Cheeseburger Gothic

Done deal

Posted May 30, 2011 by John Birmingham
I just hit ‘send’, firing off the e-mail, to which was attached the epilogue for Angels of Vengeance. That's the major rewrites finished, a couple of weeks later than I had intended. Tough rewrite. I'm not sure why, possibly I just didn't want to give up the story because it's been so much fun writing it. But it's done now. Just line edits on paper to come.

It's about 8.30 this morning, and I still have to do the day's Geek column. But that's all right. It doesn't normally get published until just before lunch. My plan once I've blasted that sucker out is to hit the gym and smash it for about three hours. I've got some deadline damage to repair, and a jujitsu grading coming up in a couple of weeks. Both Anna and I are going for our blue belts so there's lots of work to do.

I figure on getting in lots of extra training this week, because apart from wrangling the blogs I won't be doing any other work. Gonna have me a break. See a few films. Catch up on some TV and reading. Write up a few restaurant reviews, maybe. Before the burger catch-up on Friday.

Right now though, I better get onto that geek blog.

And here 'tis.

19 Responses to ‘Done deal’

Big Pete reckons...

Posted May 30, 2011
"and a jujitsu grading coming up in a couple of weeks. Both Anna and I are going for our blue belts"

Which makes for an excellent segue to this movie. When I was reading about it this morning, I immediately thought of you John.

Congratulations on getting the book finished. I'm afraid I'm only half way through 'Without Warning' at the moment. I'd better pull my finger out and read a bit faster.

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Orin is gonna tell you...

Posted May 30, 2011
Weren't you going to play that LA Noir game? (I'm sure I remember you talking about it at some point). I'm going back through Mass Effect / Mass Effect II to square away my character for Mass Effect III (though that doesn't come out until Jan) - the game has aged surprisingly well. Mass Effect III will use your choices in the first two games to influence how the third turns out.

I also want to play through the DLC for Mass Effect 2 as they've added a lot of missions and 2 new characters that can join the crew.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30, 2011
Yep, I'm waiting for me freebie. Might go back to ME2 while I wait.

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HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted May 30, 2011
Mate I would suggest you get your arse into the Battlefield series, the upcoming Battlefield 3 for release later this year...looks FKN AWESOME...I MEAN...srsly awesome.


I could also see what you mean about enjoying the Angles so much...especially when LEGENDARY , GOD LIKE FKN HERO's such as Lt Colonel HAVOCK!...yeah babay!

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yankeedog asserts...

Posted May 30, 2011
Well done, chief! We look forward to this last volume.

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girlclumsy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30, 2011
Congratulations, JB.

You must feel such a wonderful sense of achievement at this point - bittersweet as it may be, giving the end of the trilogy.

Enjoy some time off. :)

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Orin reckons...

Posted May 30, 2011
Yet again consigned to the spam filter for a fairly straightforward comment on the geek - it really isn't worth the effort to post there. I've reloaded the page, so the hit is registered.

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Scott would have you know...

Posted May 30, 2011
Good show. Any idea on publication dates? Just so we can save up the pennies.

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HAVOCK ducks in to say...

Posted May 30, 2011
The problem JB, is that thye GEEK link on the right of ya blog screen takes ya to BT fkn GEEK and some stuff done in the dark ages by ya...NOT CURRENT SHIT!...fix ya link or by fkn hell, somebodies gunna come along and fix you I reckon!..effing hell man, its a geek topic and ya fkn links dont bloody well work!


"i'm having a rather bad day today"

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Jyggdrasil asserts...

Posted May 30, 2011
Good luck with the blue, as I recall that's when it starts getting serious.

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Crashguy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 30, 2011
Hiya JB,
Not sure if you remember or not but I met you at the Brisbane signing of AA and mentioned about my Brother who had been involved in the chopper crash?
There is a little story about him and his partner on 6:30 with George Negus tonight.
It's worth catching to see how a tough little bastard can fight back from anything.
Also, he really liked the signed copies of the book too!

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Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted May 30, 2011
I have an idea for the line edits - let Havsy do them.

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted May 30, 2011
Best IDEA I have heard ALL FKN DAY!

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tqft swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30, 2011
Congrats on getting the book out of the way - for now.

I will use the aussie dollars new found buying power (assuming it lasts) to complete the set and start reading the series. After being burnt (WoT and others) - I never start reading a series now until it is finished.

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melbo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30, 2011
That's a fabulous column at the Geek, Birmo. Thanks to everyone for the useful online shopping tips.

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Murphy mutters...

Posted May 31, 2011
It seemed to me that this novel had a much easier birth than the previous three I rode shotgun on. Certainly went a lot smoother than After America and I suspect folks will be pleased with it.

As for games, I'm happy enough with Mass Effect 2. That said, I'm glad I played that one first before ME1. I can't stand the combat system in ME1 and the controls seem awfully muddy to me. The puzzle type bits like restoring the AI on Peak 15 were maddening (one of the few times I went looking for cheats, something I almost never do).

That said, I suspect I'm going to have to play ME1 all the way through in order to save the council for ME3. Something tells me that sans surviving council members ME3 will end in tears for the plucky humans.

Definitely looking forward to L.A. Noire. I don't think I'll get to it for awhile though.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Big Pete would have you know...

Posted May 31, 2011
While not games related, unless you consider vacuuming the floors as a game, here's another classic rip-off.

Yesterday I bought a new vacuum cleaner for my 80-year-old mum. She wanted something small and simple to use, so I ended up ordering her a Dyson DC 24, which is a small upright vacuum cleaner. The recommended retail on the Australian Dyson website was $649, I was going to check out the local bricks and mortar retailers, but thought I'd have a look online first, to see what was about, and found this site that had them for $540 with free delivery.

Out of interest, I thought I'd check to see what the price was for these on overseas websites. The first site I checked was Amazon as they seem to sell everything nowadays, and found the going price was $318.00 US ($296.68AU).

It looks like we get screwed over yet again.

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TeamAmerica asserts...

Posted June 1, 2011
JB-Glad to hear you've finished it. Any idea of its US publication date?

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted June 2, 2011
End of the year, I reckon, TA.

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Freelance night.

Posted May 18, 2011 by John Birmingham
Broke my routine by heading into the city last night to do a stage gig with Ben Law and Andrew McMillan last night for about 120 young, would-be freelancers. Venue was the old Metro Arts building in Edward Street, where I used to have an office as a writer-in-residence at the Qld Writers Centre. Most of the AoT trilogy was written in that building so it was nice to revisit.

The gig was a Q&A sesh, about 90mins, which is a long time to keep a full house engaged, but it went well. Andrew, who's a young writer with a scarifying amount of energy, did sterling MC duties while Ben and I tried to throw down as many lifelines for the newbies as we could. The audience was encouraged to interrupt with questions, which they did, making the whole thing fly past.

It put me in mind of my baby writer days in Brisneyland when there was nothing like this. No writing courses, no seminars, for formal arrangement for passing knowledge down through the generations. In those days (mid-80s) there might have been half a dozen of us, including Mr Flinthart, working as freelancers for the fringe and student press, where Mr GuruBob was an editor for a while. We pretty much had to make it up as we went.

It's traditional for old dinosaurs to rumble at this point, "And a good thing too!"

But I'll call bullshit on dino rumbling. I could have really used a session like last night when I were a lad. It would have saved me from making some pretty grievous mistakes as I learned by doing.

Plus there were drinks after, downstairs in the bar I used to hang out. And drinks are always good.

33 Responses to ‘Freelance night.’

Murphy mutters...

Posted May 18, 2011
Hmm, for a long time, the Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine Forum was a place where you could get some advice. This was especially true during the Gardner Dozois Era. Sadly, the moment he retired as editor, the Forum went into the toilet and the magazine went right along with it.

As for locally in Kansas City, there is a place called The Writer's Place, but it tends to be a hive of anti-genre snobbery (even though they do permit the local science fiction society's meetings there). Pretty much for me, I've had to rely on the internet, my blog, and what few contacts I could make here in the Great Intellectual Desert which is Flyover Country in the United States.

I wish we had something like what you've got in Brisbane. The Arts Community seems to have something like that but it doesn't seem to apply to writers.

Anywho.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Orin would have you know...

Posted May 18, 2011
You should opine more about your mistakes ;-)

You know, so Havock doesn't make them or something.

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Orin swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 18, 2011
Also, I think the reason that there is more of this stuff around now is that there are more people trying to break into writing today than there perhaps were back when you were starting off.

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 18, 2011
Yeah, but why?

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Lobes ducks in to say...

Posted May 18, 2011
Maybe to do with societys shift towards being more information oriented?

Back in the day I suppose people who wanted to develop a skill indulged in more the type of technical/artisan type stuff that all gets made in China now. But nowadays people of every class and walk of life have the educational base to allow them to write. Also its cheaper and easier thanks to IT.

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 18, 2011
Why?
The lifestyle: smokin' hot chicks, fast cars / hovercraft, fat wads o' cash, & the perception of minimum effort.

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Orin would have you know...

