Amazon Prime Air

In a few years we will be in a fabulous and impatient science fiction-esque world with unmanned vehicles flying stuff to your very front door. But this is not appearing on the awesome Scifiward website as it is soon to be a reasonably exciting reality. As early as 2015 if Amazon is to be believed. Here is the idea: you place an order and a quad-copter thing flies it to your house. Pretty cool right? Here is a lovely picture:

Amazon Prime Air

Amazon Prime Air

Although I personally think it will be brilliant to have robots flying all over the place, I foresee a few problems with this:

It will only be for Prime customers. So it might be a fairly pricey object being delivered. Consequently it may be a target for ne’er-do-wells.

Even if it isn’t a target because of its perceived value, it still may have something fun inside it like a DVD or Bluray or whatever. Like a ‘mystery box’ of the air. People will try and shoot it down.

Even if it isn’t even carrying anything, people will try and take it down because people are just dicks. In Britain, they will try and take it down with stones or whatever. In America they have guns. In other countries they fire weapons in the air because they are happy/angry on a daily basis.

What if you live in a flat?

I can’t see me using this service very often myself. The main things I buy these days are books (delivered to my kindle through the internet), films (mostly downloaded legally or on Netflix) and games (download or Christmas gifts). The only thing I have delivered are Blurays, but with increasing bandwidths and cheaper cloud storage, I won’t even need that. But that’s just me.

However, I may change my tune if the following comes to pass. I am going to assume the drones will be able to zoom in on your mobile phone location as that is pretty damn easy to do. If this is the case and they deliver from their entire range then presumably I will be able to lie in a field on a summer’s day and with a tap of a finger can have a bottle of wine or a six-pack of ale delivered to my location. If that happens I will welcome this technology heartily.

Here is a clip:

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Sherlock Holmes Season 3

Sherlock Holmes Season 3

Sherlock Holmes Season 3

Ok, I’ll keep this brief. Like the trailer. #sherlocklives pretty much explains what it’s all about. We knew that anyway as you see him at the end of the final episode of season 2. The big shock here is Martin Freeman’s/Watson’s facial hair. I guess it was the ‘Singular Case of the Movember Murders’ Sherlock Holmes’ story (which was a cracker). Here you go:

 

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Octoberfest Munich

I’m a bit late with this, given that we got back from Octoberfest a month ago but it stays pretty much the same each year. So for those who are merely interested, this will be a fascinating account as usual. For people going to Octoberfest 2014, this should give a bit of a heads up as to what to expect. Hint: bring Berocca. I wrote this soon after we got back to London.

OCTOBERFEST!!! What is there to say? My bucket list has been pretty shortened recently what with a visit to Pompeii and now a slurring stumble through OCTOBERFEST!!! (That’s how it has to be pronounced I’m afraid.)

Augustiner tent

Augustiner tent

So what is OCTOBERFEST!!! (alright, I’ll stop now) actually like? Mrs Word of Ward and myself were a bit mental in that we went in October. Most of it is in September, but the Bavarians obviously decided Septemberfest sounded stupid. I highly recommend going mid-week because it can get ridiculously busy at weekends or holidays. Our first day was a Monday and we found a seat in several ‘tents’ pretty easily, which was a relief and erroneously made us think things would always be this civilised. Each time we moved to a new tent we wandered about, found a bench, then chatted to the other inebriates at the table. It was a pleasant international pissup indeed and a fine way to start the week.

Here’s a breakdown of things as they happened.

We arrived at around 3pm and headed for one of the bigger tents – the legendary Augustiner Festhalle (www.festhalle-augustiner.com). We found a seat pretty quickly – between an older couple from Vancouver and a group of drunken Italians. A middle aged German waitress, who was very much in charge and a little bit scary, took our order. Which was pretty easy because there were just two options – a litre of lager or nothing. She then took several other orders. Five minutes later she was back and carrying TEN litres of beer. Just one is heavy, ten beers weighs more than my wife. Probably.

