Sherlock Series 4

Sherlock is back! Soon!

Sherlock is back! Soon!

I’m a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and love what they are doing with this new Sherlock version. Sure it’s a bit annoying that there are years between series and that there are only three episodes per series but they are usually superb and are movie length, so I shouldn’t grumble. Also, the stars are selfishly getting more famous every year so the way the series is structured is actually beneficial to their being able to fit it in. According to the internet, Cumberbatch finished filming ‘Doctor Strange’ just days before starting Sherlock series 4.

So the big excitement that has prompted me to write this, is that there is a new trailer. It doesn’t give much away about what will happen but it does show Toby Jones who is going to be a new villain. Sherlock tends to stick to Doyle’s stories, at least so far, and again according the internet Toby Jones updated his online CV and added a character called Culverton Smith. Which implies a story called ‘The Dying Detective’ is in the offing. I won’t ruin it with spoilers.

Not much else is known except vagueness. Moffat and Gatiss have hinted that this series of Sherlock will be much darker in tone with some heavy consequences for the characters. Which I think means someone major will die. They have also implied that there will hopefully be a series 5 and that everyone is on board in theory.  Obviously series 5 will be so far in the future humanity may have collapsed, so I will be excited about that when the time comes.

There is no air date for Sherlock series 4 yet except for 2017. Traditionally, that means straight away – as in January 1st – but we shall see. Here’s the trailer:

 

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Chris Hadfield: the making of Space Oddity video

Chris Hadfield sings Bowie's Space Oddity

Chris Hadfield sings Bowie’s Space Oddity

Chris Hadfield’s version of Space Oddity has been viewed on Youtube over 32 million times. At least 10 of them were by me but that still leaves a lot. Bowie himself described it as the “moist poignant version ever made”. (Still miss Bowie, RIP, the world has really gotten a lot worse since he left, it can’t just be a coincidence.)

This clip is a ‘Behind the scenes’ video from ‘NOVA’s secret life of scientists and engineers‘ channel. In it Hadfield talks about the making of the Space Oddity video and reactions to it. I love everything about this: Hadfield, space exploration, the International Space Station, and David Bowie. These are a few of my very favourite things and all are a constant reminder that, just occasionally, humanity doesn’t suck.

Here you go:

As I always when writing about space exploration, my message to NASA: I am free, healthy, and ready to go into space. thewordofward@gmail.com.

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Augmented Reality transforming medical education

Augmented reality. Medical education is just one application.

Augmented reality. Medical education is just one application.

Not to be left behind in sticking it to boring old reality, VR’s less popular friend Augmented Reality (AR) has been hitting the news more often of late and showing that it can do some pretty cool things too. It has been around for a while and almost became exciting when Google did the Google Glass thing, but once the epithet ‘Glasshole’ leapt gloriously into the language, it fell out of favour.

Well, now Augmented Reality is back and it is being used in incredible and beneficial ways. I am, of course talking about Pokemon Go. Man, I can’t wait till that comes to Thailand. Oh, and they are also using it in education too. In the clip below, students are using the Microsoft Hololens to learn about anatomy. It is one of many ways you can use the hololens but it is pretty cool. If you want to end up as a surgeon, you will obviously have to still practice on corpses to fully come to terms with how disgusting your job will be, but when learning the anatomical knowledge you can really benefit from this tech.

I love all this stuff and while the below clip feels slightly like an advert, it is still pretty damned amazing. Hurry up future and augment my reality, I’m bored.

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Robotic stingray made from rat cells

Robotic Stingray

Robotic Stingray

This is very cool and step in the right direction of mankind playing god. A scientist called Kevin Kit Parker went to an aquarium with his daughter and saw a stingray. Thinking, as I have often thought myself, ‘That’s pretty cool, we should have robots built from gold, silicone, and rat heart-cells that behave and act like that.’ Fortunately Mr Parker was an applied physicist/roboticist/bio-engineerist/very smart man at Harvard and has made is happen.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 3.27.45 PMI won’t go into the science in too much detail because I don’t know what I am talking about. But basically, he got some rat heart cells, some silicone, some gold and has made an artificial creature. There are 200,000 heart cells, the silicone has a precise template that guides everything, and the gold is the skeleton. The stingrays are small – about half an inch –  and are controlled by light thanks to a virus that delivers a gene that affects a switch that- Ok, I am out of my depth.