Posted May 18, 2011
Why is there more of this stuff? To meet the demand I guess. To paraphase Hughesy, there seem today to be more people that want to be writers than there are readers to sustain them. A while ago Flinthart said something at one point about the availability of word processors also contributing to it. Something along the lines of if you had to bang out a manuscript on a typewriter you had to have a lot more "give a fuck" than banging one out on a word processor. I expect with people moving to self-publish in the kindle store, you'll see even more of it.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan would have you know...

Posted May 18, 2011
In my day people who wanted to write just wrote. They didn't attend "seminars" or listen to "authors" opine about writing. They wrote!

Badly, but they did it. And that's my point.

I believe virtually everyone who wants to be a "writer" is more likely to be an idiot than not. Sure, there are exceptions to this general rule, but those exceptions manifest a convergence of will, skill and having something worth saying.

The question, for me, is motive. Why does someone want to "be" a writer? The answer to that question is all that matters.

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 18, 2011
Lobes and Orin clipped it a bit. PLUS, people can easily buy an IPAD and immediately think they are gods and writers, pity its very missplaced...their self belief that is.
But NBOB smacked it fkn fair sq on the head!

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HAVOCK ducks in to say...

Posted May 18, 2011
Actually, NBOB got one piece wrong, " WE KNOW YOU DO FUCK ALL JB", no fkn perception there at all!

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 18, 2011
Truth be told, the level of writing being generated now is a far cry from what once was. Historically it was bums ( arts students) and the well to do who wrote, now a days, its LEGENDS LIKE ME!, or perhaps Joe Average as well.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted May 18, 2011
And when I say "far cry" I mean its levels above...not fkn below!

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Guru Bob ducks in to say...

Posted May 18, 2011
There were some good parties though... ahh those were the days.

Seriously though I remember going to the first Writers Day as part of the Warana Festival and listening to Andrew McGahan speak - there was no writers festival or anything before that - and he was the hippest thing to happen to Brisbane writing at the time. Things changed pretty quickly after that though - I think it was the Goss Government?

Apparently the Writers Centre may have been around then but I don't think they actually saw their role in those days as having much to do with actual writers?

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Lobes ducks in to say...

Posted May 18, 2011
Historically it was priests and religious texts that formed the basis of writing. Moses being one of the first self published authors (ducks).

But I suppose thats another thing. People write to express what they believe. And with a more egalitarian society where almost all beliefs are notionally given equal value then more potential writers feel comfortable indulging those beliefs and spreading the word. Whether that be Trekkies writing Fan Fic that deifies Kirk, extremists trying to build their own cults or Mac fanbois filling up their blogs with iPorn.

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HAVOCK ducks in to say...

Posted May 18, 2011
Realistically speaking, this is a product of communications JB and to a lesser extent, perhaps a broadening of demographics that writers originate from, that too, might well be a result of or increasing communications ability.
I’m not sold that writers of past would be less approachable than writers now…..generally. there will be the exceptions of course. But, the numbers of writers given our communication and print advancements has probably exploded, thus making access far easier for those either following them, or seeking to walk in similar footsteps.



MAC Fanbois filling up their blogs with shit!..yeah baby!..lmfao!

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 18, 2011
You'd have loved it, Lobes. So many smokin' hotties.

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Lobes has opinions thus...

Posted May 18, 2011
Let me know when the next ones at. You can bamboozle them with literary elucidation while I ply them with (free) alcohol.

Maybe Havoc can come too and we can be the Statler and Waldorf to your Fozzie bear.

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girlclumsy ducks in to say...

Posted May 18, 2011
Dang, dang, dang.

I missed it. Although I did see it was for the under-25s. Sigh.

Can we all have drinks or something soon? I feel like I haven't seen all you guys for ages!

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fknvty mutters...

Posted May 18, 2011
must 'ave bin a brisvegas thang, the rest of the world had the hooroo gurus and dept S.
we could even afford a meal at the Mer de Chine ...13th arrondissement on the left bank.
by the way did you know that a genre writer in icelandic is tegund rithöfundur/ fræðimaður ? wfms. pz.v.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted May 18, 2011
I see another Booker has been awarded to the wrong author.

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted May 18, 2011
you will now be a marked man because of that NBOB!..just saying is all

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HAVOCK ducks in to say...

Posted May 18, 2011
LOBES..I'M FKN IN!

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Orin asserts...

Posted May 18, 2011
Giving Lobes more smoking hotties is like giving a beach more sand.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 19, 2011
You impliedly argue, Orin, that there is such a thing as too many smoking hotties.

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Lobes swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 19, 2011
Slow down there Orin. I got 99 problems but a beach aint one.

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WarDog puts forth...

Posted May 19, 2011
Why?? -> lower barriers to entry

The net has only been around (more generally available) for 20 years.
Anyone can publish now and the only cost is your time if your happy with a freebie blog as your outlet.

This means lots more junk, but it also means that talents that never would have had the chance now do. And search engines and social networking do a reasonable job of sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Hell, even antisocial geeks like me can publish items that get devoured and appreciated by the technorati - who'd have thunk that ..

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WarDog has opinions thus...

Posted May 19, 2011
Oh and yes .. GuruBob needs to come back and organise some more parties.

They were the best.

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Andrew McMillen mutters...

Posted May 20, 2011
Thanks for the kind words John, and of course for your presence on the night. The entire discussion was filmed and will be uploaded in the next few days. I'll post the link here when it's up.

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palahuanca swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 21, 2011
I second girlclumsy
Drinks in the first week of June Burgers?

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Jade Rehder swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 21, 2011
As a 'baby' writer, I really enjoyed the talk; in particular it was pretty inspiring to see Brissie writers who have made it big.

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Ruby Wildflower mumbles...

Posted May 25, 2011
As one of these baby writers (waddling my way up to being a toddler writer), I'm ever so grateful for these kind of information sharing evenings as well as e-shares like blogs, Twitter, Facies etc. Even if it's just a sit around and "strive for your dreams but writing is hard work" kinda sentiments, it's uber comforting to know that writing is a "real" thing; something I didn't have growing up. All your wisdom will be mopped up by my writerly sponge accordingly.
Butterfly kisses!

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 25, 2011
Cheers, all. Keep noses to the grindstone and you'll be fine.

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Andrew McMillen has opinions thus...

Posted May 27, 2011
Hi again all - a short note to let you know that I've blogged the full transcript + footage from the freelance Q+A with John. Check it out here: http://andrewmcmillen.com/2011/05/27/nywm-2011-a-conversation-about-freelance-journalism-with-john-birmingham-and-benjamin-law-may-2011/

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Francisco's pepsi challenge.

Posted May 12, 2011 by John Birmingham
Got a letter from a reader in California, Francisco Molina, who enjoyed the WW/AA books and was intrigued to see where the idea had come from. (That argument I had with the fool from the Spartacist League back in 1989).

Anyway, Francisco had some suggestions for new story seeds, some of which I quite like. Thought I'd lay them out here and get everyone's in out:

What if the world suddenly ceased to depend on petroleum for fuel?

What if hydrogen [the most abundant element in the known universe] was the new fuel source to replace petroleum?

What if a simple and direct technology was developed for internal combustion engines to safely convert water to hydrogen fuel? Instead of filling tanks with gasoline, vehicles would be filled with water!

The following are some likely consequences if this technology was implemented:

There would be less air pollution since hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines would emit water vapor instead.

A sudden collapse of the OPEC nations would most likely occur.

Radical Muslim regimes would have less money to sponsor international terrorism.

A lower inflation rate would occur since the cost to transport goods via rail and trucks would be much lower.

I suspect a smart fellow like you can think of other consequences.

The following are some possible plot directions:

The main character could be an eccentric inventor in the spirit of Thomas Edison. He would be in New Zealand; perhaps a retired physics professor from a local college; most likely single.

Somehow he would convince the local school bus service to experiment with buses powered by hydrogen extracted directly from water. This step would lead to a series of events in which hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine use would expand to mass transit for the rest of NZ.

NZ would then attract the attention of the international community. USA and Japan would expedite efforts to be the first to manufacture hydrogen-fueled vehicles. The OPEC nations would of course be dismayed at the possible loss of revenue. I am sorry to say that in the real world the inventor would most likely meet his demise soon after his world-changing contribution.

And so on…

I first came across this idea when reading Harry Turtledove's "In the Balance". The alien invaders had very advance technology [not surprising since they traveled several light-years]. These aliens had hydrogen-fueled tanks and warplanes.

I also visited the following Web site: http://www.waterpoweredcar.com

Some closing thoughts:

When you review the development of various technologies [telephone, computers, TV, recordings {films, CD, and DVD}], you begin to see a steady progression. For example, first there were vinyl records, followed by CD, and then i-pod.

However, petroleum-fueled internal combustion engines have changed very little [apart from the use of better metal alloys, fuel-injection, turbo-chargers, etc.].

I find this puzzling.

At the beginning of the last century, the British Fleet transitioned from coal to petroleum.