There is a band in each Octoberfest tent and every 15 minutes or so they play a drinking song which then necessitates everyone to cheers each other. Or specifically – say ‘Prost’ and smack glasses together. Everyone on our table chatted to each and it was all remarkably friendly. The Augustiner beer is probably my favourite lager there and I pride myself on being a beer connoisseur/mild alcoholic.

Octoberfest

Octoberfest

After our first litre we went for a wander. The festival is a bit like a standard fair with several roads lined with food stalls, fairground games, a few rides, and lots of drunks (the latter are common in British fairs too but at least here there is an excuse). The Octoberfest beer halls are immense – some can hold up to 10,000 people. The amount of beer being drunk is quite awesome and inspiring to behold.

We decided to check out a few more of the beer halls because that was the whole point of being at Octoberfest after all. We had a guide we had printed from the all-knowing internet that gave a rough overview of each hall and their differences and specialties. Frankly, by our fourth ‘Festhalle’, we realised that they were all pretty much the same. A massive hall with a band in it and tons of wasted people singing and shouting ‘prost’ every few minutes while incredibly strong German women charged around with tankards of ale. Of course it could also have been that after four litres (actually a bit more as I gallantly helped Mrs Word of Ward with some of hers), your ability to analyse, discern, or even see is somewhat compromised.

As the evening wore on, the halls got more and more packed and the people got more and more drunk. By the time we left I was amazed that so many were still able to walk, although there were a few casualties sleeping it off here and there. If this had been anywhere in Britain there would have been fights, vomiting, rioting, random nudity and so forth, but the Octoberfest was ridiculously nice.

20131001_155321On the second day we got there in the early afternoon and it was noticeably more packed. It was the 2nd of October and the 3rd is German reunification day and a national holiday. It seemed as if everyone had taken the afternoon off, knowing they could sleep in the next day. We went to a tent called Schützen-Festzelt (www.schuetzen-festzelt.de) as it was legendary for its suckling pig. Unlike the previous day, it was a nightmare finding a seat. After half an hour we lucked out when a group of young, traditionally dressed Germans took pity and let us join them at the end of their table. From that point on, the aisles started to fill with people so we really were quite fortunate. We ordered more beer and the tent specialty – roasted piggy. The huge slab of pig and crackling was amazing. Perfect beer food. Our table was entirely local Bavarians and the smaller tent felt very German. I didn’t hear any other languages being spoken anywhere and we felt a bit left out when loads of German beer songs started to get sung. By the end of our epic porcine breakfast/lunch the place was heaving and it was a relief to get out.

We wandered around a bit more but the crowds were getting pretty oppressive. We then found a seat outside a tent and got a couple more litres in. Our table was once again full of chatty local Munich people. They asked if I thought German was a harsh language, which was hard to answer without being rude. I basically stated that at least it wasn’t French and left it at that. Some guys started singing and suddenly everyone else did too. This had a slightly more passionate edge to it than the happy go lucky drinking tunes of the tents and one of our neighbours explained that it was a football thing.

It was then that we realised that it really is essential to be inside a beer hall. Being outside in a beer garden, we could have been anywhere and the atmosphere inside was a hell of a lot more fun.

After a couple more halls we were done. It was too busy. By 7pm, there were now queues forming outside each beer hall and we couldn’t be bothered. One tent, called Fischer Vroni was famous for fish. Outside they were cooking them whole over a long line of coal. We bought one and it was bloody delicious. I highly recommend it. At 16 Euros, it was expensive but it really was worth it. Also each beer costs 10 Euros, so it’s all relative.

Awesome fish at Fischer Vroni

Awesome fish at Fischer Vroni

So what tips can give?

-Bring lots of money. A bottle of water was 4 Euros, and beer was 10 (actually a bit under that but the waitresses really deserved a tip).

-Pick your day carefully. If it’s a weekend or holiday then get to the tents early. You can book a table for a couple of hours if it’s busy but otherwise it is fun to wander around and share seats. Most tents have a reserved area and a free-for-all area.