Find more information here from from a science magazine: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/07/robotic-stingray-powered-light-activated-muscle-cells

Or if you want more information from a less science-y source: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jul/07/made-of-gold-powered-by-heart-cells-of-rats-meet-the-robo-ray

There is a point to all this beyond just creating something that looks cool. Mr Parker wants to grow a human heart. I know you can grow human organs in pigs these days but if we can make organic body parts, it would be a huge step forward. Especially for the pigs. Here is a video that you should have just watched rather than read any of the above. Sorry about that but I have to make living.

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Tribute to Voyager space program is damn inspiring

Voyager

Voyager

As the Earth seems to be getting progressively more shite, it is worth remembering that we humans are capable of doing pretty incredible things. If we try and think beyond the petty here and now, and set our sights on knowledge, exploration and becoming a greater species I am convinced things could improve. With intolerance on the rise – religious and secular – we should try and better ourselves, not squabble and fight over imaginary beings or who should be allowed into “our” little patch of Earth. When you see our planet from space, the arguing and hatred seems so pointless.

Obviously nothing will change as too many humans are dicks. Happily, not all.

Here is an amazing video made by a talented fellow called Santiago Menghini. It is a tribute to NASA’s Voyager space program and combines real footage, recorded sounds, Voyager images, animation and more, into a very cool little film. Brilliant and truly inspiring. Cheered me right up, it did. Enjoy.

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Welcome back Tim Peake

Pub creates Peake portrait out of a roast dinner. For some reason.

Pub creates Peake portrait out of a roast dinner. For some reason.

Here at the Word of Ward we are unanimous in our support of space exploration, ESA, NASA and the brave people who go into space in the quest for knowledge. If you think space exploration is a waste of time, you have my sympathy for being a small minded individual who only thinks of the current generation. (I’m kidding – I think you’re an idiot.)

Before I slide happily into a rant, I will return to my main purpose which is to welcome back Tim Peake to terra firma and to say thanks for all he has done in the name of science and human endeavour.

My other main purpose is to point out to anyone from ESA or NASA that might read this, that I am fully available and willing to go into space as a member of Joe Public. It would be good PR. Just saying. Here is a video of Tim Peake’s highlights from the BBC:

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Free books!

You read that right. Free books. My three books, to be precise. I have decided to put them out to share with the interweb because I am feeling generous and want to improve my Karma. Also, I would like some reviews. If you like Science Fiction or Travel Writing, please have a look. Here is a brief intro:

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 3.25.49 PMCooperworld – In the near future, AI research is strictly controlled by paranoid governments. When a renowned Artificial Intelligence expert illegally decides to create digital life in an simulated universe, he doesn’t at first realise the implications of what he has done. Implications not just for him, but for everyone.
In this short story, I have a light-hearted but fairly philosophical look at what constitutes consciousness and how we perceive reality. Humorous in some parts and deep in others. This is a 17,000 word story.

 

Travel book cover finalAustralia, Morocco, and Thailand: Three true travel tales – These three true stories of fairly perilous travel. Here are what they are roughly about:
While backpacking in my early twenties, I thought I’d give fruit picking a go. Even without the spiders, snakes, and a plague of locusts, things turn out pretty badly.
A trip into the Atlas Mountains with my girlfriend turns out less than romantic when flash floods threaten to wipe out the town. The only escape option is a van full of Berber tribesmen and a waterlogged road on the edge of a cliff.
After moving to the peaceful paradise of Thailand, I pop to the local pub in Bangkok. That evening there is a military coup. In Bangkok. So why can’t I see anything?
These stories are filled with humour and dollops of fear. Recommended for those who enjoy travel stories or just like reading about someone being mildly terrified in foreign countries.