Perhaps hydrogen will be the next fuel for this century.

44 Responses to ‘Francisco's pepsi challenge.’

Murphy mutters...

Posted May 12, 2011
I would think that if you had ships which could convert sea water into hydrogen for turbine and electric power that those vessels could sail until they needed maintenance.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Lobes mutters...

Posted May 12, 2011
Hydrogen (H) is indeed the most abundant element in the universe however here on earth it does not exist in its elemental state. It has to be created, usually as a by-product of the fossil fuel industry (by steam reforming natural gas). True it CAN be made from electrolysing water but for this you require large amounts of electricity to produce H in any reasonable quantities.

Then there is the issue of Hydrogen Embrittlement. H tends to cause metals exposed to it to become brittle and develop miniscule cracks thus making it difficult to not only use in engines but also to store and transport. For instance it would be almost impossible to build a H pipeline as the steel pipes would eventually become brittle and spring leaks. There are other materials you can use, I believe there was some research being done into galvanised Carbon fibre, but this is not really cost effective for mass production into pipelines and the like.

Another issue is the extremely low density of H. Under normal conditions the density of H is so low that to store it in usable quantities you need extremely high pressures and/or cryogenic facilities. These necessities add weight, expense and complexity to any H storage system. For it to become viable as a fuel IMO you need to perfect solid state hydrogen at temperatures approaching room temperature and pressures close to sea level.

For these reasons and a few others I'm not convinced that H is a viable alternative to petroleum. IMO it shows more promise as replacement for electricity generation through the use of fuel cell technology.

However the basic premise of Franciscos speculation is fascinating. What would happen if the world were to suddenly not need/be able to use petroleum? Well for a start the transportation networks would need to be completely overhauled. You cant just use H in normal combustion engines. It would cost many many billions of dollars in changing everything to be H adaptable which is a massive cost to start with even if you had a tech that could deliver your H for free or close to it. The geopolitical ramifications of making such change of course would be fascinating. Somebody does need to write a really good peak oil thriller however some of the speculative non-fiction stuff already around is scary enough.

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WarDog mutters...

Posted May 12, 2011
OK, we are really just talking about a switch in fuel, portable engine that can use hydrogen as a fuel (ie a small hydrogen fuel cell), and a way of producing the hydrogen.

This isn't miraculous. There already exist fuel cells that are commercially available. They are just expensive to build. And AFAIK the commercial ones are all large though they are some as small as a laptop battery in labs (as of 2 years ago). Some fuel cells are reversible, ie when supplied with power they can reconstitute their fuel stock from its by products, such as converting the water water back into Hydrogen and Oxygen.

But this doesn't side step the fact that the power still needs top be produced. If/when we switch to fuel cell based power sources we will still need to charge them up to produce a fuel with good energy density (eg Hydrogen). This takes energy. Its not free. So this suggested consequence may be misguided:

- A lower inflation rate would occur since the cost to transport goods via rail and trucks would be much lower.

In all likelihood this would impose a significant extra demand on current electrical generation, so unless this was offset by generous production of electrical power from another source, ten inflation would spike more generally in all parts of the economy.

Personally, I suspect that the uptake of renewables will provide the extra power requirement, mainly because their cost will continue to decrease as technology improves their effectiveness.

Enough of the ramble ..

The upshot of having cheap, effective, safe, (and portable) fuel cells is that distributed intermittent generation from sources such as solar/wind will become more effective as the power can be readily stored and bled back to the grid as required. Off peak will become a thing of the past. As long as fuel cell buffers are distributed evenly around the grid (in each home say), so too will grid failure due to catastrophe.

I suspect that such a system will build up on its own whenever/where ever residents are able to use a fuel cell to arbitrage peak vs off peak power (until eventually peak == off peak at all times).

What is going to be a real game changer is wireless power. And from what seems to be happening in the GE labs I'd say that's 5 -10 years from commercialisation.

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2011
I think the challenge is from a storytelling/alt-history perspective. I don't think anyone thinks you can actually do what Francisco says.

Just in case, to summarise
- we already have tech for splitting water into H and O
- when you burn H and O, you do indeed get water back
- you do indeed get energy too
- this is because free H and O has a higher potential energy than H2O.
- to get the former from the latter you need to input energy.
- no, you can't get more energy back from burning than you put in to split the water.

So the storytelling (like any speculative fiction) requires suspension of disbelief: what if a method to split water were discovered that required no energy input? I suspect that such a discovery would entail several additional ways to get energy for free, so probably the water would not be required ;)

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damian asserts...

Posted May 12, 2011
Oh Lobes - I don't think he proposes storing the hydrogen. He proposes storing water, then making use of his water splitter to generate H and O as needed.

I think you would get away without storing a lot of water. Instead, you'd capture the output water from the system and use it as an input (since exactly as much comes out as needs to go in). If we need more energy to do that, we just cycle the system faster because we're already getting energy for free in the water splitting method. Depending on any temperature and pressure constraints for the splitter, you may need expansion or compression chambers - and might get free air conditioning or heating as a result too.

Of course there still needs to be some sort of energy input, or it's just a perpetual motion machine and it may be difficult to achieve the necessary suspension of disbelief. :)

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Sir Snagger puts forth...

Posted May 12, 2011
Maybe a small alternative to hydrogen being used as the new fuel cell could be a straight replacement of fossil fuel with bio fuels.

It's been stated a lot that we don't have the capacity to grow enough crops for fuel without sacrificing food production, but I was reading an article yesterday about a company setting up shop near Karratha (northwest oz) where they are producing carbon neutral bio fuel from algae and sea water. They hope that one day to (eventually) have 10% of the worlds fuel made that way. With the anointed of vast empty spaces across Australia and Asian deserts etc, is it possible that a government could fund this on a mass scale to replace fossil fuel supplies with a reliable and cheap alternative?

As for what might happen, north Africa and the Arab producers obviously go down the gurgler (well, further down anyway in most cases) but even the USA is a large oil producer. California alone is one of the worlds largest economies because of it so what would happen there. Could see the fall of American influence with their income drying up and the rise of another country. Something to ponder.

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Mat D is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2011
Eccentric Kiwi's have already done it but were brought out by the corporations of Exxon, BP, Shell, etc back in the 70's.

I say bring back airships and zepplins, fill with Hydrogen in an aluminium skinned bladder then park in a thunder storm, hang on didn't something like this kind already happen? Better idea we could Helium fill airships with solar pannels in the skin to run electric motors to make them fly. How much for 100,000 cubic metres of Helium?

How about when you put mentos in a coke/pepsi bottle, what gases does that create. Could I run my car on it? or my airship?

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WarDog has opinions thus...

Posted May 12, 2011
Mat D, I've been running my spaceship on Mentos and Coke for years.

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Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 12, 2011
Get your belief a new pair of suspenders. Cold. Fusion. Sure, it's a crock that no claimant has ever come close to reproducing but - what a hook for a story like that. Heck, portable Hot Fusion is probably just as likely. Costs of conversion would be huge, as above, but your fearsome engine could have an attached doohickey which extracted deuterium & tritium from your water fuel, pelletised them and fed them into the, er, quantum vortex flux reactor. Yeah. That produces the energy to split the water, discard the oxygen & burn the hydrogen. Assuming you don't just use the heat to run a turbine & forget the electrolysis. Take that OPEC & use your oil to lube up for something crude. Ah. Except for the part we need for plastics etc.

The pachyderm in the parlor is of course heat. While such a switch would cut our ozone depleting, greenhouse heat-retaining gas output to a tiny fraction of today's, it would still liberate waste heat in immense quantities & more so as the world standard of living catches up to the west. Then I guess there's another trilogy in it. Set a few hundred years later when all the heat from "free clean" fusion energy has become a major problem­†.

(†All ideas expressed are the intellectual property of Greybeard Fantasy Imports & Rubber Goods™, no matter how lame.)

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mrblenny swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 12, 2011
I think a lot of people forget in "alternative energy" discussions is that the cost of the actual fuel is pretty minor in the scheme of it. Remember when nuclear promised energy too cheap to meter - while arguably true, someone still has to foot the bill for the power lines, building the reactor etc etc. Likewise the cars that run on water claptrap can be filed under perpetual motion, even if a energy cheap method for splitting water into Hydrogen and oxygen is possible the energy density is simply not enough to compete with a good old tank of petroleum distillate.

Much more likely in my mind is the rapidly developing field of "super-capacitors" - they promise almost instant charging and high capacity batteries for a fraction of the cost of your li-ion's and what not. Combined with an orbital solar array to beam power to Earth you have a realistic and possible future timeline for a world without fossil fuels (and no, orbital solar arrays are not as stupid as they sound, plus a plot line could involve evil genius plan to convert them into some sort of super weapon!)

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DrYobbo mutters...

Posted May 12, 2011
Wait... you mean NZ hasn't ALREADY got the attention of the international community? Jesus fuck, how many more fucking Hobbit movies do we have to make?

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Mat D reckons...

