Pinhole Forth Bridges

15th August 2014

Bridges Pinhole

The camera in top was used to stop the box blowing away :)

The camera in top was used to stop the box blowing away :)

Took this photo using a pinhole camera made from a Clarks shoe box.  10 minute exposure.  Took it in January but it’s taken me months to get round to developing it.  Scanned paper negative and used Photoshop to invert and adjust levels a little.

Star Trek Turnovers

14th August 2014

Star Trek Turnovers

Based on a little conversation I had with my dear fiancé.

Last night, from my London hotel room, I tuned in to STV using an online web service.  It spoke volumes that the debate on whether the United Kingdom is to remain as it is, was not broadcast outside of Scotland.  Here in England, there was only the heavily edited highlights on television afterwards.  Some might claim there was a lack of interest outside of Scotland though I’m sure STV would argue otherwise, especially as the second the clock turned eight, my online stream cut out.  They were overloaded.

301723-salmond-and-darling-the-debate-graphic

It remained that way for a good twenty minutes, the site was down and even when it came back, it struggled to cope with the load of people in the United Kingdom desperate to hear the debate about the fate of their nation.  No doubt there were several trying to tune in internationally too.  It really was mad that the BBC didn’t just broadcast it to everyone but then, we already know they’re doing their best not to cover the independence referendum in anything other than a bad light.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed that BBC and Sky both requested rights to simulcast the debate but STV wanted to keep exclusive rights.  Ratings make the world go round it seems ;)   I’ve also learned that apparently STV made the debate available to the rest of ITV (In Scotland, we get STV in place of ITV, with most of the scheduling matching what you get on ITV).  ITV apparently chose not to show the debate, perhaps they couldn’t find the advertisers to make it profitable enough.

When I did get a stream running, there was the typical questioning that we’d expect, the same promises, threats and jibes from both sides but it was one key question to Alex Salmond that really stood out.  In the event of Scotland getting independence, the plan is clear, we will be pursuing a currency union with the remainder of the UK for use of the pound.  However, months ago, all the parties in Westminster stood up and said they would not allow this.  It’s a stance which is absolutely absurd.  England, Wales and Northern Ireland would benefit hugely from being able to trade with Scotland using the pound.  The Bank of England would still have some form of power over the Scottish, generally, if anyone would be at a disadvantage of a currency union, it’d be the Scottish with the rest of Britain at a great advantage over them, not much different to how the Euro operates.  Though it is still the best choice for Scotland, being able to trade with the remainder of the UK is important and while we can do that with another currency, we know life will be a lot easier if our currency is the same, for both us and the remainder of the UK.  We don’t want farmers living in Cumbria finding they have to change their money at the post office when they sell their cattle in Castle Douglas for instance, that would be absurd.  Indeed, absurd seems to be the word I’d use for the question as a whole.

Even though we know a currency union is best, even though we know that the parties in Westminster have only said we can’t have one for the sake of disrupting the campaign, it seems that millions have fallen for it.  It’s a bluff, it’s an absurd bluff, one we know they can’t possibly hold to if Scotland gets independence, they would just be shooting themselves in the foot.  But what if it’s not?  What if they actually follow through with it?  They won’t, anyone who has any understanding of the matter knows, not thinks or believes but genuinely knows, as fact, that they will not stop a currency union.  But that’s not the issue here, it’s the What If question.  This is the cleverest tactic of the Better Together campaign.  They have made thousands of people fear the What If question.  And why do they know people will fear it?  Because they know Alex Salmond can’t answer it.

Last night, Salmond avoided the question all together, which makes the folk supporting Better Together point and laugh out loud as they call out, “look, he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know what Plan B, C or D is!”  Salmond didn’t perform well last night when that question was posed, he stumbled because he can’t actually say the answer.  The answer that every body already knows.  Darling proved last night that he knows the answers to his question, he listed them off.  Option B, we have an unofficial currency union, Option C, we use the Euro and Option D, we create our own currency.  Everyone knows these are the other options, even Alistair Darling.  Yet they try to claim that Alex Salmond does not, implying that he is the one single human being in Scotland that does not know these options.  It’s not that he doesn’t know what Plan B is, it’s that he can’t possibly be seen to say it out loud.

If Salmond were to turn around and say all those alternatives, people would be quoting him for ever more as having declared what is the chosen currency for Scotland, they would pour press article after article screaming that he had given up and declared that we will not have a currency union.  Every discussion from then on would be, “have you heard, since they won’t let us have the pound, Salmond has said we’ll do Option X!  Is he insane?!”  And of course the answer would be yes, he would be insane, if there was a hope in hell that that would happen, because it won’t.  The aburdity of declaring that there will not be a currency union is gargantuan.  Why bother saying what you’ll do instead when you know for a fact that you won’t need to do it?  Why just give them something to use against you even though that something will never exist?