The Uneven Passage of Time cover finalThe Uneven Passage of Time – When I was thinking of trying out writing on Kindle, I went through my short stories and found three that were linked by the idea of ‘Time’. So I published them. Here is the description:

Stephen Hawking once sent out dinner invitations to all future time travellers. No one turned up. But what if one had? In ‘A Date to Remember’ a young physicist is convinced he has worked out the secret to building a time travel device. Lacking the resources to construct the machine he sets a time and date for a meeting with his future self.

It is a truism that people remember the big events in life and forget the repetitive. For most people, their year skips by unnoticed, punctuated by birthdays, world events, big personal milestones or traumatic events. As you age life seems to speed up and you find that the years seem to fly past. ‘As Time Goes By’ is the story of Frank Gilbert who is experiencing this to the extreme. His time seems to be accelerating at an abnormal rate. Years of his repetitive life seem to go by in days. Can he break the cycle in time?

The final and longest short story is ‘The Man Who Loved Statues’. Captain Michael Pike is a man who has taken a bit of hammering in life. With nothing much to live for he volunteers for an experiment that is going to attempt to alter his passage through time and put him in stasis. Things don’t go quite according to plan.

 

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Charge your phone using the power of plants

Bioo plants than can charge your phone

Bioo plants than can charge your phone

Thanks to science, photosynthesis, soil, our lord the Sun and a clever group of people, you can now charge your phone using plant power. Which is pretty ecological and admirable, if it wasn’t for the fact that most people will then be glued to their phone for most of the day like an anti social zombie.

(If you are reading this on your phone/tablet – I am not referring to you, you are awesome and living life to the max.)

As I was saying. Some smart and eager types from a company called Bioo (www.bioo.tech) have designed a plant pot where the soil, plant, photosynthesis, and magic all lead to a USB that can charge you device. It can charge your device several times a day, assuming the plant is up for it. You need the pot though, you can’t just plug into a handy tree while in a beer garden or whatever. (Do that next Bioo!)

I live in the tropics and frankly there is too much photosynthesis going on and so might as well tap into it. The plants on out balcony having been getting a free ride for too long (although I like the whole carbon dioxide to oxygen thing, so have let them slide).

Shallow remarks aside, I think this sort of thing is superb. Along with advances in using solar power in the news recently – Germany leading the way – places like Portugal running for four days straight on renewable energy, Tesla’s Powerwall and so on, humanity is finally getting its act together. On this particular issue anyway.

Anyway, plants and phones and small scale power. Here is a much more informative and less opinionated clip explaining more about how you can charge your phone using good old green stuff.

 

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Genuine wrinkle cream that really works

Before and very soon after.

Before and very soon after. Wrinkle cream magic.

Anyone who has not seen this site before will now assume that I am a spammer thanks to a headline about wrinkle cream. I’m sure you have all seen those stupid ads at the bottom of websites that claim to clear wrinkles better than botox. They often have a picture with a wrinkled visage being peeled off to reveal what looks suspiciously like a completely different person’s 20 year-old face. Obviously they are huge liars and don’t seem to care that they are making the internet a worse place to live. Pricks.

Anyway, this is not a scam! It is science and magic. MIT and Harvard teamed up and did some science and then a company called Living Proof made the actual magic potion. It is essentially an invisible second skin. It really seems to knock a decade off your age – at least for a while. Have you seen the end of Game of Thrones season 6 episode 1? Melisandre clearly has some of this stuff.

There is a video that shows it all off better than I can explain. It even has science graphics. I want some of this stuff stockpiled for when I need it a couple of decades from now and my awesome looks begin to slip slightly. Until then my testicles will look magnificent. Enjoy.

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A Holiday in Cambodia

Dear Internet,

Sorry I haven’t written much but, like the Dead Kennedys, I have been partaking in a holiday in Cambodia. If you don’t get the reference, don’t worry about it – they were an old but great punk band.

