Author Archives: Tim Hall

A great post on Echies and Dust by Dave Cooper a.k.a. HippyDave: Coming home to Wuthering, Wuthering, Wuthering Heights tells how Kate Bush’s first single changed a five year old’s life.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Leave a comment

UK Train Fares – The Highest in Europe?

London Midland 350 at Rugeley Trent Valley

Rail fares are in the news again, with the annual announcement of above-inflation fare rises for the new year. The usual headlines emphasise how British rail fares are far higher that equivalents in most other countries. But given the complexity of British fare structures with astronomical peak-hour prices on prime business routes and extremely cheap bargains that are only available when booked weeks in advance, it’s not quite that simple.

The Man in Seat 61 has analysed a range of different journey, and concludes the real story is a lot more complex.

So the next time someone says (or you read) “Britain has the highest rail fares in Europe”, you’ll know this is only 15% of the story. The other 85% is that we have similar or even cheaper fares, too. The big picture is that Britain has the most commercially aggressive fares in Europe, with the highest fares designed to get maximum revenue from business travel, and some of the lowest fares designed to get more revenue by filling more seats. This is exactly what airlines have known, and been doing, for decades. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself, check some UK train fares at…

But all this is academic if you actually want to make a specific journey rather than a hypothetical one.

If, for example, you need to travel from Reading to York in three days time, the fact that the peak hour fare from London to Manchester is eye-wateringly expensive or you can get a really cheap ticket to Cleethorpes on a Wednesday in November isn’t relevant. All that matters is the tickets available for your journey. And in my case the cheap advance tickets never seem to be available for the times I need to travel, and the cost of an off-peak return is a three-figure sum.

Posted in Travel & Transport | Tagged | Leave a comment

Steve Rothery – Morpheus

A taster from the forthcoming album “The Ghosts of Pripyat”, featuring a guest appearance from Steve Hackett.

Posted in Music News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stop ISO 29119

So, there is a proposed ISO standard for software testing, ISO 29119, which is causing an awful lot of controversy in the testing world.

Stop 29119Just about every software testing professional with an online presence is concerned about ISO 29119′s likely impact on the profession. The consensus is that forcing a highly bureaucratic one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter approach to testing across the whole software industry is unlikely to result in higher quality software, but will almost certainly stifle innovation and inhibit exploration of new creative approaches.

Rob Lambert is just one of many with serious reservations, and James Christie has this to say:

I’m afraid my hackles rise when I see phrases like “one definitive standard” and “used within any software development life cycle”. It immediately triggers an adverse emotional reaction as I remember this rhyme from Lord of the Rings, about the One Ring that would give the holder power over all.

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie”

Unfortunately it’s not something that anyone can guarantee will just go away if people ignore it.

Naturally those whose businesses revolve around selling consultancy to middle-management are going to support the introduction of a standard. As will the certification mills. And don’t even mention lawyers. I’m sure we can all easily imagine technically-illiterate politicians demanding that ISO 29119 be mandatory for all government contracts. After all, everyone knows that those gargantuan government IT failures we keep hearing about in the media are entirely down to sloppy software testing and have nothing to do with reality-denying project management.

There is now a petition against it. If you think ISO 29119 is a bad thing, go and sign it.

But not everyone agrees with the petition. Although this ridiculous Godwinesque screed hardly helps the cause:

Their objection is that not everyone will agree with what the standard says: on that criterion nothing would ever be published. The real reason the book burners want to suppress it is that they don’t want there to be any standards at all. Effective, generic, documented systematic testing processes and methods impact their ability to depict testing as a mystic art and themselves as its gurus.

I would say that resorting to personal attacks of that nature is strong indicator for the bankruptcy of their argument.

Posted in Testing & Software | Tagged | 1 Comment

Vox Day: Hugo Denied

So, racist idiot Vox Day did not do very well in the Hugo Awards ballot with his terribly-written novella “Opera Vita Aeterna”. The combination of the author’s reputation and the poor quality of the work itself meant it was placed below “No Award” in the ballot, the only nominated work in any category to suffer that ignominious fate.

It was put foward as part of the so-called “Sad Puppies” slate of works by right-wing authors promoted by Larry Corriea, who’s own novel “Warbound” also did very poorly in the vote.

