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My favourite author, Neil Gaiman, is doing a talk in Manchester on 29th October, at 7pm. However, my favourite musician, Jonathan Coulton, is also in Manchester playing a gig on the same night at 7:30pm. Nooooooo!

I’ve already bought tickets for the JoCo concert, so I’ll probably go to that, but it would have been good to be able to do both.

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Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites have just unveiled WhiteKnightTwo, the mothership that will launch SpaceShipTwo, the first commercial sub-orbital tourism spacecraft. It looks pretty cool:
WhiteKnightTwo

Current price for a flight is expected to be $200,000, although that’ll come down in time. Like Richard Branson pointed out, all new forms of transport start off fairly expensive. Early passenger air travel was out of reach to all but the very wealthy, and likewise cruise ships. I can imagine this being really popular amongst those rich enough to afford it, and that’ll eventually bring the price down for the rest of us. I’d better start saving now.

More information on the Virgin Galactic website.

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I love this animation by Eric Schwartz, to the song “Still alive”, by Jonathan Coulton, from the game Portal.

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Neil Gaiman complained in his blog that it was difficult to find your way around the convention hotel. Evidentally, other people agreed:

Sign found at Orbital Eastercon

I went to a few other good talks and panels, plus I caught the second half of the show by comedian and musician Mitch Benn. He was excellent, and very funny. Some of the stuff he did had a geek/sci-fi theme, so it was the right audience for it. And Monday night I spent drinking far too much in the real ale bar with other random people.

It was a good weekend (well, two days), and I’m definitely planning to go again next year, especially as it’ll be just down the road from me in Bradford.

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This is interesting: a transgender man, who was born a woman, is six months’ pregnant. He’s legally male, and married, and as his wife couldn’t have a baby, they decided that he would carry it instead.

“Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire but a human desire.”

Here’s the Times’ summary. Original article by the guy himself appeared in The Advocate (although their site appears to have died as a result of rather too many people visiting)

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Neil Gaiman

Multi-award winning author and all-round nice bloke Neil Gaiman giving a talk at the Orbital Eastercon. He’s possibly my favourite author, so he was one of the main reasons I came to this (although it’s pretty good, I’ll probably go next year even though he won’t be there). He read a short story, called “Orange”, and part of the first chapter of “The Graveyard Book”, which he’s just finishing off at the moment. Very cool.

I’ve also been to a panel on “Writing the Near Future”, where some authors discussed the problems of trying to predict developments that will probably be proved true or false within their lifetimes. Interesting stuff, went into quite a few different areas. Robots seem to be the answer to most things…

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I’m at the Orbital Eastercon, a science-fiction convention in London. Just been to a talk by author Charles Stross:

Charles Stross

It was a really interesting overview of various forms of technology, where they seem to be going over the next few years, and the implications of that for us. He’s obviously a really knowledgeable guy, who’s done a lot of research on a lot of different subjects. Made me think quite a bit about some areas I’d not considered before, as well as giving me a few ideas of stuff I want to look into further.

(not a great photo though, I was a bit far back, so I took one of the video projection instead)

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Bit of an article about Alan Moore on the BBC website: Comic legend keeps true to roots
Nothing in there that’ll be new to Moore fans, I don’t think, although it’s plugging a program that will be on tv tonight, and on the website afterwards as well. Might be worth a watch.

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I’ve just been to see Jonathan Coulton playing live in London, and by the miracles of modern technology I’m now posting this from my mini-laptop on the train back up to Leeds.

Jonathan Coulton

For those who don’t know, he’s an American singer/songwriter who’s fairly well known on the internet, and he releases most of his work through his website rather than via traditional methods. See his Wikipedia entry for more info on him.

This was his first concert in Europe, and all 400-odd tickets sold out easily. The atmosphere was possibly the best I’ve ever experienced at a gig, everyone seemed to know most of the words even though these songs have never been in the charts, rarely get played on the radio, and are about such obscure subjects as Mandelbrot fractal patterns, zombies who want to eat your brains, or a Christmas letter from people imprisoned on an asteroid by robots. Oh yeah, it was also by far the geekiest concert audience I’ve ever seen. He seemed taken aback at how well known his music actually is, and hadn’t expected to get more than 100 there, never mind a sellout crowd of die-hard fans.

He played my favourite, Drinking With You, as well as Code Monkey, Re: Your Brains, and the ending song from the cult game Portal. And loads more. Absolutely brilliant, I had a great time.

Videos will follow, as soon as I get chance to edit them together a bit.

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I’ve been on a bit of a film watching binge since I joined LoveFilm a couple of weeks ago. They’re an online DVD rental company, they post discs out to you, and you send them back when you’ve finished. They claim to have every DVD legally available for rental in the UK, so they’ve got a fairly big selection.

So far I’ve watched:
Spirited Away - beautiful Japanese anime cartoon directed by Miyazaki.
Serenity - the Joss Whedon movie adaptation of his cancelled sci-fi series Firefly. In which River Tam Beats Up Everyone.
The Princess Bride - cult classic fantasy-adventure-romance-comedy film. I watched it twice in one weekend.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl - first of the trilogy, so I’ll have to work my way through the others now.

These were all things any self-respecting geek should have watched years ago. I’ve never really watched many films, so I’m now trying to catch up. Think I’ve got at least six months’ worth on my rental list already.

But yes, LoveFilm. Very impressed with them so far, cool stuff.

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