Dawn over Angkor Wat

Dawn over Angkor Wat

Cambodia is great. I think we lucked out as Mrs Word of Ward and myself have been exploring temples and Angkor Wat and so on, and tourist levels have been really, really low. Cunningly we are here at the hottest time of year, during a particularly bad heat wave (even for Cambodia’s peak heat season), and in a country that is legendarily hot already.

According to my phone the actual temperature has been hovering around 40 Celsius but thanks to humidity, it ‘feels like’ 50. Perfect weather for a shade-less jaunt around some temples. We live in Bangkok, which is far from chilly, but at home we don’t wander about at midday in the direct sun gawking at old temples. In conclusion = it’s hot. Damn hot!

Ta Phrom - the 'Tomb Raider' temple.

Ta Phrom – the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple.

But it has been worth it and when I get back I will bore the interweb with holiday snaps. Holiday snaps of Cambodia are pretty staggering though. Dawn over Angkor Wat was on my Bucket List and it was beautiful. The huge Angkor Tom was amazing. The ‘Tomb Raider’ temple of Ta Phrom was downright cool. We also visited a selection pack of other temples, drank lots on Siem Reap’s ‘Pub Street’, and saw the absolutely incredible Cambodian Circus – Phare.

I will post more soon as our holiday in Cambodia will finally come to an end tomorrow. Hope this finds you well.

 

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Flyboard Air – a real hoverboard

Flyboard Air

Flyboard Air

This is how Green Goblin started and that all turned out fine. Add in some gyroscopes so it can’t flip over, a handrail and the ability to steer with a joystick and I’m in. I’m just over 40 now, so would prefer a flying platform as opposed to a flying skateboard. I like the idea of sipping coffee and eating a boiled egg as I hover my way to work in the morning.

The Flyboard Air is being flown here by a lucky fellow called Franky Zapata and it looks like a lot of fun over a lake. I wonder if it could make it over the channel…

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4 minute video of Space X launches is damned inspiring

(Feel free to skip my rant and just see the clip at the bottom. I apologise in advance.)

Space X doing their thing

Space X doing their thing

I’m not going to tiptoe around this – we should go into space and anyone who disagrees is either a short sighted idiot or a massively, colossally selfish individual who only cares about themselves and the next generation or two. (Unless you hope for some kind of apocalypse – which is a dumb plan – what do you think the world you great grandkids will live in?) They are also putting a downer on one of the few amazing and inspiring things about humans – our sense of wonder and exploration.

Governments are now mostly blowing all our money on war and bailing out bankers, so it is more of a moot point. Thankfully forward looking entrepreneurs are stepping in and financing space exploration, so if you think more should be spent on healthcare – and it should – go shout at a politician. There was a great quote from Professor Brian Cox saying that the British Government spent more money bailing out the bankers than they have on science since Jesus. Which is pretty depressing.

What is great about space exploration these days is that there are big organisations and nations working together (like NASA and ESA), and these huge players are teaming up with private companies like Space X and Virgin Galactic, who are using cutting edge tech to really push the boundaries at an incredible rate. All this is my rather long winded way of saying how amazing it is that Space X has gone from a rocket that can hop a little bit, to a rocket that can deliver stuff to the Space Station and then land on a sodding barge at sea. All in 4 years.

I’m inspired and excited by shit like this and if you aren’t, I feel a bit sorry for you. If anyone from NASA/ESA/Space X/Virgin Glactic reads this and you want someone to go into space and write about it – thewordofward@gmail.com is my address.

Enjoy the clip.

 

 

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iPad Pro review for writers

1459847976151-170881345I have had my beloved iPad Pro for about 4 months now. I always said when I got the iPad 1 that I couldn’t wait until they brought out a larger one, so you can imagine my delight when a mere 5 years later I was able to upgrade. The original one still works – the hardware at least, the software is somewhat reluctant to run that slow. Poor old thing.

The iPad Pro was a pretty bastardly expensive device but I was able to justify it quite easily. For one thing, I had saved a fortune by skipping all the versions between 1 and Pro.

