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Recently Observed (11)

Celebrating Alistair Cooke

Facebook & Journalism


A few changes round here - I've decided to throw everything in a few boxes and move my blog to a new address and new platform.

The new address is:


Please update your bookmarks/RSS/ - you wouldn't want to miss out on a minute of this stuff!!

Come visit - bring wine and flowers!

Saving snail mail

I still stop what I'm doing when I hear the rattle of our letterbox. For some reason I'm compelled to have a look to see what Royal Mail have served up, even though I know it will be either a bill or something completely unnecessary. While there are a couple of magazine subs I look forward to and Lovefilm when they get their act together, much of what comes through our letterbox goes straight to the blue-box which is emptied into the big yellow recycling van every Thursday. Junk mail does not describe some of the rubbish we get - how many takeaway menus for the same Chinese restaurant could a house this size possibly require?

The wonderfully named Perry Bible Fellowship cartoon strip by Nicholas Gurewitch captures it perfectly. Sadly PBF is no longer published in the Gurdian, but the PBF website has a huge back-catalogue for your amusement.

Thankfully I have recently witnessed some encouraging moments in the fight to save snail-mail. Down with digital sent us a wonderful postcard from west (or is it east?) of the Bann, of course I can't overlook birthday my cards (hundreds!) from late October and best of all this week edunny.com sent me some Obama souvenirs! So it's not all bad.

Happy Friday - send someone a postcard this weekend!

Must be qualified and squeaky clean?

The NYT is describing it as possibly the most invasive application form ever. Along with questions seeking to dig out any conflicts of interests, team Obama want to know it all! Those applying for senior Obamajobs face a questionnaire that includes "63 requests for personal and professional records, some covering applicants’ spouses and grown children as well, that are forcing job-seekers to rummage from basements to attics, in shoe boxes, diaries and computer archives to document both their achievements and missteps."

Question 63 asks: “Please provide any other information, including information about other members of your family, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the president-elect.”

What's on your Wall?

Hopefully people applying for senior posts with team Obama won't have posted pictures of them drunk and disorderly in DC on their wall, but according to the NYT "they must include any e-mail that might embarrass the president-elect, along with any blog posts and links to their facebook pages. The application also asks applicants to “please list all aliases or ‘handles’ you have used to communicate on the Internet.” I wonder what happens if you threw a zombie at John McCain during the campaign?

Alaska is bigger than Palin

Sarah Palin was bad enough - but we also had to put up with the UK media and their ill informed and lazy depictions of Alaska. I'm not sure if this was an international phenomenon, but according to our press Alaska is populated by moose-burger eating, gun carrying and snow blowin Palin fans. Stereotypes and caricatures galore. I've only had one brief visit to Alaska, but it was an incredible place of wild beauty and wide open spaces populated by generous and friendly people. I had a friend at St Andrews from Fairbanks and he was wihtout doubt one of the most interesting and intelligent people I've ever met. I'm sure Alaska has its quota of crazies, but don't we all? I should know, I live in Belfast!

Good to see some fightback in today's Guardian. Clare Chesher, a Brit living in Alaska responds to an earlier piece by the Guardian's Ed Pilkington.

Alaska is bigger than Palin. I'm sure, like me, many people in Northern Ireland would strongly object to being understood with reference to some of our politicians! Oh dear just thinking about that makes me cringe!

The image above is my favourite souvenir from the trip to Alaska always paddle and myself enjoyed a few years back. It currently has pride of place in our living room. Oh and before you ask, it was purchased in a General Store somewhere along the Alaska highway and not purloined with a screwdriver in the dead of night!! 

macs ruling the world?

Barack's got one

So does Dimitry Medvedev

Via: Boing Boing & cultofmac

night shots

Always paddle was out last night so I hit the streets and skulked around Belfast in the dark...taking pictures of course! I'm new to night photography so it was fun to experiment - here are a few of last nights shots:


The Spinning Wheel


More on flickr

It sounds a bit like Gladiators

Here's a little advance help for your next pub quiz or perhaps Trivial Pursuit's 2010 version. Here are some highlights from a list of code names the US Secret Service gives to those they protect. Don't you think it sounds like a roll call for Gladiators?

