Tag Archives: writing

Hidden messages and cunning puns

My friend and former colleague, Peter Anghelides, is a rather good writer. In particular, he’s written a number of books and audio plays set in the Dr Who, Sarah Jane Smith, Torchwood and Blake’s 7 universes.

The Christmas 2011 Big Finish special subscriber-only release, The Four Doctors, contained characters named “Lady Cowen” and “Whitmore” – a lovely little reference to Laura and Tony, also huge fans of Dr Who (as well as hosts of the Ubuntu UK Podcast[1], and some of the folks behind OggCamp). Incidentally – I reckon The Four Doctors is probably one of the best and cleverest Big Finish plays, and certainly it’s my favourite. If you’re into Dr Who, then it is worth a listen.

A subsequent Companion Chronicle for Big Finish – Ferril’s Folly – contained a brilliant line which referenced another friend, my mentor Dr Andy Stanford-Clark (yes indeed, he of MQTT, mousetraps and ferries fame).

I’ve just listened to Peter’s new Blake’s 7 audio play, Counterfeit, performed by Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow. I’d been tipped off via some tweets that there should be a nod to me in this one… initially, I’d jokingly whinged that it was only a concealed reference in the dialogue rather than a namesake character, but then I heard the line itself:

… but then he twittered on, about chronon bridgebuilding, and deep hyper messaging connections…

Genius! Thank you, Peter – very nice, and I’m honoured :-)

[1] this also gives me a handy opportunity to mention that I was a guest presenter on the first episode of season 5 of UUPC, which was live-broadcast on the interwebs on Tuesday, and released as a download yesterday. Check it out!

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Pern passes

This may seem like a total non-sequitur after my past few blog posts – but it is something I feel absolutely driven to post. Via a tweet from Cory Doctorow, I learned that Anne McCaffrey has died.

I’m 35 years old. More than 20 years ago, I was at school, studying for my GCSEs and later my A-levels. One of the subjects I studied was English Literature. I love reading. I love literature. I love imaginative, creative writing.

There was, obviously, a set curriculum of texts I was expected to read, learn, and internalise. Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, and others. I’m glad I have that grounding. I was also allowed to read anything I wanted, from an early age – and I gravitated towards novelisations of Star Trek, of the Neverending Story, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and other science fiction and fantasy stories.

Around the age of 12 or 13 I stumbled upon the Dragonriders of Pern series. At the time, I was interested in Games Workshop and Warhammer… a fantasy world involving dragons and, ultimately, a rediscovery of technology, was an obvious step.

So, I started to read the Pern chronicles. I remember reporting on them in my “reading diary” aged around 12 or 13 – a series of books about a near-mediaeval planet where dragonriders saved the population from the deadly Thread. It wasn’t until I read The White Dragon that I really appreciated that this wasn’t just a trash teen fantasy series – themes of erotic passion, love, independence, adventure, and intelligence were involved (and would connect to science fiction, computing and other directions beyond that tale).

I’m deeply saddened to learn that Anne McCaffrey has passed. Her tales and her books truly did light up my early teenage years. I loved the Dragonriders of Pern stories and I hope that others will connect with them in the same way in the future. Thank you, Anne.

Inside the Sphere

One of the things I’ve taken on this year is a regular writing assignment for the Global WebSphere Community. If you’re a member of the community (and if you use or are interested in WebSphere products, you probably should join – it’s free to sign up – here’s a link to my profile), depending on your profile preferences you may have just received the first edition of The Sphere Journal, a new online newsletter from GWC.

As the editor, Bruce Lynch, writes:

Welcome to the premier issue of The Sphere Journal Online. We will use this space to bring you opinion, news, and technical information on how to use your current WebSphere products more effectively and help you make more informed decisions about WebSphere products you should be deploying in your organization.

My monthly column is the WebSphere Deep Diving Instructor where I’ll be sharing news from inside the labs about the “hot” areas practitioners might want to explore more deeply, and the areas where I’m hearing the most interest or difficult technical questions from customers and the community. My first column does focus on my key area of messaging, but we’ll certainly broaden out from that over the course of the year.

[somewhat confusingly, there's also a section called The Message Queue, but that's a news section rather than being specific to WebSphere MQ!]

Links to places you can find and follow the GWC:

If my content is my CV – where’s my content?

I’ve frequently told folks who come to my presentations that “my content is my CV”. Sometimes, that content can feel a bit dispersed, especially given my habit of playing with a lot of the new services that come along.

I posted about a similar topic a few months ago, but mainly talked about the different blogs I contribute to. Time for a quick round-up of some of the main places you can find that content (you’ll find longer lists on my About, Audio/Video, and Writings pages).

Oh, and the easiest addresses to remember may be andypiper.co.uk or theandypiper.com – both of which will bring you back here.

What is really called for on my part is either a visual CV, or something a bit different like a launch page or an experimental format. When I have time…

On writing

For a variety of reasons which are far too boring to explain, I’m currently writing blog posts on paper. I wouldn’t mention that unless the point was central to the topic of this post, as it is essentially transparent to the reader – the fact that you can actually read this means that I’ve electronically transcribed it by now.

Anyway… here’s what I’m thinking as the process continues:

onwriting-sm.jpg

  • writing, eh. Pen and paper. Takes me back a bit. I mean, I make notes and stuff, but it’s ages since I’ve written long passages on paper.
  • my handwriting got really bad in the last 10 years
  • I can type much faster. This will take me 3 times as long, as I guess I’m about 1.5 to 2x faster at typing, and typing up what I’ve written whilst trying to decipher what I wrote will take 1 to 1.5x longer than typing it direct in the first place.
  • this biro is rubbish
  • how did people cope? My ideas and sentences all arrive out-of-order. I like to be able to rearrange bullet points and paragraphs. Where would I be today without being able to insert and correct words, sentences and paragraphs? Cut-and-paste is marvellous. Ah, this must be what it would be like to use a pre-3.0 iPhone as my regular computer…
  • hyperlinks. A conceptually simple and incredibly powerful concept. I guess that’s why they stuck.
  • I used to do my university essays by making notes by hand; creating an electronic mindmap to organise ideas and sections; and then type the essay. Overkill for blogging, and I remember how hard it was to churn out 3 12 page essays by hand in each of the exams without the weekly writing practice.
  • OK. End of page and rubbish biro. That’s all for this “post”, then.