I should also point out that I am writing using the Logitech keyboard and writing about the big iPad.

Personal Writing

The iPad Pro satisfies all my personal writing needs. As in the stuff I do for fun, like this blog, www.scifiward.com, my short stories (see top right), and a couple of books I am writing. My personal preference at the moment for novels is to write all notes, characters, place description, plot drafts, etc, in One Note, and then write the draft on Ulysses. I know you can make notes on Ulysses but I find it distracting to have to switch out of what I am writing to check on something. As the iPad Pro has the option to pull in another screen from the right, it makes checking notes on One Note a lot easier. You can pull it just a little in, for a quick check, or go for full-on half screen action.

For everything else, there is Word or a ton of other writing apps. Sadly no Scrivener, but you can’t have everything. I am writing this on the iPad Pro, so WordPress is obviously ok.

Professional Writing

Sadly, for now, I still have a full-time day job and have the gloriously underwhelming job title of Senior Content Writer. My first ever job, when I was 18, was a ‘Reporter’, which sounds a lot cooler. Anyway, I have to write a variety of stuff. Sometimes it is on the Internet, Word, PDF, proofreading artwork, writing brochures, and so on. All of these are pretty much fine on their own, but I sometimes have to combine things from a variety of sources and double check facts on the Internet. That is where it starts to get tricky and I frequently have to bring my phone into play just to have a separate screen to play with.

So it is largely ok but sometimes just a bit quicker and much less confusing to go old-school and use a laptop if I need a lot of windows open. I should also add that the more I use the IPad Pro, the more I get used to doing things slightly different from a laptop. The feeling of being slightly restricted while on a tablet diminishes with use. You adjust. Mostly.

iPad Keyboard

As I said earlier, I use the backlit Logitech keyboard, and it is a delight to write on. I find it just as good as my 12″ MacBook Air to touch-type on. Obviously experiences vary. The only real downside is that with the keyboard attached, it is basically a laptop in relation to its size and weight. Although it is a laptop that has an incredible battery (over 10 hours if gaming or watching films, longer for writing) and I can fully recharge it using a portable battery bank. Also, this is what I have been wanting for half a decade – a MacBook Air where you can detach the screen and use it for films/books/comics/internet, etc.

Non-writing related stuff

Writing aside, the iPad Pro is just an incredible tablet. It is possible that I am easily impressed having come from an iPad 1 but for reading comics, watching films, surfing the web, or gaming, it is the best tablet I have seen or researched. The four speakers sound great and the screen is crisp and lovely. Basically, all the stuff you do on a tablet but with a bigger better screen.

I have also started drawing again. I’m not great but it was a something I enjoyed when younger and I have been carrying drawing pads and pencil sets from country to country for decades now. I am also going to use it to design book covers, so it all kind of ties in.

Conclusion

For writers, I think the iPad Pro is bloody superb. It takes a while to get used to but with the Logitech keyboard, it is surprisingly easy. If you are a business type and do presentations and need multiple media outputs or whatever the hell you people do, then this probably isn’t for you. Apple keep saying this can replace a laptop and I don’t really think it can. I do about 95% of things on my iPad but my needs are simple. I said earlier that this was what I had been waiting for but I actually want the full OS experience, perhaps with a button that switches to iOS. Make this happen Apple!

I don’t know if this review will help anyone but before I bought my iPad Pro I was looking for exactly this, so maybe it will help someone somewhere. If you disagree and think this review is flawed feel free to discuss it with your friends. I don’t care.

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Eggstatic – stroboscopic Easter Egg patterns

drik3pounquyrlxz4lf6I just realised it was Easter thanks to Facebook. It’s not that big a holiday out here in South East Asia, possibly it is because it is the hottest part of the year and all chocolate just melts with minutes. But more likely it is because the whole Easter egg/ rabbit thing is pagan and the internet was really crap back then, so no one really got into it.

