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Hello all,

Our trip to India (which was amazing! Check out Shreena's pictures on Facebook) gave me lots of time to read things, so I have a recommendation and a WTF to share with you.

Recommended: The Red Knight by Miles Cameron )

WTF? Triplanetary, by E. E. Doc Smith )
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I just finished reading The Deed of Paksenarrion, by Elizabeth Moon. I picked it up because a number of you have said good things about it over the years, and I enjoyed Sassinak when I read it as a teenager.

Beware - contains spoilers for the whole trilogy )

ETA - I see there are a number of prequels and sequels in the same world. Are they any good? I saw some in the library today, but decided to hold off in case they were just an attempt to milk the success of the first trilogy.
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Does anyone have a recommendation for a book to teach a beginner bridge? I'm looking for a leaving gift for one of my colleagues, and she's recently been keen to learn bridge.

Thank you!
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A few thoughts on politics. They were prompted by some coverage of Ed Miliband's speech today but it's not particularly partisan, as I think all political parties share this idea rhetorically. How committed they are to it in practice is debatable!

Thoughts about globalization and the British Promise )

So the somewhat depressing conclusion is that it seems to me that we ought to be preparing for a few decades of steady or declining real wages. But I'm not an economist, so I might well be wrong - please do point out where! I also have a feeling that I ought to know more about economics than I do. Almost everything I know about economics comes from reading the newspapers and The Wealth of Nations as a teenager, so if there are any particularly good books I should read I'd welcome suggestions there too.
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I just finished reading The Court of the Air, by Stephen Hunt. (Amazon link)

I quite enjoyed it - the world was fun and the plot had some pleasant surprises. The supporting characters were entertaining, but I will freely admit that the main characters did not have a great deal of detail.

Leif Erik on Good Read didn't like it - and thank God he didn't. I've just laughed out loud at the opening line of his review:

Reads like a commission Charles Dickens and Jules Verne accepted after the Communards killed everyone they loved. Plus Aztec monsters.
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[livejournal.com profile] shreena and I are in the process of trying to declutter - this has led me to discover two Wii games which I bought for my brother last Christmas before discovering that he actually has an X-Box 360 and not a Wii at all (oops!)

I probably should have returned them, but I was busy and they were from Amazon (so returning would be a hassle), so I failed. This leaves me with two Wii games which I can't do anything with. Before they go to a charity shop, I thought I'd offer them up to you nice people. So, would anyone like either:
- No More Heroes
- NHL 2k9 (i.e. ice hockey)?

Reply by comment. Public entry, so feel free to point other friendly people here if they're likely to want one or both. Getting to a post office is a bit of a hassle for me during the week, so I'll take requests from people who can pick them up from us in London over those who'd need them shipped. Reply by comment, please.
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The RSC was on the Today programme yesterday, lamenting the lack of mathematical rigour (and indeed science, they claim) in modern science exams. Reading a bit more about that story let me to this story, about a study the RSC ran last year setting modern pupils questions from a variety of eras. They did not do well - an average of 25%.
Cut for geeky units analysis and pedagogy )
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In other news, [livejournal.com profile] shreena is awesomely fantastic and I like her lots and lots.
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From the mathematics portion of the test specification for Northern Ireland's transfer tests (taken by 11 year olds before going to secondary school):

Pupils should have opportunities to interpret tables and lists used in everyday life, for example, those found in a catalogue or road safety accident report (Emphasis mine).

Life must be very different for 11 year olds in Northern Ireland.
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The Economist has a tangential discussion on the government's failure to encourage people on to public transport this week, intended as a cautionary tale lest anyone get too excited by proposals to write carbon emission targets into law. This includes a graph of the cost of various forms of land transport which suggests that driving is the only form of transport which has gotten cheaper since 1980. I was surprised by this and did some more digging which I will discuss under a cut. )
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Much to [livejournal.com profile] shreena's delight, I'm between jobs at the moment - my job at NFER finished a week ago and the Civil Service are looking for a job for me. (At least all the relevant paperwork and checks have now been completed!) Because I'm bored, I've been working my way through Delia's vegetarian collection (on loan from the library).

I may well buy the book, but just in case I don't - does anyone know whether the recipes featured on Delia online change? At the moment all of the recipes I'm most keen on are on the website, but if they're likely to disappear without warning then I should make copies of them before we return the book to the library.
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... for those of us who spent most of our adolescence in the SF/Fantasy section at the library. Mightygodking with new, more accurate titles for popular books. My personal highlight: 'Mary Sue Gets a Dragon', by Anne McCaffrey.