-Most evenings get pretty packed. Be prepared to queue. Or beat the system and get drunk early.

-The atmosphere inside the tents is much more fun than outside.

-The food can be pricey but they are American (or Bavarian) sized portions and are good for two people. Unless you are American or Bavarian.

-Eat the fish cooked over coals, it’s seriously nice.

-As I said at the start – bring Berocca.

Erm… that’s all I can think of. Octoberfest is pretty much what you imagine it will be. A massive pissup organised by Germans and enjoyed by all. In a tent.

 

 

 

 

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LLSB – Long Live Southbank

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

This is primarily about the LLSB, Long Live Southbank campaign but it also rambles charmingly on about London in general. So if you aren’t a Londoner but one day hope to visit, consider this an incentive. Alternatively, if you are into skateboarding, check out the video at the end.

southbank human statueOne of the joys of being a Londoner is just the sheer amount of stuff that is going on all the time. Truly if you are bored of London, you are a boring bastard indeed. There is not just so much going on that you feel guilty every time you browse an issue of Time Out, there is also a ridiculous variety of things all around. I love all the book readings by famous authors, comedy nights, world famous bands playing live, the greatest selection of theatres on the planet, the markets, the pubs, parks, and random events like boat races/fireworks/pageants/random art happenings/street performances, etc. There are also things I don’t really give a shit about – opera, human statues, invigorating swims outside in the winter, performance art, vegetarian restaurants, chessboxing, religion, skateboarding, and so on.

But just because I don’t give a shit about these latter examples doesn’t mean I don’t want them around. They add something to the city.

Southbank-bookstallFor example, a place I love is the Southbank. This stretch on the south side of the Thames holds pretty much everything I have mentioned in both lists (not sure about chessboxing but I wouldn’t be surprised). It has Shakespeare’s Globe theatre (which must be experienced), the British Film Institute, the London Eye, Tate Modern, second hand books stalls, bars, restaurants, theatres and art galleries. It even has a beach!

It has also a place for skateboarders which has been there since I was a kid. As I said, I don’t really care much about skateboarding but the Southbank skateboard park is something I would be very sad to see disappear. It adds to London’s diversity. It seems a fun place for all the young youth-types to hang around. It’s always a laugh watching someone trying to show off and falling flat on their face. Besides, the area has been dedicated to the skateboarders for 40 years. Everyone likes it, including tourists.

LFA-south-bank-skateboarding_jpg_573x380_crop_q85The problem, no matter what the council’s argument claims to be, is that the skateboarders don’t make any money for Lambeth whereas a Starbucks/Wagamamas/Nandos/whatever will.

If the Southbank skateboard park is shut and replaced with chain shops/restaurants, it can only be a bad thing for a city trying to stay one of the top places for art,creativity, and diversity. I think it will be a massive shame to lose this. So do lots of others. Consequently, the LLSB or Long Live Southbank was set up.

I wrote most of this because they have now made a short video that they want to try and go viral. It’s actually really interesting, even if you aren’t into skateboarding. (Their website is here and is worth a look: http://www.llsb.com/)

At least watch the video and make your mind up. I learned some new things.

 

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Rising seas interactive map

A friend just posted this on Facebook. It’s basically a map that shows what will happen if the sea levels rise due to all the ice melting. I have a house in Essex, live in London and will probably end up living in Bangkok at some point. According to this map, I should practice swimming. I found it interesting and thought I would share. There is a link below this picture of a damper than usual Europe.

RS_Web_EU_8M_v3

Rising Seas Interactive Map link

Thanks National Geographic.

 

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Game and Watch

Game and Watch

Game and Watch

When I was a nipper in the early 80s I was addicted to my Game and Watch collection. Whenever I was forced out of the flat and my away from my Atari, I always had my one of these bad boys on my person. Sometimes more. I was the school champion at both Octopus and Fire and still managed to be incredibly popular and good at rounders.