The Obamas:

President-elect Barack Obama: Renegade

Michelle Obama: Renaissance

Malia Obama: Radiance

Sasha Obama: Rosebud

The Bidens

Vice President-elect Joe Biden: Celtic

Jill Biden: Capri

The Bushs

President George W. Bush: Tumbler

First Lady Laura Bush: Tempo

See the full list here

Oh and since we are on the theme...the Daily Telegraph publishes '50 facts you might not know about Barack Obama.'

Here's a taster:

He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics.

He won a Grammy in 2006 for the audio version of his memoir, Dreams From My Father.

He can bench press an impressive 200lbs.

He was known as Barry until university when he asked to be addressed by his full name.

He applied to appear in a black pin-up calendar while at Harvard but was rejected by the all-female committee.

He doesn't drink coffee and rarely drinks alcohol.

He wears $1,500 (£952) Hart Schaffner Marx suits.

Read more Obamafacts here

Big Wheel reflection at night

I was in Belfast tonight and snapped a few shots of the big wheel on the way home.

Click here for the large version

Recently Observed (10)

...This just in. I'm in the money! "You have just been awarded of the sum of £1,000,000.00GBP Pounds which was won by your E-MAIL Address in our Monthly Promo.You are to contact Mr Pinkett Griffin For More Details."

...the pros of working from home include all day slipper wearing, the cons: one-sided conversations at coffee break.

...churches with doors on the end of pews scare me. Why?

...right now I feel our window cleaner has the worst job in NI. His hands must be freezing.

...amazing shots (as usual) from the Big picture. Enjoy

Review: The Brass Verdict, Michael Connelly

A new book from Michael Connelly is an event for the crime fiction world. With a reputation built on a stack of bestsellers Connelly is without question one of the big dogs of the genre. Continuing to take a break from LAPD Detective Hieronymus Bosch, The Brass Verdict is the second in the series about cynical and troubled LA lawyer Mickey Haller who first appeared in Connelly's 2006 The Lincoln Lawyer.

I've mentioned previously that I was eagerly awaiting Connelly's Brass Verdict and James Lee Burke's Swan Peak. I'm still anticipating the delights of Swan Peak, but I'm sad to report that, for the first time ever, I'm a little disappointed in Michael Connelly's latest offering.

The Brass Verdict follows Mickey Haller as he inherits the caseload of a fellow lawyer who is gunned down in a parking garage. The inherited caseload fast-tracks Haller's recovery from a spell in rehab and re-entry to legal practice. The 'Lincoln lawyer' is back! Amongst the cases the murder trial of a powerful LA film mogul has the potential to make or break Haller. The breakage may be professional or it could be that Haller ends up outlined in chalk like his dead benefactor. As usual with Connelly there are a number of clever twists in the long tail of this case. Also present is Connelly's distaste for the usual suspects. That unholy trinity of crooked cops, slippery lawyers and wealthy rogues are all targets for Connelly's admirable ability to find dirt, corruption and hypocrisy under the nails of even the most carefully of manicured hands.

With an eye on fans of Bosch the blurb for The Brass Verdict hints at a Haller and Bosch double-act and for me this is part of the problem. Readers of Connelly will know Bosch as a powerful and dominant character. It's true, in Harry Bosch the cliches of crime fiction are writ large. A lonely, rebellious, complex, brooding and violent man stalking LA working out his demons and breaking rules in the name of justice. But I have no problem with cliche in crime fiction as long as the writing is strong and Connelly's is first class. There are few writers who can capture movement, speed and intensity in a narrative like Connelly. Reading a British 'police procedural' after an outing with Bosch is like swapping a Porsche for a bike with a flat tire. However, in giving Bosch a supporting role in The Brass Verdict Connelly makes, I believe, an unfortunate error. Bosch is a ghost in this novel - he's here and there, but has little substance, dropping in and out of the narrative, but never fully part of the story. Aside from a suspiciously 'tidy' denouement one wonders why Connelly decided to include Bosch in The Brass Verdict at all.

Typically Connelly produces a book that will keep you up in the small hours, thoughts of sleep and an exhausted tomorrow not intruding on what is usually an exhilarating experience. The Brass Verdict was just not up to the usual Connelly standard. Perhaps it was just me, but it just didn't have the same power and felt a little tired. The surprises weren't too shocking and I'm not quite sure how I feel about the main protagonist of Mickey Haller.

So the xetera verdict on The Brass Verdict is that, sadly, this is a below par offering from Mr Connelly. Don't get me wrong, it's still a decent read, but just not quite as good as some of his previous work. Here's hoping his next offering will be a return to form.