Posted May 12, 2011
How about this from NZ. Even the UN and WWF are expecting us to pick up our game.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/the-changing-world/news/article.cfm?c_id=1502962&objectid=10724878

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted May 12, 2011
They're making one of those fillums about the hairy little nutters now aren't they? Why do they remind me of Irish ratsackers?
As for water engines, its the basis of a good story. Be better with some of those fucking hobbits getting their beans cashed.

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zeniph swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 12, 2011
Ben Elton wrote a book called "Gridlock" which is very very similar to the proposed NZ scientist story line - a retarded UK scientist (Geoffrey Spasmo!) invents a hydrogen powered engine. OPEC and the American Car industry try to take him out...

Been 15+ years since I read it but I remember it being pretty insightful and funny (if you like BE in the first place I guess). Lots of amusing bits about the crap that politicians come out with when talking environment policies

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Orin would have you know...

Posted May 12, 2011
Kinda suprised you haven't put a "don't send me ideas" warning out though - all you need is some nut claiming that they came up with the idea for your next novel and send it to you and you've got a headache you probably don't want to deal with.

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 12, 2011
True, but my next five books are all worked out, and none of them touch on any of this.

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Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted May 12, 2011
Orin, I think JB has made it clear in the past that any ideas explicated on this blog are either his property or fair game - hence my attempted humour above. Not sure how this stands legally but hell, if I had a good idea (a) I probably wouldn't recognise it and (b) I'd be too lazy to use it & (c) It would be free to all comers. And I swear it on NowhereBob's grave.

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Nocturnalist mutters...

Posted May 12, 2011
+++Ben Elton wrote a book called “Gridlock” [in which] a retarded UK scientist (Geoffrey Spasmo!) invents a hydrogen powered engine.+++

Yeah, that was the first thing I thought of too, although the result is much more depressing than the scenario being put forward here. (And Geoffrey's problem was cerebral palsy, not an intellectual disability.)

+++Then there is the issue of Hydrogen Embrittlement.+++

You've mentioned metal and carbon fibre; does it have the same effect on ceramics? If not (or if there's enough wiggle room for fiction purposes) then one spin-off effect would be a scramble among the nations with better technological bases to retool to produce high-quality precision ceramics, with knock-on effects back down the line to primary resource providers.

I'm also thinking about all that water vapour for exhaust. Think about any big city and all the engines pumping water out into the atmosphere. Cities wreathed in mist instead of exhaust smog; space photography showing cities as little white smudges of perpetual cloud instead of clusters of lights; the wilting summertime humidity of places like Hong Kong getting amazingly worse; colder cities glittering with frost and dealing with underfoot ice-slicks perpetually recreated by the car exhausts.

Just some top-of-the-head stuff.

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DrYobbo ducks in to say...

Posted May 12, 2011
Gridlock was wank. In fact, every novel Elton has ever written has been fucking shithouse. Discuss.

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Matthew K asserts...

Posted May 12, 2011
Wasn't aware of the effects of hydrogen on metal that Lobes talks of, although the ceramic engine seems a good avenue to explore, (William Gibson used it in a cyberpunk novel).
I was aware that "Dubya" had been a supporter of H as a future fuel and it does seem to have strengths. One great strength it could have is that of making alternative energy viable: Making H with the energy generated by wind/solar/tidal power is a way of storing that energy, as wind and sun are not obliging enough to coincide with peak demand for electricity.
But storage would still be a bugger, that sounds where the costs would be unlike petroleum where the costs are in extraction and refining. (I assume).

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Bondiboy66 is gonna tell you...

Posted May 12, 2011
Couple of things on issues raised above.

Ceramic engines - work has been done on this in years recently past, where many metal engine parts were replaced with high tech ceramic bits. The end reults were promising, the engines could run at much higher temperatures meaning less need for cooling (and the attendant reduction in moving parts) and more efficient combustion due to the higher operating temperatures.

Mr Blenny mentioned Super Capacitors - Phillip Jose Farmer had those in his Riverworld series, he called them a 'batacitor' - they could instantly take on board a days worth of electricity and let it out at a trickle or torrent as required.

Wireless energy transmission - Nicola Tesla first came up with that idea years ago. Why it didn't get taken up has kept tin foil hat wearers talking for years (no I don't know why myself). Good idea though!

Ben Elton - has had momentsof good work i.e. The Young Ones. His books are shite, his recent outing on TV had potential, but sucked too much to survive long enough to mature to something less shithouse.

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John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 12, 2011
I'm with Professor Yobbo.

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coriolisdave asserts...

Posted May 12, 2011
What's to discuss, Mr Yob? The bloke is a talentless twunker, desperately burning any good-will left over from the Young Ones with increasingly pathetic faux-topical histrionics.

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Lobes would have you know...

Posted May 12, 2011
Blackadder and the Young Ones were both great.

I'm not sure what effect H has on ceramics but I like the idea of ceramic engines so run with it. I do know that platinum is a key ingredient in fuel cells.

Graybeards intriguing theory of excess waste heat into the environment makes me think probably we would get many of the same effects we are getting from climate change. More energy in the system is going to create more frequent extreme weather events. I guess the main difference would be you are not acidifying the oceans which in itself is a huge difference

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damian mumbles...

Posted May 12, 2011
Thermodynamic equilibrium of inputs to and outputs from the earth as a system (ie, the "spaceship Earth" model) is an overall concern. It's the real reason nuclear strikes the wrong chord for me - because it very definitely constitutes a thermal input that has no commensurate output, nor could it till we built some kind of ginormous radiator in space that we can pump the heat out to.

I believe the sums have been done, and that the effect on the balance from direct release of waste heat (and remember kids - ALL energy use to do work is dissipated as heat) is negligible next to more potent effects (like the mix of greenhouse gasses).

But if we got to a point that every car, every appliance has a nifty Mr Fusion power source, and we start to solve every problem by adding more energy, then it's easy to see it as inevitable we effect the thermodynamic balance by gross heat discharge.

It's one of the reasons using less energy to do the stuff we do now is important.

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted May 12, 2011
Oh - I rather liked Stark when it came out. Mostly the set-pieces and one-liners, admittedly.

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andy f has opinions thus...

Posted May 13, 2011
TANSTAAFL
there aint no such thing as a free lunch
or maybe thats the twist.- there is a free lunch, the doohickey actually does split water for less than the energy release is,
questions being how and why
maybe the gadget alters or has detected the altering of the RULES, problems, of course, ensue

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Mat D mumbles...

Posted May 13, 2011
I am a Harry Turtledove fan JB but I may be showing my ignorance here; who is Ben Elton?

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Matthew K reckons...

Posted May 13, 2011
Ben Elton is/was a LEFT WING British stand up comedian from the '80s who couldn't or wouldn't leave his politics behind for even a second. It got boring after a bit and he went on to help write Black Adder.
He is the descendent of a prominent historian - Lord Elton.

Yeah, super capacitors. That's what we need, it would be awesome. Pity they only seem to work in science fiction, if only there was an SF author around...

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Lobes mumbles...

Posted May 13, 2011
My girlfriend was the nanny to his kids back in the day. She has all his books lying around but you guys aren't really selling me on reading any of them.

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Mat D asserts...

Posted May 13, 2011
I don't remember the 80's as I was in primary school for the last half of it. I do remember Flux Capacitors though!

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zeniph mutters...

Posted May 13, 2011
haha - a whole lot of love in the room for Ben Elton

well his writting style is much like his standup and you either like or hate it I guess, also was a bit like you've read one you've read them all - Stark and Gridlock were more or less the same book but I still really liked them and his observations at the time. I still laugh when I see the names "Great Sandy Desert" or "Shark Bay" and think of Australia's pragmatic, to the point naming conventions

today I couldnt argue too much though with the twitter comment on his late TV show "the 80's called - they want their jokes back"

re hydrogen engines and the initial topic - sorry I know nothing.

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MickH would have you know...

Posted May 13, 2011
well back on the plot line....

Like the petroleum companies would just sit back and go "yeah dude, we're cool with that!" They would be the black hatted baddies in this story because you have to have bad guys right? And oil company suits are the baddiest bad guys out there.

And to answer the progress question, of course there's been progress but the baddies have bought up all the patients!

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 13, 2011
Although I am always, by nature, reluctant to ever agree with Lobes, I must in this case. Hydrogen is not a fuel. Hydrogen is an energy storage mechanism in the same way a battery stores, but does not produce, electricity. You have to make hydrogen before you can use it — generally by extracting hydrogen from fossil fuels, or by using electricity to split it from water, and that means it ends up costing the same if not more than you get from it. A pretty idea, but a dead end.

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Tony reckons...

Posted May 13, 2011
Having spent most of my life thinking Ben Elton was a crap writer, I was surprised to find The First Casualty quite readable. Not great, but well above his usual standard.

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tygertim reckons...