Well, the other day I found an online emulator where you can play a ton of old hand-held LCD based games. Donkey Kong, Octopus and so on. They are really well done and will probably cause a nostalgic tear or two if you are old enough. If you are younger then you will probably rejoice that the world of hand-held gaming has changed and go back to Candy Crush on your phone. Smug little bastard.

Without further ado, here is a link. Hark back to a simpler time and simpler pleasures. Now I’m off to play GTA5.

http://www.pica-pic.com/

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The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense

This comes courtesy of Richard Dawkins – a man who loathes anyone who believes in anything that is provably bollocks. Which is a hell of a lot of stuff. If you believe in any of the below then fair play to you. Just don’t look into it too hard. Like testing things under controlled conditions or really doing research into the topic or anything like that.

To be honest, I would quite like a lot of these to be true. Finding Bigfoot or being able to levitate or seeing a ghost (when you haven’t coincidentally just woken up) would be amazing and make the world much more interesting. In my superb opinion – if they make you feel good then go for it. I honestly don’t care what you believe. Just please, I beg you, don’t try and talk others into your point of view.

Anyway, prepare to have your cynicism levels seriously boosted.

 

The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense

The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense

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Telekinetic Powers in a Coffee Shop

This is pretty damned funny. I can only assume the people involved were brought up to speed afterward or they will now be gibbering wrecks curled up under their beds.

It was all done to promote the new Carrie film where a girl gets some stuff spilt on her and then massively overreacts. So it’s like a mini trailer. Enjoy.

How often should you blog?

Write more!

Write more!

This has been a question that has been bugging me for literally 10-15 minutes. Maybe even slightly longer.

I consulted the all-knowing internet and discovered to my horror that opinions were divided on the matter. Some said several short posts a day, others a longer post once a week or two. The divergence ended there thankfully, this wasn’t a youtube comments section or anything.

I have read a few blogs that has one plucky blogger posting several times a day and it ends up feeling like a fairly dull diary or even worse – a twitter feed by a bored narcissist. Blogging is pretty narcissistic as it is (I also work as a journalist so my opinions count more, it’s official) so I wanted to avoid that.

On the other hand, anything more than a 10 day gap between entries ends up with a noticeable dip in readership.

As you probably know if you read this fantastic site regularly I tend to write slightly longer blog entries every five to ten days or so. This is mostly because I am busy with other stupid jobs/life commitments/exciting social events but also because I am lazy and overly verbose without an editor. Plus, this has always been a hobby.

One thing that most bloggers do seem to agree on is that inconsistency is bad. My website has slowly climbed to about 5000 hits a day over a period of years. Which is ok but not great. I want great. So I have decided to take the whole thing a lot more seriously and will henceforth try and be more regular. I am going to aim for twice a week. I will let you know how that affects things re readership in case you are a fellow blogger and are curious about this sort of thing. Which, if you are reading this, you probably are. (Apologies to everyone else, this may have been dull.)

This bound-to-be life changing decision will take effect in the middle of October. I am currently on holiday in Germany drinking litres of beer in preparation. You can’t blog during Octoberfest my friends.

 

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Going On Holiday

Yes, The Word of Ward and Mrs Word of Ward are off on holiday. We leave tomorrow for sunny and welcoming Germany. I love Germany and am massively looking forward to schnitzels, sausages, sauerkraut, litres of beer, and a transport system that actually works. Ignoring a couple of unpleasant World Wars, the Brits get on pretty well with the Germans. We are of similar tribal stock back in the day and both love a good scrap. The efficient tribe members stayed there and the more creative ones went to the rainier but more exciting isles of Blighty. Consequently they have a good transport network and well run economy while we invented everything (trains, TVs, computers, the world wide web, the industrial revolution, etc) and have all the best bands, actors, writers, etc. A fair split I think.

