Laudable Audible

December 30th, 2014

There are few services, I think, that give me quite so much enjoyment per shilling as Audible. For anyone not familiar with it, Audible is the biggest retailer of audiobooks. These are normally rather expensive things retailing for around £20-30 each, but if you like them enough you can take out a subscription which gets you a book each month for £7.99.

Since I spend about an hour a day walking the dog, or driving to and from dog-walking spots, I manage to ‘read’ a lot of books this way simply by tucking my phone into my shirt pocket – I don’t even bother with earphones. And then there’s shaving, and ironing, and train journeys and flights and… well, you get the idea. I read quite a bit more this way than I do when lying in bed, and remember it better, because I’m not half-asleep at the time! Also, since Rose and I have fairly similar tastes in reading, we both get to benefit from the subscription. Unabridged audiobooks are typically 10-20 hours long, but I have also listened to Scott Brick’s recording of Atlas Shrugged which runs to 63 hours and still only counts as a single credit. Now, that’s pretty good value for £7.99, I think!

How often have you thought, “I’d like to read that, if only I had the time”? Well, perhaps this is a good way to enhance your commuting time in the coming year?

Anyway, here are a few of my favourite books from 2014, in case you need some ideas:

  • The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir, read by R.C. Bray. Somebody described this as “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”, which tells you the basic plot, but it’s very nicely done, and has an interesting history: the author serialised it on his web site, then self-published it on the Kindle, and in about a year it’ll be a Ridley Scott film starring Matt Damon. I thoroughly enjoyed and was gripped by this – it’s a great plot – but it does come with one warning: don’t give it to anyone who’s likely to object to strong language!
  • writing_on_the_wallWriting on the Wall by the ever-wonderful Tom Standage of The Economist, read by Simon Vance. Subtitled, “Social Media: The First 2,000 Years”, it examines many of the communication methods we consider novel today and finds their predecessors in the world of ancient Rome, the pamphlets of Martin Luther, the early days of radio. Very readable and educational stuff.
  • deceptive_mind Your Deceptive Mind by Steven Novella is rather different. Novella is a clinical neurologist at Yale, and this is a set of 24 lectures on critical thinking published by The Great Courses. How can we know what is true? What are the different ways our brain deceives us? What are the strengths and limitations of the scientific method? Critical Thinking wasn’t a subject we had at school in my day; it should be compulsory now.
  • master_and_commanderMaster and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. O’Brian is, I think, the finest historical writer in recent decades, and, more importantly, this view is shared by Rose, who knows a great deal more than me about both writing and about the eighteenth century. We’ve read most of them in paper form. His books are loved around the world, so it’s not surprising that there are many different recordings, both abridged and unabridged, and, while I was tempted by those from Robert Hardy, or Tim Piggott-Smith, in the end I settled on these, which are beautifully read by Ric Jerrom. This was partly because he has recorded the entire, unabridged series, and to give you an idea of how much I’ve enjoyed them, I’m currently just starting book five, Desolation Island

Anyway, I hope these are recommendations are useful to somebody. It’s worth noting, by the way, that these are on the UK store: if you’re in another part of the world you may have a different selection available (and need to use different links).

Happy listening for 2015!

Forget five gold rings…

December 29th, 2014

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, my true love baked for me…

2014-12-29_11-44-23-01-600

2014-12-29_12-47-40-02-600 There are many good reasons for marrying someone from a very different cultural background.

One of them is Armenian peda bread.

The Second Noel?

December 27th, 2014

Today I was given reason to remember that old Noel Coward song – how did it go? Something like:

Mad Englishmen with dogs
Go out in the noonday sleet…

Yes, I think that was it…

A Lightroom and Capture One Workflow

December 13th, 2014

Capture One is a program for capturing, processing and managing photos, and it’s used by many professional outfits, partly because it is good at the tethered shooting that often happens in a studio, partly because it’s made by Phase One (who also create some very nice and very expensive medium-format cameras), and partly because its underlying processing of RAW images is amongst the best available anywhere.

In other words, if you have a good camera, you can often make your photos look rather better with Capture One than with, say, Lightroom, Aperture, iPhoto or Adobe Camera Raw, though it will cost you around 200 quid for the privilege.

However, for the normal importing, managing and editing of large numbers of images, I find Lightroom to be much faster, more capable and more reliable.

So here’s a little tutorial about how I set both apps up to allow images to be moved easily between them, so I can take advantage of the best bits of both.

Video also available on YouTube here.

Slow TV

December 13th, 2014

A delightful TED talk by Thomas Hellum about the attractions of what might be considered the dullest TV on the planet, at least by those who haven’t seen The Shopping Channel.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang/eng/id/2148

Something to keep YOUR problems in perspective

December 11th, 2014

My friend Billy’s wife, Kate Gross, has been writing some pretty amazing stuff recently.

Here’s something to think about as you prepare for Christmas.

Yes, it really did look like that

December 9th, 2014

20141209-07382259-600

Grantchester Meadows this morning.

One of the (many) things I love about my Fuji X-Pro 1 is that most of the key controls are good old buttons and dials, not touchscreens and menus. This is particularly handy when you’re wearing gloves…