Monthly Archives: March, 2010

The Mistaken Wife

Yes, I know all the jokes about “anybody who would marry Quentin…”

This to let you know, gentle reader, that Rose’s book of that name, the third in the Mary Finch series, is officially published tomorrow. We’re having a launch party tonight…

The Mistaken Wife

However, rumour has it that it’s already available in certain fine bookshops – Waterstones in Cambridge being an example – and you can also find it at the usual online booksellers. Readers in North America will need to order from the UK, or wait until the US edition is published in the autumn…

Links and more information at

An audible shrug

Book LogoAyn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years. Its Wikipedia page says that, “according to a 1991 survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged was second to the Bible as the book that made the most difference in American readers’ lives”.

I’m now reading it, or, more precisely, listening to it. Since I seem to have less and less time for reading, I’ve become something of a fan of audiobooks, and this version is magnificently read by Scott Brick. Unfortunately, it’s only available in the US store, and not on I have an account on both, which is foolish, but I can never quite decide which one to give up.

Having never actually seen the book in its physical form, though, I hadn’t gathered just what a massive tome it is. As I saw that I was approaching the end of the 8-hour audio file, it took me a moment to realise that this was just the first section. The first of eight. Yes, folks, this unabridged narration is 63 hours long! And you can get it for one Audible credit, which would be exceedingly good value even if it wasn’t so nicely produced.

I’ve only listened to the first 13% or so, but so far it comes highly recommended.

If stories of dystopian industrialism are not your thing, or you think you can’t quite stomach 63 hours of anything, let me recommend another really excellent book: Robert Kurson’s Shadow Divers, which is available in both the UK and the US. Another great way to make better and more enjoyable use of that time you spend shaving, driving, or washing up…

Unlock 02 iPhone

Now that’s something I didn’t know… O2 customers in the UK can request to have their iPhone unlocked. At any time. Which means that affordable use while roaming is presumably now possible using a local SIM, though those tend not to give you data as well… still, I’d rather settle for phone capabilities and data via wifi than for no phone at all…

Good stuff. Have filled in the form and will see what happens… it can take a couple of weeks, apparently.

Arbury… sorry, Orchard Park

To the north of Cambridge a new housing estate is being built. Well, it was being built, though things seem to have slowed down a bit recently, presumably because the property market is in the doldrums.

I’ve seen some of the houses, and actually been inside one, and they’re not bad, as modern buildings go. But I have to wonder at the intelligence of the developers.

At first, they named the estate ‘Arbury Park’ – a delightful-sounding name unless you happen to ask a local, in which case you’d discover that Arbury, the estate next door, is, shall we say, not deemed to be amongst the more desirable areas of the city.

After building a large number of houses, I presume that they cottoned on to this because some months ago it was renamed ‘Orchard Park’, a ‘mixed use development including 700 prestige homes’. And they’ve managed to convey just some of this prestige in the proud sign that announces the project to passers-by.

I assumed this was a temporary sign. Very many months ago.

I like the comment on the District Council web site – a wonderful example of dangerous punctuation:

The site will provide 900 quality homes – 270 of which will be ‘affordable’.

Update: Have a look at the comments for some interesting background to the story… and in the afternoon of the day I posted this, I drove past the sign again, to find that it had finally, after many months, been replaced a couple of days before. Which makes it look much more professional, but now, knowing the story, I can’t help but feeling the old one was rather more fun!

Orchard Park update


On Monday I met the guys behind Codility – quite an interesting system designed to help with the recruitment of software developers.

Basically, it lets you set simple programming tasks for developers, which they can perform online and in the language of their or your choice, and then sends you a report of how their code performed against a variety of edge cases, for large datasets, etc. If you’re a programmer, try out the demo – I found it quite fun!

I think there is real value in this in a couple of areas, beyond its obvious use to those hiring developers. Firstly, as a way for teachers of programming to set coursework. And secondly as something that would give recruitment agencies a bit more credibility when they’re bombarding me with spam. I would be much more likely to look at their candidates if I knew they had gone through a preliminary level of filtering, especially if they had completed tasks in more than one programming language.

Anyway, very nicely done – worth checking out.

Skaters’ Meadow

Just around the corner from my house, where the footpath from Cambridge to Grantchester begins, is Skaters’ Meadow. In the 19th century, the meadow would flood, freeze, and people would pay a penny or two to skate around the lamppost in the middle (which you can just see if you click it and look at the larger versions on Flickr).

These days, it’s managed as a nature reserve, and is no good for skating, partly because the winters aren’t cold enough any more, but mostly because it very seldom floods. So I snapped this picture after some heavy rain last week; it’s the nearest I’ve yet seen it come to being a skating rink again. There was a little ice around the edges…

Wouldn’t it make a great setting for a story, though?

On wintry nights, it is said that the ghosts of skaters past can sometimes still be glimpsed, twirling under the lamppost in the moonlight. The most beautiful, and the most graceful of all, is young Annie Crompton, a maid at one of the great houses nearby, who mourns the loss of her love, an adventurous lad who skated too far out onto the River Cam, fell through the ice and drowned. She circles endlessly, awaiting his return…

More photos of the meadows here.

Bogus blueberries

Michael reveals The Great Dried Fruit Conspiracy.

The Sandpit

Long-time readers may remember a post from a couple of years ago about Keith Loutit’s photos of Singapore, cunningly taken to make the city look like a model:

Well, as tends to happen in the digital world, what was a still image yesterday is a video today. Sam O’Hare has done a day in the life of New York City using a similar technique. Worth playing in full-screen HD if your connection will allow it.

The Sandpit from Sam O'Hare.

More information about how he made it here.

A little light reading

Rose’s second novel, The Counterfeit Guest, comes out in standard paperback today.

It was launched a year ago, but these books come out first as a hardback and a ‘trade paperback’ – a large paperback almost as big as the hardback, sold chiefly in airports. Today, however, you can get a standard-sized, easy-to-read copy for the first time. I much prefer these, actually, to their bigger brothers.

You can buy it from Amazon UK here.

Of course, the really exciting event for us comes at the end of this month when The Mistaken Wife hits the streets.

More info on Rose’s books at

Angry Anglicans?

This church advertises ‘holy cross yelling’ – which must be pretty wild stuff in the life of English ecclesiastics!

Holy Cross, Yelling

(The very pretty village of Yelling was on one of my weekend dog-walks.)

All must have prizes

awardify logoI launched a new web site on Sunday, which has the potential to transform your marketing materials. It turns any ordinary idea, product or service into an award-winning idea, product or service! Just like that! Visit, the internet’s premier award-granting service! OK, in case you’re wondering, this was partly to make people think more about meaningless marketing phrases, and partly to experiment with how quickly and easily I could something like this using Drupal!

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser