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Doctor Zhivago – Reviewed

Doctor ZhivagoDoctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying this book was hard to read. The font was smaller than average, it was incredibly dense (not necessarily a bad thing) and a myriad of characters. The latter point has its own added complexities, given that it’s set in Russia. So for starters, you have this enormous number of people with unpronounceable Russian names. Then you can multiply that by two as each one has a male patronymic and diminutive. This is acknowledged by the translators who have a section at the start tilted “Principle characters in this novel”. Sometimes it can be easy to forget who said/did what. Is this relevant to the narrative, or a fleeting occurrence? Being an old library book it was also quite smelly.

Having said all that, the book gets quite good in the final third. Up until then I did consider shelving it for a while, but in the spirit of Mastermind, I started so I’ll finish…

It’s the greatest story of “Will they, won’t they?” ever told. With quite an obvious hint as to the outcome. Reductively, you could compare it to a man chasing a woman through some trees in a Bollywood film. The trees being a metaphor for the Russian revolution. The book was educational in respect of Russian history and it did give me some inspiration for some modern satire. Probably worth reading for that reason alone. Personally, I don’t feel satisfied by Pasternak’s reasons for Yury’s love of Lara. This is a medical doctor, who is prepared to give up his wife and kids, falls head over heels and the explanation is little more than love at first sight or innate beauty. Pasternak probably did explain it a bit more than that, but I must confess I wasn’t paying that much attention.

His writing was beautiful provoking interesting visuals but at times a little too verbose. Bizarrely, the translation hyphenated words like “to-day” and “to-morrow”. I’ve read some old literature and never come across anything like this. Besides, being set, written and translated in the 20th century, this shouldn’t be a reason for this spelling. I am unsatisfied by Yury’s brother being a mysterious deus ex machina, whose powers are never fully explained. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the ending but it did leave a nice legacy, tying up loose ends.

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The Firefox Phone is dead

In 2014, my Nokia smartphone was on its last legs and it was time to upgrade. As alluded to previosuly, I didn’t want an iPhone because they are locked down and expensive as fuck. I didn’t want an android phone because of the so called Google “botnet”. I was left with little option than to consider soldiering on with the Nokia. Until of course I found out about the Firefox phone. I bought a ZTE open because I believed in principles of openess and right to privacy.  Little did I know, that I’d wasted my money on this piece of crap.

There was a a myriad of things wrong with this phone. If they had try before you buy I would have never have bought it. The keyboard was very hard to type on. You had to be very precise with your fingers to select the right key. Although updates did improve things slightly, it was still shit.

There was a lack of apps and developmental enthusiasm. Fundamental software like a terminal emulator was lacking.

There were no updates. Mozilla got into bed with some dodgy chinese wankers like ZTE. They promised the phone would be updated but of course it wasn’t. They released 2 updates, one official the other one not. After that nothing. There were developmental builds but hard to install and often had their own associated problems.

I made the mistake of buying this thinking it was for consumers. It was a devlopers phone for people wanting to make their own builds and apps. The only good thing about this phone was that it was virtually unbrickable. There were many times it wouldn’t work but you could always reset it somehow.

In the end, I took advice off of XDA who said cut your losses by selling it and moving on. Some poor sod bought my phone and I got most of my money back. What on earth he bought it for, is anyone’s guess.

Last year I heard from a Mozilla employee that the project has been closed down. Why couldn’t Mozilla developers make the OS better? At least then, the phone might stand half a chance.

2017 in Films Part 1

Here’s a list of films I’ve seen in the first half of this year:

  • Point Blank – French film I saw some time ago. Can’t really remember much but I enjoyed it. 7.5/10
  • Zombieland – Quite funny. Though getting duped by the girls twice was criminal 7.5/10
  • Ender’s Game – Based on the eponymous book. A nice twist which I predicted. 7/10
  • Aliens – A rare case where the sequel is better than the original. Loses a point for being a bit long. 9/10
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Disgusting, but an enthralling horror.
  • Barry Lyndon – I first tried to watch this in ~2010 but my version was italian so never watched it. Luckily it got shown on TV. Despite being 3 horus it was captivating from start to finish. Possibly kubrik’s magnum opus. Does the luck of Barry Lyndon run out? 9/10
  • Vertigo – A little too long and the plot is rather convuluted. Quite slow at times too. However, some interesting developments towards the end make up for it. 8/10
  • The Ring – Not the japanese version. I had the ending spoiled for me about 13 years ago. Started strong but petered out towards the middle and there was loss of suspension of disbelief. 7/10
  • Room – Harrowing and heart wrenching tale of child and mother. A film of two halves where the first was better than the second. 8/10
  • American Hustle –  I got the strangest feeling of de ja vu watching this and having an inkling to the ending makes me believe I have watched it before.  Bale pulls off a superb performance as fat grifter. Amy Adams is stunning but Jennifer Lawrence is annoying as fuck. Loses a point for being unremarkable enough to forget. 6/10
  • Interstellar – The science in this film is certainly on shaky ground. Stunning visuals, interesting concepts, plot twists (both banal and unexpected). Overall a great film. 8.5/10
  • Rogue 1 – Original plot is a big plus. Though the film is probably longer than it should be, considering the quest for Saw Gerrera is superfluous. There are accusations of bad acting, unbelivability about the blind guy and the fat guy with the powerful gun. One thing I found unsettling was Cassian killing someone he shouldn’t have. It’s still better than Episode 7 because it’s not a soft reboot. Though not as good as the orignal trilogy it is better than the horror show that was the prequels. 8/10
  • The Fugitive – Another thrilling suspensful film. At times crossing the boundary into disbelief, the number of times Kimble managed to escape and surviving a fall from the top of a dam and building. 8/10
  • A million ways to die in the west – Puerile but entertaining. Nothing to write home about. Saving grace of Charlize Theron being easy on the eyes. 5.5/10
  • Pulp Fiction – Rewatch. First ~1hour is boring as fuck. Only picks up after Butch is on screen. 7.5/10

