A mixed bag of topics


Its been a busy weekend, what with family staying and others visiting.  Its been the finest Easter on record as fas as weather is concerned and we’ve all been at the beach, where friends kindly lent us their beach-hut.

The house was awash with Easter Eggs, and now we have two grandchildren (see below) there were even more than usual.   The early morning light gave some opportunities for getting the tripod out and taking some flower portraits with the camera.  The one to the left of here got in a “best shot of the day” category on a photo-sharing website and then later on the one below also got the same award.

The Kindle – a literary game-changer

Every evidence suggests that the Kindle is having a massive impact on reading habits.  If you look at the Kindle best sellers, not one of the top ten costs more than £1.50.  Quite a game-changer.  But who wants to pay more for a book when after you’ve read it all you have is a random sequence of bits and bytes which you can’t even send on to anyone else?

Amazon have certainly understood its potential, with their Spring Spectacular containing a huge range of books under £1.50.  I’m no apologist for Amazon, but it was easy to spend a fiver or so  here and come away with two or three Booker shortlists from last year and the year before and a couple of reference books for later use.

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Review: The Facility – Simon Lelic

A sinister government establishment, The Facility, has been opened in the Cornish countryside, the purpose of which is to receive a category of detainees who need to be isolated from the mass of the population for fear of contamination.   The facility is staffed by Prison Service staff, assisted by a tough and unfeeling team of private security guards.

Arthur Priesley, a dentist from Ealing finds himself under interrogation in this 1984-type Facility, unsure what crime he is supposed to have committed but soon made aware that his sexuality is under question – despite the apparent  uninterestingness of his life.

Meanwhile Arthur’s estranged wife Julia, armed with a grainy video of his arrest, consults investigative reporter Tom Clarke.  Together they set off on a quest to find out what it is that the Facility is concerned with. It turns out that a new and deadly disease has appeared, like AIDS, only affecting gay-men, and requiring strict quarantine.  The Facility has been created in an old-country house to intern the sufferers and also to enable medical experiments to be conducted on them so that a cure can be found.

I won’t go further into the plot – in some ways the book could be said to write itself for having created a mysterious government establishment and a couple of determined investigators the rest is inevitable.  Much of the book is very well done, but perhaps having chosen this topic to write about, Simon Lelic got rather trapped by the formula with all its must-have  features – government cover-ups, the moral dilemmas of a staff leading a team of brutal security guards, renegade doctors with wild ideas about a “cure” and a rag-bag of internees in various stages of a fatal illness.  Poor Tom and Julia are met with non-cooperation at every turn as they try to find out what happened to Arthur, and when they eventually set out to try to find the facility, deep in the Cornish countryside, they find their own lives in danger.

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A month with a Kindle

Amazon Kindle in Duragadget case

Everyone seems to be writing about their Kindle but I’m going to jot down a few thoughts anyway.

The Kindle was a Christmas gift from my wife but I’d known it was coming so I had preloaded it with a couple of books and when I turned it on on Christmas morning, they appeared on the screen along with the Kindle Guide and the dictionaries.

I read a book of short stories on it first and found that I enjoyed the way I could add notes to the text, look words up in the dictionary and forget about where I had got up to in the book (knowing that when I turned it on again it would go straight to the place I had left it).  More importantly, the experience of “flow” was pretty much the same as with a printed book.

I then read Philip Kerr’s A Quiet Flame, a much longer book and sped through it, enjoying the sheer convenience of the Kindle experience.  There are various situations (like lying in bed) when the device is easier to hold than a book and I particularly like the Duragadget stand which lets you prop the Kindle up on so you can read while eating.

All this is pretty mundane stuff so I’ll now focus on some of the ways of using the Kindle which I’ve found most useful.

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