Which is a shame, as I would have loved a day off designing complicated devices and designs for eggs. These are really cool. I can sum up with: Eggs + computing skills + robot + camera/strobe + imagination = cool Easter eggs. Check out the video below.

Youtube description:

Various patterns are generated in Matlab using mathematical equations similar to ones describing Spirograph (or harmonograph) and Phyllotaxis. The patterns are calculated in such a way that when rotated under a stroboscopic light of suitable frequency or when recorded by a camera, they start to animate. It is kind of zoetrope— early device for animation. Eggs were painted using EggBot (designed by Bruce Shapiro as open hardware and available as a kit from http://www.evilmadscientist.com/). To draw on eggs, we used standard permanent markers and an electro kistka with bee wax followed by dying. Eggs are rotated at a constant speed, special for each pattern, by a brushless motor. No computer graphics tricks are used in the video.

Author: Jiri Zemanek (Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Department of Control Engineering, http://aa4cc.dce.fel.cvut.cz/)

Here is the clip. Happy Easter pagans!

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Loving Vincent

LovingvincentLoving Vincent is the only film of its kind and it hasn’t even been finished yet. It has been all over social media recently as they are finally getting close after a mere 6 years and have released a trailer.

The idea is to make a film made entirely out of paintings. As in a painting in the style of Van Gogh for every single frame. Hence the 6 years and 85 exhausted artists (and counting). The result, as you can see in the trailer below, is pretty astounding.

Loving Vincent is a project that was begun by Hugh Welchman, the Oscar winning animator of Peter and the Wolf in 2006. He saw the Royal Academy’s van Gogh show in 2010 and decided he really needed a ridiculously long and involved project to sink his teeth into.

Here is an intro that has some more information and several scenes from the trailer (which is at the bottom):

I love Vincent van Gogh’s work and I’m not just saying that to impress hot art students. (Although I may have been guilty of that sort of thing in my youth.) I saw his show in London and have also been to the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. If that isn’t enough, I have also been to the house at St Remy that used to be an asylum where he lived and did a ton of paintings. It’s a pretty amazing place if you happen to be in that part France. They have van Gogh pictures in the locations where he painted them, which is a pretty nifty idea. Also, the entire setting is bloody lovely and has lavender at certain times of year. We went in May and here is a picture:

Where Vincent van Gogh lived in Southern France

Where Vincent van Gogh lived in Southern France

Good memories and I am sure it will feature in the film. Loving Vincent is due to come out in the autumn and will star Saoirse Ronan and Aidan Turner. I hope I get to see it in the cinema, because it looks incredible. For more information, check out the website: http://www.lovingvincent.com

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Stretchable electronics

stretchySome very clever people have been doing some very clever things with liquid metal and plastics/polymers/general stretchy stuff. Or something. The result of this cleverness is electronics that can be stretched to up to four times its original length. It also means that you can integrate circuits and technology into clothes. Frankly, you aren’t connected enough to the internet, so here is a way to literally surround yourself with tech.

If I understand correctly you may even get things like haptic feedback, which will make VR games awesome if, for example, you are playing a first person shooter and are wearing a smart vest. And, because you are probably thinking it too, smart pants for watching dirty movies. (I hope I am not the only one who immediately thought of that.)

Thanks to sensors there are other applications for stretchable electronics. Imagine an amputee with this stuff on a prosthetic hand – they might feel again. Or again in VR you could have this in a glove and feel stuff. (Trying not to think about porn again.) There are even some ways that this stuff can store power, so you can charge your phone with your socks or whatever.

There has been research into this for a while now, but recently some real advances have been made. At least I think that is what happened in my several intense minutes of research I have conducted. Now they just need a cool Star Trek type name for it because stretchable electronics is rubbish. Elastech or strectronics or something.
Smart pants, here we come.