Stay tuned for part 2 for more rambling.

A pessimist’s guide to the future

  • Trump will walk away unscathed from the Russia investigation
  • The Democrats will fail to win the house in the mid term elections of 2018
  • Trump will win a second term in the white house, further enriching his estate at the expense of the state
  • Brexit will be an utter debacle in the short to medium term, inflicting abject poverty on the United Kingdom
  • There’ll be another general election within 1-2 years, Corbyn will turn out to be a one trick pony – not gaining any substantial seats. The Tories, supported by the right wing Murdoch press, pulls off a majority. Likely with Boris Johnson at the helm.
  • There is overconfidence in the market. With household borrowing on credit cards and car finance rising and the uncertainity from Brexit, there will be an especially bitter recession within 2 years.

Paxman’s autobiog – Reviewed

A Life in QuestionsA Life in Questions by Jeremy Paxman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining read. Written in a conventional linear style, Paxman’s lifestory is more surprising than you’d think. For one, he was quite a rebel in his younger days, even as a fag in public school he often disobeyed his superiors resulting in thrashings. His school years were full of amusing events like being flung into a boxing match, getting decked, then in his stupor connecting punches after the bell. All in all, he did come from humble beginnings and is an example of social mobility, to a certain extent.

Some of the most interesting sections were, when he was talking about his early years of broadcast journalism in Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia. For once, actual valid criticisms of the EU, it supported a doomed Slavic state which was tearing itself apart with civil war, along ethnic boundaries. Insights into the Northern Irish conflict without the lens of British state propaganda.

Paxman touches on a number of themes, such as the unbalanced power distribution of elderly voters who are pandered to by the political parties. He says an idea is to limit votes to tax payers only, which is a novel solution. He talks about the decline in religion and the subsequent rise in celebrity idolatry. We’ll always believe in something: be it God or someone who was the runner up to X-factor 7 years ago, it seems…

In terms of the EU referendum Paxman sums it up beautifully, paraphrasing: Cameron thought he could stamp out vociferous eurosceptics, in his own party, by putting one of the most important foreign policy decisions of our lifetimes, into the hands of the British public.

A line I found profound about journalism is thus: It’s about putting as many of the editors prejudices into the newspaper without offending the advertisers.

This review can’t do it justice, read it yourself, it’s well worth it.

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17 Equations That Changed the World – Reviewed

In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the WorldIn Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World by Ian Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My enjoyment for this book can be described as the parabola of order two. It started off very strongly, became quite dry in the middle but finished off well towards the end. Highlights: Relativity, Pythagoras, i, Quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. Lowlights: Normal distribution, Euler’s law of polyhedra.

Each chapter is a mixture of, some problem or quaint curiosity, mathematical derivations and how the equation shaped the world. I often found myself looking forward to the latter. Even with a mathematical disposition it was tricky to follow the derivation at times.

Epiphanous moments included, rationalizing Schrödinger’s cat/Quantum Multiverse theory, the origins of the nuclear bomb, entropy’s arrow of time and AM/FM.

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Quota limit exceeded error on Kodi Youtube addon

You get this error when searching Youtube sometimes. I believe the reason for this error is the addon uses an API key with a limit on the number of queries for each day. When a lot of users have done queries and have reached the limit, you can no longer search for anything.

One solution is to register an API key to your account and sign into Youtube. However another better one is to use a Smartphone app like Newpipe, which once you’ve found a video you can then play it in Kodi.

How to add other Emulators to Retropie

Retropie is an excellent addition to the software already available to the Raspberry Pi. It comes with a handful of emulators out of the box but is capable to run many more. The way to use them is a bit convoluted. First you execute the retropie cfg script and install an emulator you want from there e.g. snes, PS1 etc.

Now even though the emulator is installed, it won’t show up in emulation station. For that you have to put a ROM with the correct extension in the emulator folder. Then you can select the emulated system from emulation station.

How to beat library fines

Follow these simple steps:

    Step 1 Accrue charges on your account in a spurious fashion e.g. attempt to renew books over the Christmas holidays via phone but receive ambiguous messages
    Step 2 Realize you’ve received fines
    Step 3 Refuse to pay them
    Step 4 Wait 5 years
    Step 5 Try to take a book out but the machine won’t let you
    Step 6 Librarian gets confused why there’s such old fines on your account and deletes them for you

Et voilà. True story. I kid you not.