Part One

Part Two

Final Part
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I have big feet (size 12 wide). Do you know what men with big feet have? Serious issues finding shoes. I also seem to wear out my shoes at a slightly distressing rate - shoes that I wear frequently rarely last more than 6 months before the soles are worn through. Unfortunately, very few high street shoe stores seem to sell shoes that can be resoled, so each time it happens it requires further shoe shopping.

Until recently, I have been a poor student and thus did most of my shoe shopping at Brantano. I do not doubt that buying cheap shoes is reason number one for the short life of my shoes, but high street shops very rarely stock shoes that will fit me and even more rarely do so with any kind of shoe except boring black leather ones to be worn to the office.

My shoes are yet again wearing out, but this time I am gainfully employed and thus have some money! So I'm appealing to the wisdom of LiveJournal. Where can I find good quality, casual shoes that will fit me and can be resoled? I'm currently based in Slough, so can relatively easily get to London, Reading or Oxford - sources further afield will be considered based on the enthusiasm of their advocates. Please help!
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'Nemesis' is a word that should probably be avoided in questions aimed at 10 year olds. That is all.
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[livejournal.com profile] shreena and I were talking about books over the weekend, and the topic of "books that made you go "Whoa! That was great". Tangentially to this discussion we were talking about genres, and wondering about how favorite books fall among genres, so I decided to sit down and write out my favorite books and which (approximate!) genres they fall into. I'm posting them here to satisfy your curiousity and possibly attract some recommendations! So, Ben's favorite books:

Favorite book lists below )
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I just finished Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana. It was quite a fun book, and I enjoyed it - however, I found myself irritated by two facets of the narrative. I'm going to discuss them under a cut, to spare anyone who doesn't want to be spoiled about the novel.

Here be spoilers )
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I am currently waiting (and will possibly be waiting for some months) for the various bits of paperwork associated with new!shiny!job to be completed. Thesis, on the other hand, is looking quite hopeful: I'm optimistic about getting a final draft to my supervisor by the end of next week and hopefully submitting shortly thereafter.

So I'm about to have an excess of free time and a shortage of money, so the natural solution seems to be temping. Has anyone got any recommendations for temp agencies in London/Slough/Reading? Or questions I should think about before applying to them? Something that took advantage of a scientific background would clearly be ideal, but to be honest I'm just looking for something marginally better paid than pulling pints at Wetherspoons!
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  • I submitted a complete draft of my thesis to my supervisor last night, so I can legitimately not worry about it for the next three weeks, in which...
  • I shall be married to [livejournal.com profile] shreena!
  • My parents are over from the US for the next week, with my siblings appearing at various points before the wedding
  • I spotted the fact that I'd failed to book a hotel for the first night of our honeymoon while I could still sort it out relatively painlessly
  • There shall be many friends at the wedding
  • Then there shall be two weeks of travelling around Vilnius and Talinn
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In my continuing quest to actually have some income while writing up improve access to education for all, I'll be helping some Sutton Trust summer school students as they attempt the first year optics practicals next week. By an unfortunate quirk of scheduling, I must go straight from doing this to London, to have a chat about my future employment. This means that I shall be showing students how friendly and unstuffy Oxford is by... demonstrating optics practicals in a suit and tie.
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So [livejournal.com profile] shreena and I have been thinking about music to accompany our civil wedding. Somehow, we have not been immediately won over by the Register Office's recommended pop music: "Love is All Around", followed by "(Everything I Do) I Do it for you" and finishing with "Perfect Day".

We'd quite like some music that we like and that fits into a wedding ceremony nicely. We're looking for at least three songs, one each for entrance, exit and signing the register. We've got some ideas already, which are listed below, but we're sure that there must be some perfect songs that we're not thinking of - so we're appealing to you for your suggestions! Any ideas for folky songs appropriate to a wedding?

To give you an idea of our musical taste, we both like Oysterband, the Levellers, and Julie Fowlis. Our ideas for possible songs so far are:

    "I Promise You" - Show of Hands
    "After Rain" - Oysterband
    "Street of Dreams" - Oysterband
    "(All I Have to Do is) Dream" - R.E.M. / The Everly Brothers
    "Kathy's Song" - Simon and Garfunkel
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