Posted May 14, 2011
Guys, a couple of years ago, I did a little reading after seeing an article about the US Air Force conducting a test of an alternate fuel using a C 17 Transport (flew from California to New Jersey) just in case we ever needed it in a National Emergency. The fuel was synthetic petroleum. It worked just fine. Turns out some smart mad scientist somewhere has come up with a type of algae (or something similar, I forget) that converts sewer wastes (SHIT!) into a substance that can be processed like petroleum (and gets pretty much the same byproducts out of it) for around (according to the article, don't quote me) $40 to $60 US dollars a barrel.... according to wiki, there are LOTS of processes that will do that for varying costs per barrel to produce (since at least 1913, I think). The catch seems to be doing large batches, which is probably Chevron, Exxon, Shell et al haven't started working it. I mean think about it.... One BIG problem produced by cities ( and pig farms and Ranches come to think about it) is human waste, ditto for animal wastes...
South Africa (according to wiki) produces all of its fuel syntheticly, so we know it can be done, but it ain't cheep. If someone can come up with an inexpensive process, well you can see where that will lead...
Cheers,
Tyger

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Graham D Baker has opinions thus...

Posted May 15, 2011
One of the problems I can now see with this is we still need oil for lubrication, plastics, and of course bitumen to make roads, with a cheap alternative like 'water', will that put more cars on the road.

Would you be able to use fresh water, salt water, or grey water to produce this ?

If it's fresh water, it's in limited supply around the world, would the USA go to war to protect it's fresh water supply ?

As mentioned previously changeover costs would horrendous, but most people change their cars every 5-10 years anyway, most fleets change their trucks over every 12-18 months, unless the new vehicles were similarly priced as current models, would there be buyer resistance ?

What about your garden tap, will you need to put a lock on it ? I'm sure Sydney Water would love to charge as much as they can, you'd be making sure you have no leaky taps around the place.

At least with the spare oil, you could always make water tanks for home to be self-sufficient.

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Damian mutters...

Posted May 15, 2011
Resource wars over fresh water are definitely pegged for the medium term future. Militaries are already exploring what they need to know to be on top of this.

All plastics, and nearly every industrial chemical, along with pretty much any substance that is synthesised in glass currently requires oil as an input. This is because the polymers left over from refineries have such an economic advantage.

No oil... then we're back to bakelite and leather... and probably wood products for everything that currently involves plastic. This will happen with peak oil, whether we find an alternative energy source or not.

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted May 15, 2011
A question without notice. Thinking me some Fan Fic.

What % of American married men wear a wedding ring?
I'd guestimate over %50 of Australian men do.

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Damian asserts...

Posted May 16, 2011
*raises a hand, with a ring on it*

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Paul Nicholas Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 16, 2011
*raises a hand, with no wedding ring on it*

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Guru Bob puts forth...

Posted May 16, 2011
In the Battle for Los Angeles the aliens landed in LA because they wanted our water.

I thought that the point of the enquiry was the scenario - not the technology? Just take the John Ringo approach and use a widget.

To make it all possible the author only has to write that the mad scientist has created a 'dohickey convertor' that anyone can install in their car and make it run on hydrogen.
from clean, dirty or even seawater...

There that is done!

What happens next - when the whole basis of today's world economy and power is turned upside down? Who will end up on top?

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Paul Nicholas Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17, 2011
Me. I will end up on top.

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FJP912 puts forth...

Posted May 23, 2011
Wasn't there an Arthur C. Clarke novel that was set in a world where some cheap alternative to petroleum had been perfected, and one of the results of that was that Israel and/or the US nuked the rest of the Middle East into oblivion, because we didn't need anything from them any more?

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Respond to 'Francisco's pepsi challenge.'

So shiny. So precioussssssss...

Posted May 6, 2011 by John Birmingham
Well it took a while, involved about four false alarms, and in the end I had to skip lunch to race across the city to lay hands on mine, but I finally, finally managed to place within my possession, Master's shiny, new iPad2.

Oh yes. It shines, brothers and sisters, it shines with the holy awesome within.

There's been about umpty billion reviews of the 2 so far and I don't intend to add to them, other than saying I chose a 32gig, wifi only, black model. Having traveled thru the US with the kid's v.1 pads hotspotted to my ipwn I'd determined that 3g was unecessary. It also adds a few grams to the weight and of course subscription costs for a 3g connection.

I chose the 32gigs because that's enough memory to hold some serious media, especially films and tv shows while I travel. But I dont keep that stuff on board permanently because once you've watched it, there's no need. It can either sit on a server at home, or on the physical media in which it arrived. So 32 is more than enough, while 64, perversely isn't nearly enough. At 64 gigs you're starting to think about whether you could load up whole seasons of shows like the Wire or Firefly, when there's no need, and you probably can't anyway.

16gigs is for little girls.

I chose the black because black is always cooler, but it also provides a much better surround when watching vids. With a white bezel you never get past the framing of the image. With black, particularly when the lights are down, you can fall into the action on screen much more easily.

For apps, I've leaned heavily towards media and especially news consumption. Hearst have just inked a deal with Apple to put a few of their mastheads on iPad, one of which, US Esquire, is an old fave of mine, so I will be subscribing to that, along with Wired and maybe, just maybe, The Daily, from the Murdoch Deathstar. I would have transferred my other subs across from the Kindle but that's not yet allowed.

My other news apps are all freebies. The ABC's HD app is a fucking killer, as is most of their digital delivery gear. CNN, NYT, NPR, al Jazeera, The Independent, BBC, the Economist's 'Intelligent Life', they're all good. In addition to them I've got a couple of heavily trafficked specialty tech portals like Engadget, IGN, Cnet and so on.

Most interesting however are the 'bespoke' magazine apps like Flipboard and Zite which sweep thru your social media connections, your RSS feeds, and, if you let them, your email, to craft a digital magazine just for you. The results are amazing, and the more you use them of course, the better they get at predicting and searching for the sort of stuff you would normally seek out yourself. You can lose hours in these things, especially if, like me, you have thousands on feeder links coming from twitter and facebook.

I have to severely limit my time on the pad lest I lose whole days to those two.

For working while I travel I've got Pages, but will probably swap that out for a different program sometime soon. There's a great little note taking app called Penultimate which turns the pad into a giant old fashioned notebook. Bought a stylus to use with this and for something so simple it is the fucking schnitzel. I love it. Especially for jotting down thoughts about story arcs, characters etc. Orin put me onto some mind mapping apps which I haven't really got into, but a related story mapper called Ruminate has proved itself invaluable while I was plotting out Angels of Vengeance. I've loaded Blogpress and WordPress and a bunch of photo editors for work on the go.

There's a folder full of games, natch, and another with half a dozen fitness apps, the best of which is Nike's amazing effort. Hundreds of workouts, all with video instruction. Totally worth getting even if only for your phone.

The thing I'm coming to fully understand about these devices is how personal they are. We use to speak of 'personal computers', but really there was a huge amount of commonality between most peoples machines. Word processor. Spreadsheet. Coupla other big time programs. Maybe a game or two. Some music.

The explosion of the app ecology, not just at iTunes but over at Android and soon enough at Amazon really lets us invent a new machine on a literally blank skate. Once of I finish my book edit I'm gonna take a few days to reinvent mine all over again.

 

42 Responses to ‘So shiny. So precioussssssss...’

fknvty puts forth...

Posted May 6, 2011
until you chuck a havsy .... did he ever get his cell phone returned? pz.v.

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John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 6, 2011
First thing I did was fire up the locator function and login into Mobile Me. Now my Master can follow my every move.

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Monster Yuppy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 6, 2011
Me & the Mrs now use our 64g V1 iPads for pretty much day to day work use, leaving the MacBook at home.
Was gonna grab a V2, but will prob wait for V3.
And yes, I do spend an inordinate amount of time playing Angry Birds.
Don't you judge me.

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sibeen would have you know...

Posted May 6, 2011
I got hold of one a week or two ago. The 64 gig version with the 3G, anything less appeared to be, well to be blunt, a little woossy.

My favourite app so far is GoodReader. I load all my site diagrams on as a PDF and can walk around and annotate the drawings as I go. Saves me lugging around a tonne of A1 drawings.

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Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 6, 2011
Apps are indeed wonderful. Adobe Photoshop Express, Google Docs, Dropbox, Firefox all get a workout (as does Angry Birds). Norton Utilities is not only useful but looks incredibly cool. My favourite app at the moment is Gesture Search (Google). Instead of swiping past 5 pages of screens to get to an app or contact, you draw the first letter on screen and there's an instant list. Only once had to include the second letter but it is so fast, easy & intuitive. Hierarchical menus are history man, history!

Fellow Androids might like Identity Sweeper. Set your password and you can remotely lock the phone, tell it to SMS its location or wipe everything back to factory specs. And (dons Sneer-proof Jacket) I hear Windows 8 will have an App store? (Exit stage left, pursued by pelted Apples.)

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Chaz puts forth...

Posted May 6, 2011
JB what about Dragon?

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Naut has opinions thus...

Posted May 6, 2011
Did you buy it in the US and then get it shipped?

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Havock would have you know...