Octoberfest

Octoberfest

Our first stop will be Munich where we will be visiting a quaint little festival called OCTOBERFEST!!! Which will be another bucket-list item ticked. I had heard that there is a tent just for the British/Irish/Australians and South Africans as they tend to be the most into beer and fighting and vomiting and so forth, so it’s good to keep them contained. As an English/Irish/Australian writer I find these stereotypes pretty shocking. I would complain more but I’m on my fourth pint and can’t be arsed.

After four days of this, assuming my liver hasn’t exploded, we are taking the train to Berlin. Where we shall partake of art and cabaret and general coolness until we can’t take any more. Think of Bowie and Iggy Pop when they lived there – like that but without all the heroin. It’s going to be awesome.

We’ve both been to Munich before but not OCTOBERFEST!!! (Sorry, but it has to be written that way.) I’ve also been to Berlin before but it was in the late 90s and may possibly have changed a little. So we will be seeing a lot of stuff. But not so much that we won’t be taking time out to chill and write and quaff ales in wifi enabled coolness holes.

I just thought a heads up to my lovely readers was in order on the off chance that my liver does explode. But as an English+Irish+Australian+writer’s liver it is pretty damn hardy.

So expect some exciting photos in the near future!

Auf Wiedersehen for now!

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Kids toys are crazy

Stick and a hoop. Classic.

Stick and a hoop. Classic.

I have been working a lot recently, which is a shame as work is officially bad for you (probably). It’s certainly detrimental to your brain when you work in the TV industry and have to work on kids’ TV channels for twelve hours in a row. This mental stress is increased still further when you get to the adverts and see what kind of bat-shit craziness passes for toys these days.

If you have kids/sticky little humans of your own, you may already be aware of some of these products. I don’t. Consequently their toys are new to me and frankly, they are just fucking bizarre. I won’t even be mentioning little girls’ dolls that pee and crap themselves as I find them genuinely scary. I’m just looking at the odd here. It baffles me how someone thought these would be good fun, how they got the funding, how they persuaded shops to sell them, who would buy them for their kids, and so on. Ok, you will see what I mean. I just picked four, but there are tons of these things.

Silly Moo Action Game

Are your kids fascinated by farming? In particular milking cows? Are they worried about the whole milk vs cowshit problems endemic with the business? If yes, then check out the Silly Moo Action Game! Milk a cow and win when milk comes out or lose when it shits itself! The game ends when the cow’s eyes pop out. Brilliant.

Ned’s Head

In this game, a dismembered head is placed on a table and kiddywinks reach in through the ears/mouth/whatever and try to pull out aliens or brains or rats or – if you freeze right at the end around 00:13 and look beneath the rat on the right hand side – what looks like a shit-stained diaper. Fun!

Gooey Louie

Sticking with the ‘head on a table’ theme, we now have Gooey Louie. In this one, the head sneezes and the aim is to pull out his snot. If you pull the wrong snot, then his brains explode out of his head! Seriously. That’s the game.

Doggie Doo

Finally we come to doggie doo. A genius mash-up of some of the above ideas. You feed the plastic dog, squeeze a pump, and then catch a dog-shit on a shovel. The end. Look how happy they all are!

Imagine 12 hours of this and you will see why have another job.

 

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The Sound of Space – Voyager has left the system.

voyager2_largeVoyager has officially left the solar system. NASA said so and they seem pretty certain about it.

Voyager 1 was launched in September 1977, 36 years ago. I was 5 years old and it has remained an awe inspiring achievement throughout my life. It’s one of those things that humanity occasionally does that makes me feel proud of it. Good work humanity. The ability to look outward and the desire to explore and learn is a trait that should be encouraged. Sadly this trait was soon after rejected because we need more money for wars and bailing out banks and so forth.

I’m going to try not to rant about this but to put things in perspective, the UK spends £4.6 billion a year on science. That’s ALL science. The bank bailout is expected to cost the country over a TRILLION pounds since 2007. Just the bailout of RBS cost the taxpayer £46 billion. So when someone whinges about space exploration costing too much money, they are talking bollocks. Anyway, Branson is going to do it now, so the government and the whingebags can piss off.