Alex can’t say what the Plan B that will never happen is because Better Together will just use it against him.  They’ve done nothing but try to scare people into thinking that an unanswered question means doom to a nation and this is the one single thing that, through the threat of a ridiculous press campaign, they can ensure will remain unanswered because they know it’s an absurd question to ask.  The problem is that it doesn’t sound like an absurd question and so the trap forms.  Answer an absurd question with an absurd answer that will be used against you to make you look absurd?  Or keep pushing the logical answer, the logical path that we all know is best for everyone not just in Scotland but the entirety of the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

There are so many reasons to vote Yes in six weeks time and all the other scare tactics have failed with clear and concise answers in response to them.  No wonder all Better Together can do is cling on to this one absurd question.

Airport security

5th August 2014

20140805-063227-23547220.jpgMy current job involves travel. Three days out of my week are spent in London, which means my employer, at presumably great expense to them, puts me up in a hotel and has me fly down to the kingdom’s capital. I fly the Little Red at 0635 meaning my alarm must wake me at 0400 to ensure I’m at Edinburgh airport on time. I’m tired, not just in the early mornings, all the time.

It’s 0610, I’ll be boarding soonish, I’m surrounded by what appears to be half the Jamaican Commonwealth Games team, who will be on my flight it seems. I am wearing the same shirt and trousers this corporate job has me wearing every single week. I have the same stuff with me as ever, two shirts, boxers, a tiny bag that I’m not allowed to store my preferred toiletries in because they’re larger than 100ml in volume. Hell, I’ve had to tell my doctor that if he’s prescribing me anything, I can’t have it if it’s too big to take on a flight.

On the flight now, I tried choosing a seat at the back of the plane though the diagram has proven deceptive, apparently you can’t have a seat at the back, there are in fact ten more rows of seat that were not shown, on the website, behind me. The lady next to me says she thought she was to be at the back too. We both agree that Virgin Atlantic’s checkin system had a terrible user experience so it really isn’t all that surprising.

With all the same gear as I have everyday, I wonder why it is that the security scanners choose to start bleeping for every fourth time I head through them. I can rely perfectly that I’ve removed everything out of my pockets, I’ve taken my laptops out of my bag, I’ve put my phones and Kindle in my jacket pockets and I’ve removed said jacket for scanning. What am I doing wrong then? Why must the metal detector beep randomly anyway? Why must I then go through the body scanner? Why is it that even when the body scanner shows up nothing that they feel a pat down is necessary anyway. Oh and great, apparently my bag is now suspicious. It’s packed identically to how it always is but now my laptops need to have tests done on them, because terrorists are so prone to building incendiary MacBook Airs. It’s these false positives that piss me off. Nothing’s different to last time, or any other time I come through security two times every week. Yet a quarter of times, you decide something’s wrong. If you get it wrong 25% of the time for me, is it 25% wrong for those who mean us harm too? Or maybe you just have a 25% target to meet. I don’t know, I just know it pissed me off 25% more than my ordinary base level of pissed offness.

To an Apple Thief

28th July 2014

You have no fucking clue how proud I was of that apple,
We moved in last year and that whole front yard was gravel.
It took us lots of time but we got to working,
Digging and planting veg, while you nearby were lurking.

We spotted it in Lidl, this pathetic looking tree,
We knew of course that for a year, it would be fruit free.
But it surprised us in the end, that little miracle flower,
It pollinated with next door’s orchard, the clever little bugger!

We watched it from the window, our single little fruit,
Growing on a twig, it was becoming quite the brute.
We joked about who’d eat it, her or I would savour,
We’d chuck it in a pie, a desert we both would favour.

But you had other plans, for food you went to hunt,
Perhaps you thought it funny, you stupid little cunt.
And we know you didn’t need money, we know you are not broke,
Here’s news for you, apples aren’t ready to Autumn, I truly hope you choke!

Indie Author Land Interview

16th January 2014

As is the rite of passage for indie authors, my interview for Indie Author Land has been published, you can check it out here.

Hudud and Escape is now available as a Paperback and on Kobo, Amazon and Google Play.

Hudud and Escape is now available as a Paperback and on Kobo, Amazon and Google Play.

Hi guys, first of all, a quick announcement.  My first novel, Hudud and Escape, is now available as a paperback which can be found on Amazon.  It will also be available on Kobo and the Google Play store in about a week’s time, pre-orders are already open, why the wait?  Because Amazon locked me into a 90 day exclusivity agreement that I later regretted, a story for another post.