Posted May 6, 2011
Virty, NAH, fkn things goneski!, got another V 3 unit. But gotta say, the whole Apple, sync, recover fkn thing is FKD! beyond belief. And as for the TRACKING SOFTWARE, Jobes can get fkd on that too, fkrs should have it activated when ya get the phone or TELL YA! about the stuff. Fkn PHONE STORE MUPPETS!

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted May 6, 2011
"blank skate." ?

Skates are cartilaginous fish belonging to the family Rajidae in the superorder Batoidea of rays. There are more than 200 described species in 27 genera. There are two subfamilies, Rajinae (hardnose skates) and Arhynchobatinae (softnose skates). [wiki]

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Paul Nicholas Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 6, 2011
I fear new consumer technology. I have a client that insists I have an Iphone and is buying me one. I don't want it. But how do you say no to such a thing?

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Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted May 6, 2011
for games try Flight Deck Freedom. Free and will chew up hours and hours. We have a running contest at the cigar shop ... bunch of middle-aged men sitting around with iPads landing planes and helicopters on ships ... and if you get high score you get to lord it over the rest.

I loves me shiny .. I does I does.

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fknvty reckons...

Posted May 6, 2011
@ boylesy ... simple .... repeat after me N ............. O ................ there now ..... wasn't so hard was it?
we often give the equivalent of no in a foriegn language just to give people the proverbials ...... my favs are pas (french) noi (schwabisch) or ?? (korean) .... you'll have to grab a sample from google translate to get the gist.
beer oclock v.

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Unpossible ducks in to say...

Posted May 6, 2011
Do you earn commission for promoting the wares of mister Jobs? 'Cos I thinky I will go and get one if I get some good news on the employment front. Drool.

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Rhino mumbles...

Posted May 6, 2011
Uh oh ... Shiny is now obsolete. Can't wait to get my hands on this:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110504111147.htm

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 6, 2011
boylesy?

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Darth Greybeard ducks in to say...

Posted May 6, 2011
PNB, this is a traditional Oz form of affection & respect. Thus Rhino would become Rhiny and Murphy would become, er, Murphy. Some of our Prime Ministers are accorded this honour but by no means all. Bob Hawke was often Hawkey but Paul Keating was generally "that bastard". And Julia is never Gillie.

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Nocturnalist ducks in to say...

Posted May 6, 2011
Actually Murph would probably become "Murpho".

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Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted May 6, 2011
And Jobs paying a commission to the likes of JB would be like Scientology paying Travolta & Cruise. I wonder if he's ever thought of just tithing the faithful instead of charging for each new shiny?

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Bangar swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 6, 2011
Congratulations and enjoy, I still think I'll go with this, ASUS Eee PC T101MT-BU27-BK 10.1-Inch Convertible Tablet. It's not perfect (what is), a SSD would be better but that I can fit.

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Damian mutters...

Posted May 6, 2011
Hmm. Yes, 16GB is for little girls (got the 32G iPhone 3GS myself, will only upgrade when either it dies or I start carrying around devices that support WiFi but not Bluetooth). Yes, black is cool (we did in fact spring the extra couple hundred bucks to replace the wife's iBook with the black Macbook), yes your master will track your every move... me, I'm forced to rely on the fact my home-and-contents insurance covers phone idiocy (and frankly, I'm as likely to fall in the pool with it as I am to lose it somewhere out and about, so this is probably a better solution anyway).

There was some point to me posting, something I meant to talk about, can I remember it? Nooooooo......

Oh, that's right. I jailbroke my AppleTV (2nd generation) the other week. This is after months of seeing blog posts about how an ABC iView app for the Samsung network-capable TVs would be available in "2011 Q1". There were even updates confirming this *during* Q1. Since we were well and truly in Q2, I gave up waiting. The AppleTV itself was a bit of a disappointment in terms of the things it could potentially do, but had always justified itself as a "network speaker" for the various iTunes instances about the house. However, some fine people released a port of XBMC to the AppleTV back in January, and I'm in a position now to confirm that the iView plugin for that works nicely.

Along with XBMC's other functionality (and very accessible plugin API in Python), this more or less obviates any need to set up a media centre computer at the television. A $130 AppleTV beats a lot of other options quite smartly.

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Moko asserts...

Posted May 6, 2011
FKN Apple.

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Brian reckons...

Posted May 6, 2011
Ehhh . . .'bout time.

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beeso mutters...

Posted May 6, 2011
Why can't you blog about something I'm interested in?

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Brian reckons...

Posted May 6, 2011
Yeah . . .what Beeso said. I mean IPads . . so last year man.

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fknvty mutters...

Posted May 6, 2011
like if you can fall into the pool with your i-fkn-lookat-me-spazz- phone then you can afford to fkn buy another one can't you ... grrrrrrr some grunts around here ......
like as if i've enough problems trying to install a wave machine (that tubes out) in the dam without this glossy hummingbird black bs.
much worse than a fkn country womens association arvo tea WITHOUT pumpkin scones if you ask me
pz.v.

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damian puts forth...

Posted May 6, 2011
Don't get me started on the pumpkin vines, virtster

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 6, 2011
You need iVine 2.0

With the special pumpkin patch.

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fknvty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 6, 2011
who's lurkin' in me pumpkin patch begorrah .... watchit or i'll haf to alert the lesbian colony next door, they got real mean ipads. pz.v.

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Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 6, 2011
Birmo, can't you download a Kindle app for your iPad?

I have a Kindle app for my third gen iPod Touch and it syncs up pretty well with the Kindle 2. My only gripe is that I do not seem to be able to get newspapers downloaded onto the Touch.

The note taking app with a stylus sounds awesome. That said, I suspect I'm going to have to wait for the iPad 3.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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andy f asserts...

Posted May 7, 2011
surely an ipad for lesbians would be an Lpad?

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Moko mumbles...

Posted May 7, 2011
Please, Beeso's got nudes of Job's on his iPad ... iPhone ... Mac .... T-shirt ... and walls.

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Mat D would have you know...

Posted May 7, 2011
Hell yeah to the Firefly episodes for when you travel, god bless Joss Whedon!!!

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Big Pete reckons...

Posted May 7, 2011
the new iPad sounds like a nice device. If only I could think of a reason to own one.

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drej reckons...

Posted May 7, 2011
Huzzah. Made for drunken tweeting in front of the box I reckon...

Don't mind my ipawn4 I have to say. Except the free rubber bumper from Apple lasted all of about 3 months before breaking. I guess you do get what you pay for...

So just received in the mail this week shiny new protector case thingy - the Vapor4 from ElementCase. Its wicked : aircraft-grade aluminium surround (yeah, wank) with carbon fibre backing cover. Very happy, just hope it protects as good as it looks, although it ranked pretty high on the net.

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MickH is gonna tell you...

Posted May 7, 2011
And of course you're with Telstra because any other network just can't cut it for speed and coverage.

Right?
Right!

:)

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ConspiracyCat asserts...

Posted May 8, 2011
Yeah, real funny MickH, (smartarse). I would have said so much, much sooner, but I'm with Telstra.

FKN intermittent broadband errors.....

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Damian asserts...

Posted May 8, 2011
Personally I am sick of losing phone+internet 4 times a week while they mess with the pits in the street. We are so switching to cable when this contract expires, and perhaps is we get telstra cable, there's some package deal with mobiles we can work towards also (as contracts run out there).

I am sure I grazed the phone cable with the shovel when I was re-planting a palm tree yesterday. I mean, it's in galvanised pipe ffs. How long did they expect that to last? It's been there for 40 years...

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lostatlunch mumbles...

Posted May 8, 2011
Game app splode... I have lost weeks on it..

And gravity HD... It broke my brain..


And osmos HD... SO PRETTY

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Brian has opinions thus...

Posted May 8, 2011
Strangely enough . . .I'll be swapping from Vodaphone back to Telstra.

Yep . . .Teltsra has problems . . . I'd love to have those problems. In fact I'd love to have the connectivity.

Example.Drove to Canbera up the Hulme. Telstra - good. Vodaphone? Had a Havoc moment. I have lots of those.

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DrStrangelove would have you know...

Posted May 8, 2011
Good grief, I feel so behind the times. I think I'll move out West Texas and raise jackalopes.

Doc

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damian mutters...

Posted May 8, 2011
Did I say shovel? I definitely meant spade.

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Lobes mutters...

Posted May 9, 2011
Yeah man, you should download season 1 and 2 of Archer. Its funny funny funny shit and perfect for watching on a tablet.

Like James Bond meets Mad Men via The Office.

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Some other things I did on my holidays.

Posted April 27, 2011 by John Birmingham
I don't have a huge amount of time to write this entry. Got deadlines out the wazoo and I have to go pick up a tire I put in for puncture repair this morning. But I found the kids blogs accepted pics from within blogpress and with that in mind thought I might try a quick entry here. Below is the theatre in San F

ran that was a couple of doors down from our B&B. I'm pretty sure every tourist who passed along that way snapped a similar photo.

Alcatraz, which we visited on a night tour one cold and very wet evening, had a real concentration camp feel I thought.