Back to Voyager. The mission took some brilliant photos of Jupiter and Saturn and their associated moons. Our knowledge base has grown massively. It single handedly inspired the opening sequence to Star Trek Voyager when it flies through the rings of Saturn (probably). Speaking of Star Trek –  there is also the possibility that Voyager will return and be super-intellgent thanks to some sentient machines it may meet in the far future, like in Star Trek the Motion picture. These are just a few perks in addition to the knowledge and pictures.

Voyager returns in Star Trek 1 movie.

Voyager returns in Star Trek 1 movie.

One curious thing that I have personally discovered, is that Voyager has discovered sounds in space. I think. They are waves emanating from the sun and are recorded and sound like a noise. Another thing that I discovered is that the sound of space is pretty damned terrifying! Imagine the sound-track to a ‘space horror’ movie mixed with the sounds used in a scifi show to show ‘advanced aliens are up to something’ and that’s the sound. Downright eerie! (You can hear it below.)

I just wanted to say good work Voyager 1 (and 2) and all those involved in the project. I look forward to being a head in a jar in 40,000 years’ time when it makes it through the black bit between stars.

Here’s a short 2 minute with the terrifying sounds of space. Sail on!

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Intermittent Fasting. The 5:2 Diet.

I’m currently on my second 84 hour work week which would suck if TV didn’t pay by the hour. When I’m not working in the glittering world of watching telly professionally, I work as a journalist. In my spare time I write fiction, play computer games and go to the pub/ out for dinner. To summarize then: I need to lose a stone in weight.

So for the first time in my life, I am on a diet. I’ve actually tried a few exciting dietary fads over the years, vain bastard that I am, but they rarely last to the second meal so they might not count. But then I heard about the intermittent fasting diet and have decided to leap on the bandwagon. (Or at least slide my beer gut over the edge of the wagon and collapse gracelessly to its floor.)

The theory is that for two non-consecutive days a week I eat less than 600 calories. (It’s 500 for women.) The rest of the week you can eat what you want – even Scottish food served in American-sized portions (although the cholesterol will get you). Apparently this is to do with something scientific and is therefore brilliant.

I had originally heard of this diet in a science magazine but it was to do with the possibility that it may make you live a lot longer. While the longevity effect seems to work on mice and other critters, it sadly doesn’t for us primates. However this calorie restriction massively reduces the risks of disease and makes you much, much healthier. So you are considerably more likely to make it well into old age and look pretty sexy while doing so.

Some have found it hard to get used to the ‘fast’ days when you start out but to be fair to the diet – some people are greedy and weak and have the will power of a five year old child surrounded by sweets. It could be that due to my chaotic work schedule and weird hours I’m just used to having days where I barely eat and subsist on coffee, but I found the ‘fast’ bits really easy. It’s only one day where you can’t eat much, then you can enjoy a few days of pies and beer until the next one.

At some point in the future I will probably update how it is all going but I don’t want a ‘Bridget Jones’ style commentary going on. Of course if it works, I probably won’t shut up about it. Anyway, time for pie.

If you are portly and want more info:

 

Streetview for the Galaxy

You live here.

You live here.

I’m a massive fan of space and science. Also of Google Streetview. (Over on www.scifiward.com there’s a streetview of the TARDIS.) Here on the Word of Ward there’s an interactive galaxy! (See below.) It’s made by some space enthusiasts at Google and is pretty much a streetview-type map of the galaxy. Very cool indeed.

Click on this and enjoy!

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Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories

Travel book cover finalI have an exciting new book! It is called ‘Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories’. Not the catchiest of titles, I’ll admit, but I want people to know what they’re getting. Three true travel stories where yours truly was in peril. In three different places. Here’s the blurb:

Jason Ward tells three true stories of fairly perilous travel.

While backpacking in his early twenties, he decides to 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 his 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, Ward goes to a local pub near his Bangkok flat. That evening there is a military coup. In Bangkok. So why can’t he 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.