But the next announcement is that the sequel to Hudud and Escape has begun.  Some of you may know that Hudud and Escape was a NaNoWriMo novel and being November, it’s once again National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve spent the last year editing Hudud and Escape, publishing it and also, thinking and researching about its sequel.  I plan for this to be a trilogy and had planned to write one a year however, I suspect I may not have the patience to wait until next November to write the third, what with its plot floating around in my head already.  We’ll see how it goes.

The current working title for Hudud and Escape’s title is Jihad and Unheard and of course, as is the nature of NaNoWriMo, I should have my first draft finished by the end of the month, shortly before writing this, I’ve finished the first three chapters.  I’ll try and post more updates here as they come.

l4dThe map of Dundee University’s Queen Mother Building (QMB) is legend among attendees of The School of Computing houses in the same building.  Unfortunately, people have a bad habit of losing it so I’m posting it here to download.  The map is believed to have been made by Rory Gianni a.k.a. @digitalWestie

Click to download theqmb.vpk

Enjoy.

The Tilted World Proof CoverI was quite lucky to receive the opportunity to read this one which is not actually out for release until October however I was given the privilege after Sophie Orme of Mantle Books (Pan Macmillan) tweeted out the simple question;

“So who fancies a proof copy of Gold Dagger winner Tom Franklin’s latest incredible book #TheTiltedWorld?”

“Aye alright,” I responded and it arrived in the post a wee while later.  How exciting, a proof copy.  Fun fact?  I’d never heard of Tom Franklin or his poet wife Beth Ann Fennelly before this and so I felt a little guilty that more die hard fans may have missed out.

Heather was in Texas at the time visiting family and so during one trans-atlantic Skype call I began reading the prologue to her.  The book is based during the great Mississippi Flood of 1927, an event I felt ashamed to admit I’d never heard of until I read the authors’ notes that state I was not alone as this great flood that killed so many and reshaped the south of North America forever is widely forgotten by most, even in America.

We open with Dixie Clay, a beautiful name I might say, who is a young woman with a secret.  While the whole town of Hobnob, which sits on a bend in the great river, knows her to be married to a bootlegger, what they don’t know is who’s really cooking the moonshine.  Dixie Clay makes the finest Whiskey on Earth (of course this is fiction, we Scots make the finest whiskey on Earth!) though never touches it.  She married into this game and after losing her first child is finding herself stuck in a marriage she entered without really knowing her husband.

Enter Ingersol and his partner Ham, two revenuer agents investigating the disappearance of two other revenuer agents before them.  Reports had come that they’d found a big still, one that would have them in the papers for busting.  But on the new agents’ way, they’ve run across a murder scene with a crying baby who needs a new home and Ingersol hasn’t the heart to leave him with an orphanage.  The story of Dixie Clay and Ingersol intertwine as the investigation develops but also expands under the constant fear that the levee holding the monster of a river away will burst or as it seems more likely, be sabotaged to save New Orleans.  The constant threat of a great flood sweeping away the town, leaves Ingersol and Ham also volunteering as guards on the levee and ultimately causing their investigation to become three fold.  Who killed the previous agents if they were indeed murdered?  Who’s cooking the moonshine and also, who’s planning to blow the levee?

The story is gripping, I couldn’t help taking this book with me everywhere.  I could tell Heather would be upset that I wasn’t going to wait for her to continue reading over Skype or when she got home but screw Heather!  (I’m going to regret typing that).  I was reading this on bus, on lunch break and on summer leave.  It went to Barcelona with me, it got a little soggy and sandy on the beach and after I found myself submerged not in the Mediterranean but the story, I came back with a very bad sun burn which I blame entirely on this book and which I appreciate the irony considering it never really stops raining throughout the story.  I’m still peeling, damn you Franklin!

I really felt for both the main characters; Ingersol the orphan come jazz guitarist come soldier come prohibition agent.  His story was complex and it was great learning his background story which really shows how his decisions in Hobnob are influenced by his past.  Dixie Clay who left to marry her husband so young, rushing into what she thought would be a perfect world with a cute guy, making the mistake so many of us made, I know I did, when we are young, naive and in love.  People don’t turn out to be who you thought they were when you fell in love with them.

It is brilliant to see the two characters stories intertwine and with the background stories of their lives so well told, it felt so natural to understand their thoughts and decisions.  In all, very well constructed characters that I wasn’t forced to get to know at the very beginning of the book either, I grew to know them as the story progressed, much like I would a friend.

One thing I found amazing was how well researched the book was, it wasn’t just a matter of the characters saying or interacting with things in the right language of the time or that the right house hold items and instruments and scenery were described; it was the fact that the narrative itself was written as if so by a person of that time, as if the writing itself was done in 1927 with absolutely no knowledge that I would be reading this so far in the future.  It was all so natural.  Even the narrative style seemed to change depending on which character the scene was about so that it read almost as if that character were telling the story in the third person which helped to understand their thoughts and feelings.