It was a great tour but we were glad to get across to the water and into a warm bar. Hillstone, I think it was called. The ferry left from a terminal across the road and naturally there were any number of shitty, fast food dumps waiting to lure the unwary in over there. But it's always been my experience that if you just look around and walk a few hundred metres there'll be somewhere else worth going.

Of course it wasn't all dingy bars and wind swept ruins. We did some walking up and down the many hills of the city.

In New York, we stayed near the Park and spent a lot of time either walking through there, or exercising, or just hanging out.

And there were those occasions when the lads would go their own way. Leaving the ladies to shop while we toured submarines...

Inspected aircraft carriers

Or shot things down.

As in SF we did a lot of walking.

A bit of shopping...

And some fine dining...

17 Responses to ‘Some other things I did on my holidays.’

Melbo would have you know...

Posted April 27, 2011
Thanks JB - love the pics. So you did the Nob but did you get to the Coit???

It must have been the worst kind of torture to be imprisoned on Alcatraz with that stunningly beautiful city right outside your window. So close yet so far.

New York - have to go. Your photos have just made me kick myself again for not making the trip the last two times I was there. What was I thinking?

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Brian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 27, 2011
You are so getting a serve from H.

Strange . . . I spent some of my hols. looking at old warclobber as well. There''s a rule there I think.

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted April 27, 2011
Nice one JB, thanks for sharing.
Just one small question; is that young man ready for a 50 cal?
Ok and another larger one; How TF did they get a SR71 (?) on an aircraft carrier?

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Rhino asserts...

Posted April 27, 2011
Where did you stay on Nob Hill ... the HLDW and I stay at a little boutique hotel by name of The White Swan when we are there. Wonderful little place.

NBob ... the answer to your question about the Blackbird is, "Carefully".

R.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted April 27, 2011
Thanks Rhino, I just googled me up some Airgeek action, they sugested crane & barge.
If I cared I'd find out the difference between an A12 & a Blackbird, as some airgeeks insist that the one on display on USS Intrepid is an A12.

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pitpat mutters...

Posted April 27, 2011
mmm bacon in a bar. What will they think of next

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John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 27, 2011
Chocolate covered bacon in a bar.

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John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 27, 2011
Rhino, we were at the Golden gate Hotel. A really lovely little place about two blocks up from Union Square.

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abigail reckons...

Posted April 27, 2011
"Golden Gate Hotel--lovely little place to stay"--making mental note.

Lovely pix JB.I can never believe how extraordinary Central Park is.

So clever you chose to stay close to it--that and hiring the limo at the airports was very sane; that's the deal about travelling with kids, make it simple, why make it any more tiring than needs be? . All looks fabulous.

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girlclumsy would have you know...

Posted April 27, 2011
Lovely shots! Such gorgeous weather too, really helps make a holiday shine. :)

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abigail ducks in to say...

Posted April 27, 2011
Oh, btw--did you ever mention how the baseball game went? sorry, can't recall. Was everything good?

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ConspiracyCat mutters...

Posted April 27, 2011
Wonderful pictures, JB. Thanks for sharing. (I'm insanely jealous).

I'm not jealous of your 'merican accent, though. Hope your "tire" got plenty of rest!

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted April 28, 2011
How very wonderful. Do you feel your children's horizons got a bit more distant due to their experiences?

Although it is surely unlikely, you have now created a greater possibility that at least one of our children will aspire to attend film school in NYC.

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jennicki swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 28, 2011
Thanks for sharing the pics! They're very nice.

I am a little jealous that you got all that exercise in walking around hilly San Fran!

I need to find me a route with lots of hills this summer for my walking.

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Chaz ducks in to say...

Posted April 28, 2011
looks cold

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DrStrangelove would have you know...

Posted April 28, 2011
My wife keeps threatening to take me to NY City sometime when we're up visiting her parents in PA. Sounds like y'all are having a great time!

Why the heck does it look so cold there? We're already in the 80s and 90s down Texas way.

Doc

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Murphy asserts...

Posted April 29, 2011
What I want to know is why the Essex Class carrier I went to visit did not have an SR-71 for me to inspect?

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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What I did on my holidays

Posted April 17, 2011 by John Birmingham
Yes, daddy's home.

So clean up this damn mess, mix me a drink, and fetch my slippers. First up a tip of the propeller beanie to Havoc for looking after things while I was away, although I'm not quite sure why I found one of the bunnies suspended by her suspender from the flagpole on the front drive. I shall have to look into that.

While I'm on the thank you wagon, I needs to dip me lid to Prof. Boylan for looking after us in San Francisco. He and his lovely, scary-smart wife went to considerable trouble to drive down and give us a tour of the old town. It was very much appreciated.

We flew in on a damp, gray morning that reminded me of the opening paragraph to The Big Sleep. The rain held off for most of the time, however, allowing us to walk around and do the tourist thing while adjusting our body clocks to the West Coast. We stayed in a bed-and-breakfast a couple of blocks from Union Square and enjoyed that most American of peculiarities, sharing the accommodation with pets. In this case a couple of dogs and a cat that had lost its tail. The kids loved that.

Having flown out on the day of the iPad launch in Australia I just had to go put my head in the San Fran Apple Store on the off chance that I might be able to score one where millions of Americans hadn't.

No luck.

Oh well. I picked up a few bits and pieces from my masters catalog of minor shiny precious trinkets–so cheap, so cheap–before doing some clothes shopping. We'd packed light, figuring to get the winter clothes we needed over there. A wise move. It's hard to believe how much cheaper everything is in the US until you get there. Of course that depends on maintaining a massive, poorly remunerated wage slave workforce, but that's not my problem. I shopped!

We also ate well, with a particular highlight being an Italian restaurant in the city center called Kuleto's. We first pulled in there a couple of hours after getting off the plane, horribly tired and jetlagged and in need of a decent feed and a stiff drink for the grown-ups. The meal and the service were so good we went back a couple of times more. I tend to do that when traveling. I know you're supposed to strike out and investigate new things but when I find something that's really good I like to invest in it. Kuleto's was really good.

As I mentioned above, the magnificent Boylan appeared on Saturday with his better half to whisk us away to Russian Hill for morning tea and then down to the waterfront where they spent some time at the markets before repairing to a seafood place for oysters and champagne. Huzzah! The afternoon found us at cocktails high above the city, a session I wrote up for Blunty, before we kicked on to dinner at John's Grill, a San Francisco institution featured in the Maltese Falcon.

The next day we did a bit of walking. Back down to the Ferry Building, around the inner city, hopped the ferry out to Alcatraz for the night tour, which was awesome, then back to the city for dinner and drinks at a place called Hillstone, a very agreeable little bar and restaurant. I had reason by this point to be grateful for having broken the spirits of my children many years ago when it came to dining out. They know how to behave themselves in a grown-up setting, even if they'd rather be somewhere else, and it makes traveling with them infinitely more enjoyable. For Jane and I, if not for them.

We did four days in San Francisco before heading across to New York for a couple of weeks. That was our only instance of domestic air travel on the trip and it went pretty well. I got the full body scanner, which pleased me immensely as I listened to the shock and awe of the security personnel when confronted with the awesome power of JB's Old Persuader.

We flew American Airlines across to New York, an all-day flight that passed pleasantly enough thanks to a few more drinks and recently restocked Kindle. That was another thing I bought up on while in country. Lots and lots of titles from the US Kindle store.

I spent a bit of extra money to have a private car and driver waiting at the airport for each leg of the trip, which made the transfers a lot easier.We were staying in the Beacon Hotel in New York, and I would happily recommend it to anybody traveling with kids. They have a two bedroom apartment that's bigger than a lot of apartments your average New Yorker would call home, and the upper West side location two or three blocks back from Central Park is pretty much perfect when you're traveling with kids. There's a couple of brilliant food markets just across the road, and of course hundreds of great cafés and restaurants and diners within a few minutes walk.

I had some work to do in Manhattan, a few meetings to go to, some interviews to do, and as always deadlines to meet, so Jane and the kids looked after themselves for a bit. But there was still plenty of time to enjoy the city. And it is a very enjoyable city. You forget just how unbelievably big it is until you're back there. Naturally, the New York experience you have when you're traveling with children is very different from the experience you have without them, but still awesome. We bought ourselves memberships to the Natural History Museum a while ago, and that alone was worth a week of return visits. The space center in particular was brilliant. Thomas and I took yourselves off to the USS Intrepid one morning while the ladies get their lady thing. I think it involved shopping. And we ate some quite beautiful meals at both high end fine dining restaurants and cheap neighborhood eateries.A couple of standouts were Jean George's on Central Park West, where Thomas inhaled my foie gras Bruleé, and a really lovely Italian place called Ceska around corner from the hotel.

I believe there has been some unseemly talk about all the fat I would be stacking on while away. Allow me to introduce you to Equinox, a boutique gymnasium chain that touts itself as the finest gym in America. And indeed it is. It was also just around the corner from the hotel and offered massive discounts on temporary membership to guests of the Beacon. I spent quite some time there. And in Central Park breaking in my newly purchased running shoes and ridiculously cheap exercise gear.

