It Wasn’t A Graduation, But It Was Lovely.

Yesterday was my daughter’s last day at her infant school. She has been there for three years, and has been happy there almost all the time.

To mark the end of their time at the school they held a special leaver’s assembly. It was a simple affair. Once all the parents and other children were seated there was a procession of each of the children down the aisle of the church (it is a Church of England school), while their teacher said something about what sort of pupil they were, and what their memories of the child would be. It was very sweet, each child wearing a hand made cardboard mortar board.

I’m very glad to say that the school wasn’t silly enough to use terms like graduating, graduation or graduate. These are seven year old children who are leaving one school and moving on to another. They have come a long way in the time they have been at their current school, but they have a long way to go as well.

The wonderful parts of the whole event were:

  • The understandably proud look on each child’s face as the proceeded down the aisle while the teacher sang their praises.
  • The multiple photo opportunities for individual children, groups of friends and families.
  • The fun ‘throw your hats in the air’ photo opportunity.
  • The chance to say hi to the former teachers that the children had had, but who had moved on in the interim.
  • A yearbook full of wonderful memories and sweet biographies. The spelling is sometimes hilarious due to the use of phonetics, but the sentiments ranged from sweet, through funny to full of pathos and almost heart breaking sadness.

A new, exciting, and sometimes scary adventure awaits the children who left the school yesterday, but a great deal has been done to prepare each child for a bright future.

Linux To The Rescue.

One of my common post types is a big up for Linux, but I can’t help feeling that this one is worth it.

Here at work I was presented with an old, battered laptop whose owner had schlepped around the world with it. It was refusing to start, and the request was to help extract important data before it became inoperable forever.

In the early stages I got lucky and managed to get the computer to boot successfully into Windows. However, the success was short lived, and the system froze, displaying a classic blue screen of death.

The next approach was to try and clone the data from the system using CloneZilla. I created a bootable USB stick, restarted the machine and began cloning the partitions. Unfortunately the two important partitions kept on throwing errors on particular sectors and stopping the cloning process in its tracks. And as the system discs were all using NTFS I wasn’t able to attempt any kind of on-the-fly repairs.

In the end, I got a live CD version of a low resources Ubuntu (Lubuntu, using the LXDE window manager) and booted the system with that. The boot process was seamless and the window manager started without a problem. I then used the command line and some Linux know-how to mount the Windows hard drive and an external hard drive provided by the user. Then it was just a matter of finding the data that the user wanted saved and copying it using the normal file system manager.

It has taken a while. The USB interface on the machine is slow, and data reading from the hard drive seemed sluggish, but it has worked well, and all of the users data is now safe.

It is worth noting that when I say ‘Linux know-how’ then it makes it sound simpler than it was. I realised this when the user asked whether it would be possible for me to tell her how to mount the discs if she needed to do. I started to explain the process, then realised (prompted by the way her eyes were glazing over) that while it is obvious to a long term Linux user it might as well be in a foreign language to a new user. Worse than that, when I tried some Google-Foo I wasn’t replete with good explanations that way either. I’m not sure if this is a failing of my Google-Foo or a gap in the otherwise excellent on-line documentation.

Book Review: Zombie Crusade – J.W. Vohs and Sandra Vohs.

I have neglected my blog for a long time now, but I have still been reading, so I need to catch up on various books that I’ve read, my thoughts about them and a rough review. I have abandoned, for the time being the reviews in order which I tried initially to use as a way of keeping track on my reading habits. A more anarchic approach will have to suffice for the time being.

Another Zombie Apocalypse? Enough Already.

I have been reading a lot of zombie apocalypse books recently. I’m not sure why. I think they serve a useful purpose in that they are suitably ‘horror’ in their nature, but they aren’t really disturbing to me because I’m really not expecting a zombie uprising any time soon.

My experience has shown that in common with other genres, there are really two important foundations to a good story. The first is a good idea, the second is the ability to tell the story well.

This book had as its foundation an interesting idea which, according to the preface came from one of the author’s students. They had asked how the author thought armies of the past, the Romans, or medieval European, might fair against a zombie horde.

This clearly appealed to the author, steeped in history as he appears to be, and his book is based on the idea. However, it doesn’t try and tell the story of a zombie event in a different time period, but instead tells the story of an ex-soldier who has seen the effect of the biological warfare in Afghanistan which would eventually lead to the zombie attacks, and who, having left the army is conveniently very rich and a lecturer in medieval weaponry.

Okay, But All Zombie Apocalypses Need A Set Up.

The process of getting to what is essentially a modern day castle, full of people ranging from old army buddies to a convenient love interest is handled okay. The narrative is sometimes quite awkward, and you can see the way its had to be built up to get where the author wants to go. Unfortunately, while efficient, the process feels anything but organic, and that impacts strongly on things like whether the characters are believable or whether you want to have empathy with them.

But the strangest things are what have to be described as the obsessions of the author. At every turn his protagonists are required to hydrate themselves ready for the next encounter. I think this is meant to indicate how hard it is to fight the zombies in a hand to hand situation, but it left me feeling like the film adaptation would have to be sponsored by Evian or Perrier.

There is also a strongly American tilt to the story. The central character, Jack is a former Ranger, a unit repeatedly described at the best soldiers in the world. This felt like little more than ego massage from the beginning, and when each of the soldiers that joined the survivors was described as ‘having kept in ranger condition’ it just felt faintly ludicrous. There were some other related issues in the telling of the story, most especially regarding just how many people had guns, though there was a bit of a twist that the zombies were attracted by sound, so gun usage was usually kept to a minimum, and where they were used they were ‘suppressed 22s’, or guns with silencers.

In Summary.

So, in summary, this book was built on an interesting idea, but the idea was watered down so that the author could write it from a stance of what he knew, diluting some of the more interesting aspects of the story. The writing itself was stilted, though it didn’t lose itself during fights nearly as often as some other books that I’ve read. But it did highlight one of the issues which it feels to me has become an issue with the ePublishing phenomenon. Books can get written and published on kindles and other readers, and can do this having never been through the hands of either an editor or a proof reader. This book suffered from this issue, as have many of my other recent reads. A good editor would have cut through the guff where there was guff and called for clarity when it was needed.

Unfortunately, as I say, this book isn’t alone in crying out for this.