When the action started to build up, did it build!  Without giving too much away, when Ingersol starts putting the whole thing together and time is running out, I simply could not put this book down.  I’m anti-social at the best of times but the world was shut out for the last eight or so chapters as I was hooked.  To see the drama of this book turn suddenly into an apocalypse as the levee finally breaks (that’s in the blur so don’t scream spoiler!) it’s like the whole book is transformed.  I think in many ways this feels almost like two maybe three best seller books in one story.  Am I praising this book too much?  Then I shall calm myself.

I highly recommend this book, it’s available from the 1st of October 2013 so not long now.  Tom Franklin and his wife Beth Ann Fennelly have done a marvellous job on this and I’m looking forward to seeking out Franklin’s previous award winner Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.  Thank you yet again to Sophie Orme, @sophiemorme on Twitter for sending me a copy early, it has been easily one of my favourite reads this year.

Yasmin Cover Square
You can download my debut novel, Hudud and Escape, now on Amazon. Click here to go to the Amazon store for your country.
Click to view on Amazon.com

Click to view on Amazon.com

I found myself on the forum for Kindle Direct Publishing scrolling through the list of other authors self publishing.  I remember reading descriptions out loud to Heather and laughing as we went.  I’d start a sentence, “Jenna is found dead and Bill has to find who murdered her, soon the evil magic of her high school…” we’d look at each other, “No!”  Scroll to the next novel.  It was amusing not because we’d find such silly sounding book descriptions but because they were all like that.  And it wasn’t just magical, teen, vampire, nonsense, it was the fact that even in the descriptions they were creating plot holes.  I understand why it’s so difficult for publishers to find good books to put out, there’s an awful lot of nonsense out there.

I was still laughing as I got to another one and still laughing I read it aloud:

Seattle defense attorney, Mac Brodie, has a beautiful wife, two young children, and lives in tony Mercer Island on Lake Washington. He made a fortune back east so now has the luxury of picking his clients by their need, not their paycheck. His wife wants Mac to use his looks and charm to run for congress, but he loves what he does and with whom he does it. His investigator, Seth Ivarsson is a 6’7” pony-tailed behemoth ex-cop who lives on a houseboat, and describes himself as more loyal than moral. The third and last member of Brodie’s team is a thirty year-old legal assistant, Brooke Fletcher who’s in her third year of law school. Though immensely attracted to her, Mac values his family too much to mess around – and she doesn’t seem interested.

Mac’s latest client, Earl Richards, is on death row and guilty as sin. But Mac doesn’t believe in the death penalty and will do whatever it takes to get the sentence commuted. Little could he predict the nightmare that leaves everyone he loves in imminent danger and his life forever changed.

“Huh,” I said, no longer laughing, that didn’t sound too bad and it was a thriller.  I thought it’d be nice to read another self published thriller so the one click purchase button was hit and I forgot about it.  The next morning I got on the bus and began.  The first chapter was short and in need of  editing, grammar mistakes mainly.  I also found it frustrating to read that a software developer of course works for Microsoft and of course thinks in binary.  I also found it odd that they would have a car phone and not a mobile and it seemed like an obvious plot device.  I stupidly had not realised that the opening chapter was based a few decades ago and so all of this made perfect sense.  I got to the end of the chapter and to be honest, didn’t see it going anywhere.

Then I remembered my fear that no one would reach chapter 4 in my own book so I kept going despite the irritating spelling/grammar mistakes.  I got into chapter 2 and missed my stop for work, oh wow, what a start.  Justin the son of a conservative Christian family, is raped and murdered at a rest stop on a winter night, we jump ahead after chapter 3 and meet Mac Brodie, the lawyer defending the man who has been on death row for decades.  Mac is against capital punishment but like Mac I was pulled into insanity, desperate for the death of this evil man.  I could not stop reading this book.  The spelling and grammar became less noticeable once the story got going, leading me to think that perhaps the first couple of chapters were relatively new revisions compared to the rest of the book.

I was completely sucked in, the book was clearly very well researched and it was nice to read a view of Washington state that was not filled with sparkly vampires.  I felt myself feeling the same anger Mac felt, the same horror upon reflecting on his actions, the same hatred and hopelessness as he found himself trapped in the world of an insane man using him as his puppet.

I recommend this book so much, if you can put up with a few typos and grammar issues from time to time, you’ll not regret downloading this novel.  Do it now.

Yasmin Cover Square
You can download my debut novel, Hudud and Escape, now on Amazon. Click here to go to the Amazon store for your country.