And, as I may have mentioned, Manhattan is very, very big. We walked all over it.

So I'm afraid some of you owe Abigail some money.

My belt is notched exactly where it was when I left and although the scales say I gained 300 g, I weighed myself before performing my morning ablutions.

My ablutions are considerable. Pay up. (If this all seems implausible, allow me to soften the blow. The last time I was in New York I lost 2.5kgs. That didnt happen this time. I suppose the bush lawyers here might want to argue that's a net gain of some sort).

I would like to be able to go into some of the work meetings I had while I was in New York, but unfortunately they involved discussions about publishing plans for the next 3 to 5 years. Some of those details are fascinating. But confidential.

I can talk about progress on Angels of Vengeance, however. I had lunch with Betsy, my publisher at Random, and we worked through some of the usual first draft issues, all of which I'm now in the process of dealing with. That should hopefully be wrapped up by the end of the month, at which point I'll fly across to Perth for a couple of days of R&R.

You know.

To get over my holiday.

36 Responses to ‘What I did on my holidays’

abigail asserts...

Posted April 17, 2011
JB , your trip sounded awesome, truly awesome., just wow. And thanks because I'm going to fleeece it for restaurant/ accom. references for when we go over. I thin k the private limo is a GREAT idea.
Anyway,it's really great to have you back.
And. I accept the following currency: AUD, Yen, Euros.

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Moko has opinions thus...

Posted April 17, 2011
FKN Abigail.

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Orin mutters...

Posted April 17, 2011
So, still iPadless?

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 17, 2011
Yes. iPadless. It is enough to make me doubt my master's love.

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Orin would have you know...

Posted April 17, 2011
Well, you can always wait until iPad version 3.0, which would make you recoil in horror from your 2.0 just as the faithful recoil in horror from their original iPads. Cos the next one is going to make the current ones totally look shite ;-)

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted April 17, 2011
Good yr back in 1 piece.
This omniscient omnipresent Havoc thing was begining to wierd me out. In a good way.
Junior Birmo must have been pretty impressed by his old man laying on the aerospace & USS Intrepid for him.
In good & vaguely related news you may have heard the the Dimantina @ the Bris Maritime museum got pretty much filled with mud during the flood, Nuke US sub ( 'USS Don't Even Fkn Think About It' I think ) is on a port visit & the crew has "volunteered" to clean her out.

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Melbo mutters...

Posted April 17, 2011
Welcome back JB and congrats on the lack of gain. I lost weight in the US too so I know it can be done. I'm green with jealousy about the Museum of Natural History. I've heard it's ace.

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Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted April 17, 2011
I'm just green.

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fknvty mutters...

Posted April 17, 2011
rather you than me, happy families on the road tend to have me thinking of national lampoon movies and a large dimeatap bottle.
amanda palmer recently moved from boston to manhattan, she reckons it's so 1999.
pz.v.

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John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted April 17, 2011
Orin, but of course! Come iPad3 I shall hand my worthless iPad2 off to the kids. Altho at this rate I fear I wont be able to get one until a week before the next gen is announced.

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted April 17, 2011
This is gonna be weird, getting used to "johnbirmingham" actually being, you know... just when we'd got used to the other.

Sometimes 2-3 times a night, too.

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damian puts forth...

Posted April 17, 2011
And is it a bad thing that my mental geography of Manhattan relies, at least in part, on GTA4?

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abigail puts forth...

Posted April 17, 2011
Damian, haha.

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Murphy puts forth...

Posted April 17, 2011
You LOST WEIGHT during your NYC 2009 trip? Really, John?

Ah, I've got an app for that. It is called a BS Detector and it is threatening to buzz my iTouch to pieces.

How the hell did you LOSE WEIGHT after that massive blueberry cheesecake and pastrami sandwich at Carnegie's?

There is just no justice in this world. I GAINED WEIGHT while I was in NYC, though I think most of it was snot in my sinuses.

Oh, Manhattan in very walkable, for those wondering. I will say this, unlike Birmo's impression, Manhattan seems to be HUGE and small at the same time. Ten blocks in NYC is manageable. Ten blocks here in the sprawl of say Kansas City is a death march.

As for the bunny, she got lippy with Trinity and that is all I can say about it.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 18, 2011
Per the iPad, someone in the SF community managed to wrangle one by finding a rural outlet for the devices where demand would be less. They ended up with a 32GB wifi black model. I suspect that if I had $500 plus laying around, I'd probably follow the same strategy.

Something to consider. I suspect if I had two to three thousand dollars in spare change, I could probably make a tidy sum picking up stateside iPad2s and shipping down under for a modest handling fee.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Paul Nicholas Boylan puts forth...

Posted April 18, 2011
Thank you for not describing the fist fight between me and that old lady. Laying on the sidewalk holding my bleeding nose was extremely undignified, and I want nothing more than to put the unpleasant episode behind me.

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Puma swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 18, 2011
the old persuader, LOL

Is Frisco not the shit or what? I'd move there but I'd probably need 3 roommates to afford it. NYC rocks too.

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MickH asserts...

Posted April 18, 2011
Welcome back JB
I think we need a lunch time burger bash to welcome you back properly...(and get all the good goss)

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Bangar reckons...

Posted April 18, 2011
Welcome back, sounds like a great time was had. Glad I was wrong.

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ConspiracyCat is gonna tell you...

Posted April 18, 2011
Old Persuader... snh, snh, snh, snh.... Sounds like somebody was channeling Derek Smalls....

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Big Pete would have you know...

Posted April 18, 2011
@PNB
"Thank you for not describing the fist fight between me and that old lady."

I hear the video is quite a hit on YouTube. Though you have to turn the sound down as the screaming and sobbing is very disconcerting.

Oh, it's good to have you back JB. Though the other Fake JB was doing quite a good job, I was quite enjoying the daily rants on various subjects.

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pitpat is gonna tell you...

Posted April 18, 2011
I learnt not to bet on JBs weight last time. Holiday sounds cool tho, will have to try one of those one day.

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abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted April 18, 2011
Big Pete, Yes it is on YouTube but it's Sony therefore we get just 4 precious minutes of PNB action.

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted April 18, 2011
Yep, 2.5kgs, Murph. Apart from the cheesecake and that obscenely large salmon bagel, I pretty lived on fruit, salad and grilled fish last time. A few more boutique donuts made their way onto the menu for this trip.

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Chaz asserts...

Posted April 18, 2011
Welcome back Scribe.

Just when were you going to let me know you were coming over here, eh?

Just hope you don't bring crap weather like you did last time.

BTW just a reminder, those acid like stains in the study Not.My.Fault. No matter what Mr Pink Giant Squid says. Ok? *bloody shoggoths*

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Paul Nicholas Boylan reckons...

Posted April 18, 2011
Is Perth a destination for rest and relaxation? I need to know.

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abigail puts forth...

Posted April 18, 2011
Totally is, PNB. Got great beaches, Chaz, wine country.

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted April 18, 2011
I think R&R suits Perth. I'm not sure whether they're producing decent beer yet but there's always imports from the east. Don't go to Rottnest Island as its infested with quokkas.

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Chaz is gonna tell you...

Posted April 18, 2011
And we all know how vicious & grumpy Quokkas are...

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Paul Nicholas Boylan reckons...

Posted April 19, 2011
Reasons enough. I will attempt to include it.

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Albion Love Den mutters...

Posted April 19, 2011
Perth is only a destination for R&R cos there's fuck all else to do there.

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Rhino would have you know...

Posted April 19, 2011
Good to have you back. It was getting difficult to read the blog entries with all of the Havock spittle sprayed across every entry. Only man in the world that can make e-ink run.

I do like NYC but never had a yen to live there - it is a 'visting place' For living I think that it is a young man's town and about 2 years would be all that I could hack. I'm just a suburban Rhino now and have no desire.

Also love S.F. but haven't been back for several years ... last time I was there was during Chinese New Year the year that Hunter Thompson committed suicide and it just seemed so right, and wrong, to be in that town at that time. The HLDW and I walked all the way from North Beach through Chinatown to our hotel on Nob Hill on that trip. Amazing experience.

I've been working all of the angles on the homefront to justify my purchase of an iPad2 only 7 months after my acquisition of the first. Nothing has worked so far. I'm thinking that feigned carpal tunnel from having to lift this obnoxiously heavy tablet will be my next tactic.

When are we going to get another snippet?

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John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted April 20, 2011
When I get time to upload photos via blogroll.

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John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted April 20, 2011
eep.

I meant blogpress.

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Brian ducks in to say...

Posted April 21, 2011
Still IPadless? Shame. Went to Canberra Center Apple store and had a play. Got the wifes IPhone sorted . . . . fckn legacy software.
Saw a guy at Creams doing a job interview on a Chickie babe with IPad MK 1. Mostly I see the little suckers being used as games machines on trains.

Completely happy with my 12 inch slate thanks.

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Savo ducks in to say...

Posted April 22, 2011
welcome home Mr Birmingham

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