September 12th, 2015


The Wild Reel, by Paul Brandon

Second paragraph of third chapter:
As always, the player sat invisible in one corner of the studio, its face hidden by an androgynous porcelain mask that fitted so close it could really only be skin. A wide-brimmed, black hat cast a crescent shadow across most of its bone-white features except for the mouth, a painted-on slash that either curled up or down at the edges depending on what Natty was painting. Its body was wrapped in a shawl of a thousand patchwork colors that looked part Romany, part Tibetan, all Faerie. The instrument, a battered old friend from the foothills of Spain, was cradled across its lap like a child, and the hands that caressed it were ghost-pale and wrinkle-free. Ageless.
I think I'm getting very unforgiving in my old age; I put this aside after fifty pages of Celtic muddle, with an emotional setup for the two protagonists (fairy king and mortal woman) that did not make sense to me and bordered on some potentially abusive territory (he is wooing her by bonking her in her dreams). At the point I gave up, the narrative was about to switch to Australia with potential for hilarious culture-shock japes. Not for me, sorry.

What I do with LinkedIn

The story of a lawyer who was sexually harassed on LinkedIn is in the news. There's not much more to be usefully said about that than "Don't be a dick online, and don't be surprised by the blowback if you are." But it has helped crystallise my own thoughts about LinkedIn generally. (For those of you don't know it, it's a social network which is a grownup version of Facebook.) I find it both useful and frustrating, with the useful outweighing the frustrating, but the frustrations still there.

First, I like the fact that it's a good way of not just staying in touch with long-lost friends, but also seeing what is going on in their lives; as long as people keep their own profiles up to date, it is very useful to see who has changed job or country recently. It's also handy to see who and what you have in common with new professional contacts. Maybe once a month, someone I haven't been in touch with for ages uses it to contact me, and usually it's someone I'm glad to hear from.

Second, I often need to quickly locate people with knowledge of particular countries or subjects, and a LinkedIn search is by far the easiest way of seeing who I know that might fit the bill. (For example, the guy in the next seat on my plane flight yesterday turned out to be a bodyguard by profession. It's unlikely, but not completely impossible, that I may need to find someone offering those services in the future, so I've added him.)

Third, I find the news/blog updates much the best source of information about the mechanics of management that I regularly read, particularly the pieces about recruitment and retention of skilled colleagues (I often feel that hiring people is the most difficult thing to do in my line of work). This probably just shows that I'm not a regular reader of Forbes or the back pages of the FT. But...

Fourth, I find the actual newsfeed of LinkedIn very annoying, even though the content is useful. I would like to be able to choose to view just blog posts, or just updates from my contacts, or just job changes. But LinkedIn is actually worse than Facebook in controlling what you are shown without giving you any choice, which is why I spend much less time browsing it than I do other networks. And...

Fifth, LinkedIn is far too promiscuous in encouraging people to make connections with people they simply don't know. The value of the network is in the strength of its links; LinkedIn asserts this strongly in theory, but in practice strongly encourages people to click the box next to someone who sounds interesting. I get literally a dozen connection requests every week. I reply to all of them, "I'm afraid that I cannot remember how we know each other. Can you remind me please?" Maybe one time in fifty it does turn out to be someone I knew - Hi there, John in Tbilisi! - but otherwise it's a waste of electrons. I won't report good faith invitations from people who I have never met, but I won't accept them either.

If I were more of a freelancer, I'd find LinkedIn even more useful (and perhaps I would find ways of dealing with those frustrations). As it is, I wish they would just fix the obvious problems of giving users more control over the content they see, and encouraging sensible restraint in contacting strangers.

The Sleep of Reason, by Martin Day; Tempest, by Christopher Bulis

The Sleep of Reason, by Martin Day

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Dark clouds are gathering – both literal and, if I might be permitted so fanciful a notion, symbolic – and I do not happily watch them as they form.
One of the last of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, seems to have got rave reviews from a lot of people though I am with hammard who warned me last year that it is alright but not stellar. The Doctor is involved with two different timelines in the same mental hospital, in one of which he is ostensibly a mysterious patient called Smith. Supporting character Laska is nicely done, though at the expense of regulars Fitz and particularly Trix.

Tempest, by Christopher Bulis

Second paragraph of third chapter:
The mainline trains typically comprise fifteen or sixteen large double-decked cars, linked by spherical airlock coupler modules. They're built more like ground-level spacecraft - not surprising since they have to function in total isolation from Tempest's poisonous atmosphere for several days at a time, recycling their air and water.
A Bernice Summerfield novel in which she is dragged into investigating a crime committed on a train circling a storm-tossed planet. Not brilliant - some rather sexist elements in the subplots, and I feel the formula of Bernice Summerfield Ace Detective has been done better elsewhere.