although we did get to see two freshly born Alpacas... And Christopher had to be dragged away from any tractor activity.

Saw the relatives, which was good, and caught up on family history. Since my Dad died, we've been a bit out of touch with his side of the family. My Aunt gave me my Great Granddad's WWI service medals, which was a surprise. He was killed during the battle of Loos after being on the front for barely a month, probably gassed by his own side.

Of the sights we saw, Bath is perhaps the most famous, but I always find it a let down. It's a nice town with some scrumptious architecture, but I find it suffers from being too touristy, and there's nothing spectacular - the Cathedral is OK, but it's not York. Maybe I've seen too many. A new development down at the bottom end of the city is a dismal fake set of streets in pastiche Georgian style, filled with chain stores. It ay look a bit like the old stuff, but it's just as soulless as post war shopping developments that infect th UK.

Weston Super Mare is, frankly, a dismal place - despite some fine streets with a vaguely med feel about them and some decent architecture, the actual seafront is horrible. No fine frontages, but some rather dismal open spaces and horrendous 1960s monstrosities. The kids enjoyed the beach (Mud). For the next beach visit we went down to the south coast to Lyme Regis, which is far, far better. An old town with character, and a nice sandy beach. The only problem was some idiot nearby had dug a huge moat around a massive sandcastle and we couldn't keep the kids away from it. It was twice the height of Christopher, and looked as if it would cave in at any moment. It was attracting a lot of other kids and the Dad digging it was going deeper and deeper. To cap it all, the pratt was a brummie. Not that I'm a kill joy, but kids have been killed when constructions like have caved in on them. 

At one point I was watching Talia from a fair distance. She ran at a discarded sandcastle, launched herself at it and flattened it. Christopher was doing the same as well.


I wanted to visit the Jurassic coast to get some fossils, but the sprogs were getting ratty so we decided to head off back to the cottage instead.

We did a day trip to Bristol, which I enjoyed just wandering around the city's streets, and realising how much I dislike post-war Coventry with its zones, precincts and soulless road system. Bristol has streets that go places, and a lot of character, and also quite varied.

Glastonbury was OK, but not somewhere I'd ever visit again. Some decent cafes and a chilled out atmosphere, plus drunks rolling around outside the church. We visited the abbey which was good, but then the boss wanted to go to Street, which is joined to Glasto, to visit "Clark's village", a horrendous factory outlet filled with fashion stars. At least there was a Starbucks, so I could get a coffee, although it was quite mediocre without an extra shot of espresso.

We also did a trip to Wells, which is pretty nice. I've been there loads of times before, but I'd forgotten most of it. The Cathedral area is filled with gateways and old buildings, right up my street. It's quite sad seeing it's high street filling up with Starbucks and other chains, though.

Overall, a enjoyable, but utterly tiring week.  I managed to finish off a short story and a read a JG Ballard novel as well... keeping two little growing minds occupied is hard work, but ulimately highly rewarding. Certainly does put a different focus on holidays, but  I did sometimes wish I could just wander off an explore like I used to do...


Time to update

Having two fully mobile children is exhausting fun. Talia wasn't particularly destructive, but Christopher is after everything he can find, and has already managed to break a few things. We call him "Christopher Foo Foo" as he has this habit of bopping us on the head with a plastic hammer and giggling madly to himself. (See which is a US version. The UK version we have came with a DVD with Kevin Whately singing the song!)

Talia sings "Little Christopher Foo Foo riding through the forest, picking up theTalias and bopping me on the head!".

The project at work is about to kick off, and I'm in charge of the software aspect. We're having to ditch Linux for QA reasons and go with an automotive embedded system. Unfortunately, it doesn't support the USB drivers we need. We had a third party supply some, but they didn't work. Third party came up with a lame excuse. I spend about an hour with it and got it working, and also managed to get a USB driver working using the native OS API... the third party had their own stack. Yadda yadda. It's a bit daunting as we're starting from a blank canvas. Our demo uses Qt, but I doubt we'll be using that - it might well end up being the GUI that comes with the OS, but we're not certain how that integrates with other aspects of the system. It's going to be a busy, busy, hectic and stressful year, I reckon. We have some hard realtime targets to meet in the S/Ware... It's a project being led directly from the UK, rather than Japan, which is a bit of a turnaround.

This leaves little time for writing. I've managed to do a few short stories, and finally managed to rework the opening of a novel that's had it's first few chapters rewritten a number of times. In the end it was a case of stepping back. Deleting. And changing the concept of the opening. I really need to get back into the swing of submitting again. After all the good feedback and near misses, it would be a shame to hang up my word processor now!


The Big 4-0

Woke up this morning and found I was 40. The only benefit so far is that I treated myself to a shiny new iPod touch as I seem to be of an age where people don't buy you presents anymore and I really needed a new MP3 player. It turns my stomach to say it, but Apple have.... done... a... fantastic job. It also connects through my Nokia phone to the Internet (Which is a bonus, as the Nokia phone is quite unusable due to its awful web browser). It's not really a mp3 player, but a re-invention of the PDA...

So... what's happened in those 40 years? 

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Christopher is now 8 months old and crawling. He also pulls himself up and can walk if you hold his arms. Talia is still deep in the terrible 2s and getting worse. Example: "You've got until 3 to get ready for bed." (After ten minutes chasing her around to get her in her nightclothes.)