It leaves you wondering whether association with Vox Day in the minds of the Worldcon members who voted in the awards fatally damaged the chances of any other books in that slate.

As John Scalzi put it:.

The folks pushing the slate played within the rules, so game on, and the game is to convince people that the work deserves the Hugo. It does not appear the voters were convinced. As a multiple Hugo loser myself, I can say: That’s the breaks, and better luck another year.

With that said, Correia was foolish to put his own personal capital as a successful and best selling novelist into championing Vox Day and his novelette, because Vox Day is a real bigoted shithole of a human being, and his novelette was, to put it charitably, not good (less charitably: It was like Gene Wolfe strained through a thick and rancid cheesecloth of stupid). Doing that changed the argument from something perfectly legitimate, if debatable — that conservative writers are often ignored for or discounted on award ballots because their personal politics generally conflict with those of the award voters — into a different argument entirely, i.e., fuck you, we got an undeserving bigoted shithole on the Hugo ballot, how you like them apples.

Which is a shame. It’s fine for Correia to beclown himself with Day, if such is his joy, and he deserves to reap the fruits of such an association. I suspect, however, there are others whom he championed for his “sad puppy” slate who were less thrilled to find themselves looped in with Day by involuntary association.

That all depends on Larry Correia’s actual goals were. I see no evidence that Correia is particularly racist, misogynistic or homophobic. But from reading a handful of entries on his blog he does come over as a weapons-grade asshole (Comparisons with The RPGPundit may be appropriate here). That plus his assiciation with a known racist is enough of a red flag for a lot of people.

Did he want to challenge the perceived left-wing monopoly of the awards?  Or was the whole exercise designed to discredit The Hugos and Worldcon in the eyes of his readership?

Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Listening to “Lovehunter” and “Ready an’ Willing”, I’d forgotten just how crass some 80s Whitesnake lyrics were. Probably the only thing that saved Whitesnake from Robin Thicke-style student disco bans was that the worst stuff was never put out as singles.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 3 Comments

Neal Morse – Songs for November

Songs for NovemberSince leaving Spock’s Beard to “pursue a more spiritual path”, Neal Morse has released a string of albums combining over-the-top progressive rock with Evangelical Christian lyrics so heavy-handed than even many Christians find them hard to stomach.

This record is neither of those things.

This is quite explicitly a singer-songwriter record, with straightforward songs rather than multi-part prog epics, every song clocking in at around four minutes of so. A few of the big soaring melodies wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a mid-period Spock’s Beard record, and “Spock’s Beard Lite”, wouldn’t be a bad description for much of the album. Lyrically the “God stuff” isn’t entirely absent, but it’s not in-your-face either; the songs are more about life in all its richness.

Neal plays the guitars, keys and bass, with a variety of guest musicians contributing percussion, brass, strings and backing vocals. Even though the songs themselves are simple, quite a few are still embellished with some rich arrangements. There’s a big brassy riff on opener “Whatever Days”, gospel-style harmonies on “Heaven Smiles” and some very evocative solo violin from Chris Carmichael on “My Time of Dying”. More than one track has a summary west coast feel, ironic given the album title.

The one fall from grace is the overly saccharine “Daddy’s Daughter” which falls deep into pass-the-sick-bag territory. That one track aside, this is an enjoyable album that does what it says on the tin. As a singer-songwriter album by a progressive rock frontman it bears comparison with Alan Reed’s excellent “First in a Field of One”. Certainly there are plenty of tunes that get stuck in your head after a few listens.

Spock’s Beard fans ought to find a lot of like about this record, especially those who find the overt religiosity of his other solo work a bit too much.

Posted in Record Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cambridge Rock Festival 2014 – Part Two

Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn at the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival

For those who’s tastes run towards progressive rock and metal, Sunday was always going to be the day to be looked forward to the most. Continue reading

Posted in Live Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hawkwind featuring Brian Blessed – Sonic Attack

Hawkwind have re-recorded the classic “Sonic Attack” featuring the legendary Brian Blessed.

Sorry, I’ll say that again….


Posted in Music News | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Cambridge Rock Festival 2014 – Part One

Chantel McGregor at the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival

The Cambridge Rock Festival is a four-day event on the first weekend of August, with a focus on blues, classic rock and progressive rock. 2014 is the festival’s eleventh year, and the sixth to be held at the current location just outside the city. Continue reading

Posted in Live Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments