Category Archives: Life & Culture

Post relating to contemporary society, the media and arts.

A Song of Sand and Wood

Carpets are expensive. Or at least good quality carpets with separate underlay and professional firing do. So, faced with a mouldy old carpet that needed replacing, I did the only logical thing.

Using the drum sander.

Using the drum sander.

I sanded down the floorboards and covered them in varnish.

Sanding and varnishing a wooden floor still isn’t massively cheap. A days hire of a drum sander and a edging sander clocks in at about £120 before delivery, with enough varnish to cover the twenty square meters three times coming in about £50. The cost of dust bags, sandpaper and painting supplies brought the whole lot to around £200, which I’m pretty sure is less than getting laminate or a decent carpet put down.

Sanding 2The sanding work was reasonably easy. The drum sander which I used to strip the body of the floor handled a bit like a petrol lawnmower, although with more power. It was extremely heavy though, and had to be lifted off the floor frequently so it could be turned round without gouging the floorboards

The floor in our spare bedroom was in shockingly good condition before I started. All that really needed to be taken off was the top layer of grime, water stains and some markings from the sawmill. I started with a medium grade of sandpaper, sanding in a diagonal direction to even out the boards and take off the worst of the muck. Two hours work saw the floor much more level and with most of the stains gone. To finish I used the medium grain sandpaper and worked along the length of the floorboards, before a couple of finishing passes with fine grain paper to give a smooth finish. Continue reading

Moving Annoyance – Which Books and Where To Put Them?

Del Lib ScreenshotI own 577 books. I know this because I use the excellent Delicious Library to keep track of books I’ve loaned to people.

Moving from a two bedroom flat in which every room has a 6 foot tall bookcase into a single room means that less than a quarter of these books can actually accompany me. The result of this is much debate as I go through my collect and decide what I can’t live without.

The bulk of the books I’ve taken with me are related to my degree in some way – politics biographies, political philosophy treatises, textbooks, Greek and Roman classics, commentaries and so on. Some are distantly related, but useful – history books covering Europe, Scotland, Britain and Germany through various key stages for example.

All this has left only two shelves for my fiction collection.

What I judge to be essential enough to me to fill this space probably says a lot about me. It includes a whole swathe of dystopian fiction – 1984, Brave New World, We, Fahrenheit 451, Gormenghast, Live at Golgotha and Catch-22; the essential Tolkien works; my favourite Iain M Banks’ books – Use of Weapons and Excessions; a few modern classics – How To Kill A Mockingbird, The City and The Pillar. The books I’ve been strictest with are Terry Pratchett and my massive collection of sci-fi books – I haven’t taken a single Pratchett and the only sci-fi novel I’m taking other than Banks is Asimov’s Foundation.

On top of these, there are about 50 books which were occupying my To Be Read stack – previously a monstrous collection consisting of four piles spread around every flat surface in my bedroom.

I have absolutely no idea where I’m going to fit all these books. Not least given that I’ll have to buy more books for Uni in the near future. It’s a hard life being a book-geek.

Impressions: Battlestar Galactica

Lets just start by stating the obvious: I’m a latecomer to the Battlestar Galactica scene. This would be because since 2003, the media and my friends have been conspiring to get me to watch the damned series. I don’t like being told what to do.

This would be why I’ve never watched Lost, Dexter, The Wire, The Sopranos or several other vastly hyped post-2000 TV series. On the other hand, I simply don’t like Buffy, Babylon 5, 6 Feet Under and several other vastly hyped TV series which I have bothered to watch which doesn’t encourage me to watch over hyped new TV series unless they are related to my interests (The West Wing, The Daily Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm) or contain the magic words “Trek” and “Star” in the title.

In the interest of disclosure, I have seen all of the original Battlestar Galactica TV series as well as it’s awful follow-up, which saw the crew getting to grips with life on Earth circa 1980. It left a mixed impression – by and large I found the entire thing hysterical.

Anyway, my (very late) impressions of the first episode:

Things I like:
– Adama Sr is wonderfully badass.
– The new Robotic Cylon and Battlestar designs are amazing.
– Dr Baltar looks very like Mirror-Bashir from DS9.
– Space Combat is actually realistic compared to Star Wars/Star Trek etc where ships act as if they were aircraft within atmosphere. Weapons, explosions etc make minimal noise which is also more realistic and adds to the drama.
– Doing with Humanoid Cylons what Stargate SG-1 should have done with Human-Form Replicators.
– No Instant Reset. The most annoying thing about Star Trek Voyager was the instant reset button being pressed at the end of every episode – never any long term damage, no psychological impacts, endless parallel time lines. It’s annoying and a sign of flawed writing. It’s nice seeing the flip side of that coin without the deus exs introduced when Enterprise tackled similar problems.

Things I don’t like:
– Shaky camera isn’t cool, it’s annoying and it doesn’t add to realism.
– The new Basestar designs are horrible, but the old versions were a bit too Millennium Falcon.
– Too many Humanoid Cylons. Humanising enemies reduces the fear factor (see also: Star Trek’s Borg, SG-1’s Replicators).
– The Number 6 in Dr Baltar’s head is too much like the Crichton/Harvey relationship sans the black humour that made it such a good plot device in Farscape.
– There is only one true Number 6, and he is trapped in The Village.

Overall, I’m left with a positive view. Despite still having a very fixed view of what Cylons should look like.