If you like travel stories please give them a go. Also, if you like them, please leave a review, they really help and I need to eat. If you don’t like them, then move along, nothing to see here.

For UK customers:

For our American cousins:

The book costs a pittance. Which is a bargain!

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Cosmos

When I was a kid, one of my favourite shows was ‘Cosmos’ by the legendary Carl Sagan. It was astronomy with huge inspiring dollops of philosophy. Basically, it made you think. You can watch entire episodes on youtube if you haven’t ever seen Cosmos or Carl Sagan. Unless you’re a creationist or lack any soul, curiosity, or sense of wonder, then you’re in for a treat.

When I heard they were bringing Cosmos back, I was a bit dubious. Apart from Professor Brian Cox’s amazing documentaries (all of which I have on Bluray and astound me with every viewing), a lot of space related shows tend to be dumbed down and chock full of graphics. Both Sagan and Cox bring a sense of wonder coupled with facts, that remain unparalleled (although Hawking’s show and Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole are great too). My concern was who they were going to get to replace Sagan. If they didn’t get the right person it would be crap.

Thankfully the new Cosmos is presented by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Of whom I am a big fan. Not as big as I am of Cox or Sagan, but he’s certainly up there and after this show he might be on a par with them. I hope so. Here’s the new trailer:

Just in case you haven’t ever seen Carl Sagan in action, here is a famous thing he did about Earth. At his suggestion Voyager took a photo of Earth as it travelled further away. It really creates a sense of perspective and gives you an idea of what I mean when I say that he ‘makes you think’. This is bloody genius.

The Uneven Passage of Time

The Uneven Passage of Time cover finalI’m not just plugging my awesome eBook because I haven’t done so for 6 months, (although that would be reason enough,) I’m plugging it because I am going to release a new one! Soon! The last trilogy of tales was a thoughtful blast of entertaining Scifi short story excitement. The next are a trio of true travel tales. Which are dramatised and are going to be pretty damn exciting too.

They are from three different periods of my life – when I was 21 and picking fruit in Australia and there were snakes, spiders and a plague of locusts; another was when I was in my late 20s in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco in prime flash flood season and the only escape was a trip in a van full of Berber tribesmen driven down the edge of a cliff; and the final one is set in Bangkok in my mid-30s when the Thai military thoughtlessly staged a military coup during happy hour. All three are moments where I really thought there was a chance I might die. And not my usual concern of alcohol poisoning either – these were genuine threats.

I just need to finalise the cover and sort out the bastard formatting. So bear with me.

In the meantime, I give you The Uneven Passage of Time!

Here’s the blurb:

Time, famously, is relative. In this trio of short stories journalist and fiction writer Jason R. Ward looks at three individuals and their unorthodox journeys through time. These entertaining tales blend the themes of psychology and perception with classic science fiction.

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.

For the US:
http://www.amazon.com/Uneven-Passage-Time-ebook/dp/B006MHSWI2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324264158&sr=8-1
For the UK:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Uneven-Passage-Time-ebook/dp/B006MHSWI2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324258518&sr=8-1

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50 Misconceptions about Science

mmmm science....

mmmm science….

I’m a massive fan of the scientific method, which I’ll be the first to admit is a strange and vague thing to say. Scientists propose theories, conduct tests and then have their peers (their very smart peers with brains chock full of knowledge) look at their experiments and ideas, and then disagree/ agree/ generally argue about it/ get bored and have sex with each other. It’s a process. Eventually though some things become so established they are difficult to disprove and become facts which are used to make the world a bit better. Or worse. More interesting anyway. For example, the ability to use a laptop to look at naked ladies or TheWordofWard over a wireless signal in a coffeeshop is the result of a lot of things being discovered and implemented by brainy scientists.

I’m not going to mention religion. Each to their own. Their way of arguing is different and I’m not a fan. This explains it better:

futurama science

I heard a story on QI about a scientist who was told as a child that if you crack your knuckles you get arthritis when you are older. Having an eager scientific mind even at the age of 6, he started cracking the knuckles of just one hand, every day, until he was 60 and concluded it was rubbish when he got arthritis in both hands simultaneously. I like that kind of mind. Question things people!