 

 

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I am now swapping Scrivener for Ulysses

In case you don’t know what the words in the header mean, they are programs/apps for writers. If you don’t know either program then you may find this article rather dull.

scrivenerI have been plotting a novel for what feels like a decade. An epic fantasy full of rogues and sizzling hot female pirates. I have tried doing it in Word and having all my notes in a separate book, but it all ends up being too chaotic and hard to find specific little things. Five or six years ago I discovered Scrivener and bloody loved it. It was designed for writers working on complicated projects and was therefore ideal for someone trying to write science fiction and fantasy novels, where you are creating entire worlds populated by exotic beasts and peoples. That requires a lot of work and you need to reference things easily. The dream is obviously to be much admired and have obsessive fans nitpick through your work and find inconsistencies which they share with the similarly obsessed – these mistakes obviously need to be at a minimum however, and the file system of Scrivener is superb and intuitive.

It is managing the peripheral notes and ideas that I personally find so difficult when writing something longer. So for the last five years I have loved Scrivener. But like so many writers, the lack of a tablet app has finally proved too much. Especially when I upgraded from an iPad 1 straight to an iPad pro and increasingly write on that. I use Word Online (or whatever it is called) for my writing day job, so tried that while plotting a novel. It is too linear and difficult to skip from section to section and while Onenote is pretty good for plotting I don’t want to write on it or use it in combination with Word. I tried using Evernote (which I use a lot) but while it was great for notes, I don’t like writing at length on it either.

There are some work arounds for Scrivener, like syncing through Simplenote, but it kind of sucked. I needed something that was like Scrivener but wasn’t Scrivener, which made me feel strangely sad and disloyal, but what are you going to do? I did a lot of research and it basically came down to Storyist and Ulysses. Both are similar and probably equally great once you are used to them. My final decision came down to two factors:

1/ Storyist had slightly more negative reviews (as in articles, not the app store).

2/ Ulysses was cheaper.

I am now plotting away on Ulysses and it has been great. It looks and works great on the iPad too. It is a lot simpler that Scrivener but I was never that into doing complicated anyway. I need tabs for things like characters, plots, places and world-building and that’s great on Ulysses. I even drew a map on the iPad and that is now conveniently tucked in as an attachment. Frankly, the more I use Ulysses, the more I like it.

ulysses-overviewIf Scrivener finally releases and iPad app I may be tempted back but it would have to be pretty amazing and it has a lot of catching up to do. Scrivener has been about to launch an app for about 5 years now, and that means a lot of people would have moved on and quite a few who never even started with it. It also doesn’t exactly inspire confidence with updates and new features. Frankly, I’m not holding my breath.

So, sad to say, goodbye Scrivener and hello Ulysses. For now at least.

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Our Solar System is a vortex

I'm not a scientist, but there are a few glaring errors in this picture.

I’m not a scientist, but there are a few glaring errors in this picture: orbits, scale, alignment, etc. But it looks pretty.

Apparently the standard animation showing the planets rotating around the sun doesn’t really show the whole picture. This video says the helical model is incorrect and we should embrace the vortex, but I think we can just say it is a different perspective and just get along.

What is true, for me at least, is that although I knew the solar system was flying around the super black hole at the middle of the galaxy (which is itself on the move), I never really envisage that movement. This clip shows that movement thanks to nifty graphics and it turns out to be really cool. Not only is the visual fascinating but it has allowed me to write phrases like ’embrace the vortex’ and ‘super black hole’. Which is always satisfying. Now watch, learn and by inspired by the awesome vortex of gravitational power!

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy CNY!

Happy CNY!

Happy Chinese New Year from everyone here at the Word of Ward offices. I was born in Hong Kong and spent 21 years there so I will use the Cantonese version – Gung Hey Fat Choy! 

In Mandarin, they say Gong Xi Fa Cai.

20160208_191910Obviously the best place to be for Chinese New Year is Hong Kong. They have one of the most spectacular fireworks shows on the planet. This is a place that has a pretty damned impressive laser and light show every day lighting up skyscrapers and the harbour, so when they try to impress, they know what they are doing. I imagine the rest of China has fun stuff going on too as do a lot of Chinatowns. Or, as I did, you can go to the EmQuartier shopping mall in Bangkok and see a 40 meter shining silver robotic dragon come to life and fire steam and light all over the place. Oh, and there were dancers, drummers, aerial acrobats, the Monkey God Hanuman and some kind of hot Chinese Princess rising up over everyone (she was probably representing someone famous but I am an ignorant soul).

