Stratellites

This company’s products look pretty cool:

They might be used to establish a wireless broadband internet service in the states. (Via Wired, not exactly fresh, but I liked the piccie.)

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The case of The Prince and the invisible robots

I note that Charlie has been flapping about nascent technologies once again. This time the target was nanotechnology and the “gray goo” scenario that anyone vaguely aware of nanotech will already have heard about. Flapflapflap.

I suppose it’s due to come up what with the recent novel by Michael Crighton on the subject, Prey. I think that Freeman Dyson does a good job of discussing how to deal with emerging tech in his review of this book.

Lots out there for those interested in nanotech and the horrendous fates that just might be lurking around the corner for us should we dare to persue it. Go to the Foresight Institute for a rather favourable look at the subject, where you can also find the book Engines of Creation by Eric Drexler that is required reading on the subject. Check out the publication date. Charlie’s playing catch-up.

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Lost in meatspace…

I’m still around, just been having a break from the old cyberspace mania. I might start posting again soon. In the meantime, you could do a lot worse than following a link or two from that list over there to the left.

Oh, and I still ain’t smoking – that’s over three weeks now. Not bad, huh?

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More on SARS

Looks like it’s spreading in China, at least according to the BBC. Plus more cases in Singapore, which is a bit worrying as a colleague of mine flew out there earlier today. The UK government haven’t gone as far as to advise against travel to anywhere other than Guangdong in China, but warns people to keep an eye on the situation in other parts of SE Asia, including Singapore.

Lots of juicy conspiracy theories starting to develop on this one, too.

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Mary Stewart on Myrrdin Emrys

[Cover Of The Last Enchantment]

I first read Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy (The Crystal Cave (1970), The Hollow Hills (1973) and The Last Enchantment (1979)) about fifteen years ago. I’m glad to say that I enjoyed them just as much the second time around as I remember from the first.

Stewart’s reworking of the Arthur and Merlin legends is masterful. The atmosphere she evokes for her 5th Century Britain is both rich and convincing – you really feel that it could have been like this. By focusing on Merlin (Arthur himself is conceived at the end of the first book, becomes High King at the end of the second, and is off-stage for much of the third), Stewart ends up with a much more satisfying work. In my view, Merlin is a far more interesting figure by far than Arthur, and his sophistication and learning make him a good narrator. The books are cast as memoirs, written down late in life after Merlin has faded and the majority of his power left him.

This power is carefully done – subtle and capricious. For the most part, Merlin derives his day-to-day power from his reputation as a prophet and his learning in medicine and engineering. Even when at the height of his powers, he achieves most of his aims through craft and wit rather than by any spectacular feats of magic. The most striking events are the public moments of prophecy, when he is taken hold of by the god that he serves and speaks of things to come to audiences of fearful warriors and kings. Merlin himself believes that all his magic comes from the god he serves, but he never seems quite sure just who that god is – Dark Ages Britain are awash with the remnants of the old gods of place, the gods the Romans brought, and the new God of the Christians who is slowly replacing the older ways.

Stewart provides notes in each book, which briefly describe some of the ways she wove her tellings from the body of myth, legend and the fragments of history we have from the time. She has, of course, made some use of poetic licence with such aspects as place names, but has got the balance right – after all, historical accuracy in a book set in the Dark Ages is a bit much to ask, and so we have to settle for feeling, atmosphere and intelligibility.

You don’t need to know the Arthur/Merlin stories to read these, and if you are expecting a “typical” retelling complete with full plate armour, tournaments, Frenchified names and chivalry then you’ll be disappointed. But if you want to read of what Arthur and Merlin might actually have been like, and follow them through a world that feels like it might be somewhere close to how it was, then these books are great. They are also great if you’re about to set off for any of the wilder parts of the British Isles – the West Country, Wales, Scotland, Cumbria or Northumberland for instance. These places still retain some of the wildness that the whole of our country must have once had and even, perhaps, some trace of the gods and spirits of the hills and the air.

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Behind the scenes

Anyone trying to visit me between 12.30 and 13.00 today might have noticed that the site was down. This because I finally got around to reorganising my posts – when I started this blog (nearly six months ago!) I was a bit haphazard about where I filed things, and I wanted to get it all sorted out. Mostly this stuff is out of site from casual surfers and is really for my own benefit, but I might add some category links at some stage, and these would have made little sense without today’s housekeeping.

There are some possible consequences – anyone who has permalinked to a post might now find that the link is broken. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem as I can only think of about 6 instances where people have done this 😉 If you want to know where the new location of a post is so that you can fix any permalinks, let me know which post you’re talking about and I’ll send you the new URL for it.

Still To Do:

  • Add RSS 1.0
  • Category links?
  • Upgrade to blosxom 2, when it actually comes out (latest: release candidate 3; this blog: beta 4 (quite old now))
  • Add some really hideous alternative colour schemes!
  • Oh yeah – and add a bit of actual content

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