Sometimes some bit of widely believed knowledge get proved wrong or was wrong to begin with but seems to get stuck in the collective human psyche as a fact. I’ve never understood how anyone can think the following are true having thought about it for a few seconds:

World-is-Flat-480x480

Mind the Gap

Everyone used to think the world was flat and that vessels going over the horizon were believed to be falling off the edge of the Earth. This is clearly bollocks as the boats used to come back. There wasn’t a constant stream of boats disappearing and never ever returning. Sailors aren’t that mental or suicidal.

A cup of tea has more caffeine than a cup of coffee. Balls. Have three cups of strong tea in an hour. You might feel a slight buzz but it would be minor. Now have three strong coffees in an hour. You’ll be twitching and raving like a madman. What’s true is that a pound of tea has more caffeine than a pound coffee. But a pound of tea makes a billion cups of tea, whereas a pound of coffee makes about ten cups (figures may vary).

The Great Wall of China is the only man-made object that can be seen from space/ the moon. No it isn’t. From space you can see tons of stuff. From the moon you can barely see continents. Why would you be able to see something just because it’s really long?

Anyway, some very cool fellows at “Mental Floss” have compiled 50 misconceptions people have about various bits of science. If you like science you will know most of these but they are still fun. Enjoy.

 

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In Saturn’s Rings

This is pretty cool. Some obsessed young fellow, probably single, has spend the last 6 years splicing together actual photos from space missions to make a kind of animated photo flipbook thing so that looks like a movie. Got that? The amazing thing is that they are real pictures and are of an awesome quality. There are a lot from the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, plus some others of galactic bodies which are basically space porn. In case you keep forgetting that these are real there are some handy, if slightly annoying, reminders.

Make sure you click original quality to get the full 4k experience! (The cog thing on the lower right of the video’s screen.)

Pretty cool huh? I know it’s shallow but all of could think of was the title sequence of Star Trek Voyager. Click to about 1:05. Sorry.

 

 

Coding with Code Academy

Pretty sexy headline eh? I would like to say that I haven’t been able to write much because I have been spending every waking hour learning how to code like a fevered coding madman. Sadly, the real reason is that I have been looking for a new flat. Which is less sexy.

Here's a complete virtual world I coded earlier

Here’s a complete virtual world I coded earlier

But I have been learning how to code in between appointments. I felt its a skill I should learn for these important reasons:

1/ I have some websites. They are awesome and look pretty but I have no idea what I’m doing on the programming side of things. I just drop in some html code for, say, some Google ads (for eg) and just see where they end up. That method has its limits and has probably led to some readers seeing bizarre placement of things.

2/I also want to be able to do cool things with fonts and redesign generally. At present I am terrified of fiddling with the template (not a euphemism) as it might mess up the whole site.

3/It is on my CV/Resume that I can write code – so I should probably learn it just in case an employer calls my bluff.

To begin with, I have been using something called Code Academy.  It is pretty cool so far and you will soon be seeing some astounding changes on this site thanks to what I have learned.

Code Academy is an online school that is free. It is browser based so you can do it on any computer you come across and you save your progress on the web. (I definitely haven’t been doing it at work though.) It consists of a series of tutorials and tests. When you do well you get points, badges and other achievements that increase your pathetic sense of self worth. (All the cool kids have a blog to do this.)

I don’t know how long I will stick with it, but I have already lost my sense of fear of some of the intimidating code behind this site. You can also learn other things like Java, so you can create a new app and make billions.

I appear to be a year or more behind everyone else when it comes to Code Academy but in case you’ve been out socialising, travelling or having sex or something, I thought I would fill you in.

Also get ready for this site to look different. Hopefully for the better but if not – I’m a coder not a designer, cut me some slack.

softwaredesign

 

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