So quickly she goes "1, 2, 3" and runs off, flashing a cheeky grin that says, "I got one over on you" (*). Trying to tell her off whilst laughing really doesn't work.

(*) I win. Toys are confiscated and not made available until she's done what she's told. Amazing how quick that works!

Work is dull. Still working on lots of high level theories & designs, a bit of POSIX on the QNX OS and about to embark (I think) on an embedded Linux based project using QT. We seem to be moving towards this platform - in fact automotive is using Linux platforms, but are running scared from the GPL. Running our apps on Linux as an OS is fine and has no obligations under GPL, but the consortium looking at building a standard wants to modify the kernel and add driver support... We're not in the consortium, so it means squat to us. We're just writing apps on it. Also need to set up a series of meetings and schedules for a group I'm heading to look at future strategies...

Have managed to finish off a short story about a village haunted by a ghostly dominatrix who sings christmas carols and hunts wrens. Still working on a novel about an archivist, but it's slowing down due to a) tiredness and b) lack of time. The tiredness is really crippling at the moment - lots of nights of broken sleep don't help, especially stacked up!

Where has this decade gone?

Well that's a decade gone. It's been quite eventful, really. Biggest event: my Dad dying in 2003 at the age of sixty, after suffering a brain stem stoke. He was virtually unconscious in hospital for two months before he died - two days before he died, me and my Brother-in-law went to the hospital to visit him as he had been suffering nose bleeds and we watched as the doctors struggled for hours to keep him alive, and I just can't get the moaning he was making as they were sticking things up his nose to stop the bleeding and giving him blood tranfusions. The stoke had left him severly disabled, unable to move at all, and we never knew if he was awake or sleeping and he could only make moaning sounds and small gestures. We never told my Mum about that night - it was quite awful. He died 2 days later.

Had a hellish few years living in a house next door to a homeless hostel, plus an "interesting" time working for a small software company in Solihull. Witnessed my former employer (Marconi/GPT/GEC) vanish into a company that is fraction of what it was, and ended up working for a Japanese Corporation working on software for in-car infotainment systems. I hate cars, as well! Moved to our current house in Earlsdon which was a relief after the old house.

Then in 2004 I got married, and then later that year my Brother-in-law was killed in a car crash - in the space if 18 months my sister lost her Dad and then her husband. Their two daughters have done very despite this.

But it gets happier. Talia came along in 2007, and Christopher (Named after my Dad) in 2009. I continued to write novels and short stories, but seem to have lost the motivation to submit them anywhere, mainly as I don't really know who'd want to read them. Or maybe I just don't care anymore? Continued to explore music and amassed a large collection of Jazz/fusion and modern jazz, plus plenty of English folk and much more progressive rock...

Wonder what the next ten years will bring? Gosh, I hope this isn't too depressing!

Peace At Last

Got woken up at 6:00 this morning by Talia screaming "Daddy, lights off!" And then had to read stories to her for about an hour and help her do a Jigsaw before she was dispatched off to Nursery. The other one is no trouble, and is currently asleep. Peace! A rare thing these days. So I've been beavering away on a short story inspired by Carol Singing in South Yorkshire, BDSM & Clive Barker.

This year seems to have shot past - it only seems like yesterday that Christopher was born, but he's over 7 months old now. I have just bought him/me a book about pirates for Xmas... as no doubt I'll be reading a lot to him as he grows up! Talia has turned into a real bookworm and sits there trying to read books on her. She speaks the bits she remembers and them talks gibberish for the bits she doesn't. We're going to start teaching her the alphabet shortly...

The answer is YES

Last night I went to see 70s prog rockers YES in concert. An odd lineup of YES, which for the 2nd time in their history has a different vocalist. Jon Anderson is ill and can't tour, so they've hired a Canadian chap called Benoit David to sing in his place. He does a fine job, and the packed out Symphony Hall didn't seem to mind - it also gave the band a chance to perform songs from their "controversial" 1980 album DRAMA in which they they replaced Anderson and Rick Wakeman with THE BUGGLES, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. I wasn't expecting much as the core trio of Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White are, to be blunt, getting on. What a dumb assumption as they were pretty spectacular. Oddly, Rick Wakeman's son is their keyboard player. This is the 2nd time I've Wakeman Junior play with a band that his father was in (The last one was 70s folk-rockers, Strawbs, in the grounds of a mansion house about 10 years ago.)

On the job front, I have a potential interview with a large automotive firm - it's for a software team leader. I'm not I want to do that. Been there, had the T-shirt, and preferred to be more "consultant" type of role or doing R&D. I have little patience with bad software and bad software engineers (i.e. hackers) who don't fix problems but fix the symptoms and wonder why it all collapses later. I have even less time for idiot customers who can't write specifications properly! We shall see, but it seems the job market is actually not as dead as you'd think. One issue is that where I am now is pretty cushy and we have a lot of freedom to do stuff outside our normal jobs. And this other company seems to be very low level controllers, which doesn't really offer much scope for anything interesting. And I don't get a kick out of fiddling with electronics and stuff like that. In fact it bores me stupid.

I've been plugging away at the novel about the archivist on my "Hackintosh" and also just finished a short story that came to me one day while daydreaming at the office. With the two kids time is not enough anymore, and getting to the YES concert involved a lot of tears from Talia ("Can Talia come with Daddy?")... Still, it was well worth it. They just need to produce a new album. It's been a long time. It's been even longer since they produced a good album.