20160208_202206I even uploaded a video to Youtube, I was that impressed. In the video below, the dragon bellows for a couple of minutes, but you can see the dancers and so on at the bottom. Then on the right a lady rises up and there is a brave chap spinning around in the air.

If you were there it was bloody impressive. Gung Hey Fat Choy and enjoy.

 

 

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Far Cry 4 review

far_cry_4Welcome to roughly forty hours of my life. Far Cry 4 is a colossal sandbox adventure in the fictional kingdom of Kyrat – which is basically a fictional Nepal or Tibet. There are Himalayan mountains and jungles and generally a ton of gorgeous scenery. And Shangri La.

You play a fellow called Ajay Gale and as the game starts, you learn that you are an American but you have some kind of major connection to the Kyrat. In fact by the end of the opening scene (see below), also seem to have some connection to the nutcase who is in charge of the place. As the game progresses, you slowly learn more about yourself. What is most important to know, however, is that you go from a bumbling tourist to a one man, highly be-weaponed killing machine in about half an hour. Your/Ajay’s parents were highly skilled terrorists, so maybe familiarity with weapons and ridiculous levels of murder are genetic.

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Jump on an elephant and kill!

Far Cry 4’s story is actually pretty good but the most important question is – is it fun? Obviously the answer is yes, or I would have to have been a pretty bored individual to play it for forty hours. As well as the main story, which can actually be done in probably 10 hours or less, there are a million other side missions and quests and sub plots and so on. You can go hunting, ride an elephant into an army base goring enemy soldiers as you go along. You can hand glide through stunning scenery then drop down into a lake to find hidden treasure. You can even go into an arena and take part in gladiator-style battles armed with a machine gun and fighting psychopaths and tigers. There are also weird adventures in Shangri-La, sub-plots featuring a serial killer who leaves possessed masks around. Also, and these are a lot of fun, there are missions where you try out various drug cocktails and go on insane drug-induced escapades. Oh, and there are also yetis.

When adventuring in Shangri-La you get a pet tiger. Called Mr Fluffington (joke).

When adventuring in Shangri-La you get a pet tiger. Called Mr Fluffington (joke).

So there is a shitload to do and you can do it all online with a friend to help you out, if you want.

If you have played Far Cry games before, or any sandbox game really, you will know what to expect. What sets titles like Far Cry, Skyrim, Fallout 4 and GTA apart are that they are fun, inventive and damned well made. They are also colossal and look gorgeous, which is a bonus. I have seen a photography exhibition based on photos taken purely within games and I imagine quite a few masterpieces will come out of Far Cry 4.

Apart from all the death, it's a really nice place.

Apart from all the death, it’s a really nice place.

I could go on but I can’t be bothered. I have some writing targets to hit and some wasteland to explore in Fallout 4. Here is the intro to Far Cry 4 and If you look below that there is a spoiler as to how you can finish the game in 15 minutes – and it is absolutely genius and a masterful bit game writing.

Enjoy:

SPOILER:

Ok, so if you sat through all that you will know that the crazy mad guy, Pagan Min, said to wait. In the game, you don’t. You get up and wander about and then get caught up in a mad adventure. At the end of 40-50 hours of killing, you battle your way back to the fortress and confront Pagan Min. He tells you about your past and his relationship with your mum, and shows you a shrine before handing the kingdom over and flying off in a helicopter. BUT, if you had just waited at the opening section like he told you, the same thing happens. Obviously you don’t then get to play the whole game, so it is probably only of interest to those who have finished already. Anyway, I thought it was a cool Easter egg and thought I’d share.

Holiday snaps of Kyrat

Holiday snaps of Kyrat. Thanks for the memories Far Cry 4

 

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