Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Scottish Pipe Band Championship 2014

Saturday was a somewhat mixed day. The morning was gloriously sunny, but in the afternoon it started raining hard; so hard, in fact, that the march-past was cancelled, meaning we all got to leave that bit earlier than expected.

My day started at 6am, with me dragging myself out of bed and off to the shower. The return to work has been pretty brutal, and last week was thus a particularly tough one. I could really have done with a chance to rest. Oh well.

The journey to the competition was reasonably pleasant and was quite quick. Indeed, we had made sure to leave lots of extra time in case of Commonwealth Games traffic, only to find that there wasn't any noticable increase. Thus, we got there with some hours to spare.

The preparation for the competition actually went reasonably well. We took to the field, played out selection, and came off. All seemed good; indeed, it was our best performance of the season, and by a long long way.

There then followed several hours of waiting, which wasn't good but which was improved by having a good book to read. Eventually we got the result.

And we came last. Out of fourteen bands playing, we came fourteenth from both piping judges, fourteenth for ensemble, and eleventh in drumming. Which was a massive kick in the teeth - we'd genuinely thought we were in with a chance of sneaking away with a prize, and certainly didn't think we were that far off the running, so to come last...

The journey home was a rather subdued thing, during which I almost fell asleep a couple of times. I finally got home just before 8pm, which was a good bit earlier than expected. And then I went to bed.

So that's it. There's one final major championship of the season, the World Championships in Glasgow in three weeks time. However, due to the number of bands involved we will need to qualify for the final, and there's little chance of that, never mind of winning a prize. Which means we'll be ending the season without a single championship point to our name. And after several years of that, we're likely to be demoted back down to Grade 4B - which might not be a bad thing from a player satisfaction point of view (better to win in a lower grade than be thrashed in the higher), it took a lot of effort to get moved up, and the thought of facing that again isn't fun.

But I really don't understand what happened. It would be disappointing to have come last due to a bad performance, but at least that would make sense. But I was sure that wasn't the case here. As I said, it was our best of the season by miles, so to still come last... That practically requires everyone else to have been brilliant.

It's just frustrating.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Disaster in the Last Chapter

"The Cuckoo's Calling" in not a book I would normally read. It's not that I have anything against crime fiction; it's just a genre I don't usually bother with. Had it not been for the revelation that Robert Galbraith was actually J. K. Rowling I would probably not have ever been aware of the noval. (And, of course, as soon as it was revealed to be JKR the reviews of the book became worthless - suddenly people were reviewing the author rather than the book.)

Still, I did enjoy the Harry Potter series, so when the novel appeared in Tesco's near-permanent "2 books for £7" offer, I picked up a copy. That was some months ago, and it has been waiting on my shelf since then.

I started "The Cuckoo's Calling" on Saturday while on the bus to Dumbarton; I finished it Sunday evening.

For the most part, it's very, very good - it's a really easy read, the characters are well drawn, and the central mystery is engaging. And it did indeed have me guessing right up to the last chapter. In fact, my big concern was that I had identified three characters I thought might be the killer, and I was worried she might pull a "they all did it!" twist, which wouldn't have been good.

Crime writing must be a tricky thing - you want a mystery complex enough that the reader doesn't quite see the revelation coming, and yet also clear enough that when the killer is revealed then it immediately makes sense - it should of course be clear how they did it, why they did it, and basically tie everything up.

Unfortunately, "The Cuckoo's Calling" fails that latter test. I had previously considered the character in question as the killer, but discarded him for a pretty obvious reason. (Though, admittedly, I was largely considering him because of the Gene Hunt law of crime fighting, rather than any good reason.)

The problem didn't lie with the murder itself. The means, motive, and opportunity all fit together perfectly well, so there was no problem there. Unfortunately, the bigger problem was that if that character was the killer then his other actions in the novel just don't fit.

Now, in fairness, JKR does try to resolve this by explaining what the character wanted to achieve through his actions. But the explanation is simply madness - the character would need to assume that another character, whom he had never met as an adult, was precisely competent enough to find this, this, and this, but just not quite competent enough to find that and that.

But then that means... alas, the more the story tries to fit together, the more it unravels. It's like trying to fix a slightly bendy floorboard by stamping on the raised end - doing so fixes the one problem but it creates others.

Which is a real shame, because for 520ish pages out of 550 it was a really good book. (There's also an issue with the epilogue, which seems determined to ignore some inconvenient facts in order to secure the mega-happy ending - exactly like Dumbledore's blatant cheating of the system in order to secure a Gryffindor win in the first Harry Potter book. But that's a comparitively minor problem.)

Still, it's good enough that I'll probably read the sequel when it comes out in paperback next year. Assuming it's again in the "2 books for £7" offer, of course.

#37: "Solo", by William Boyd
#38: "The Cuckoo's Calling", by Robert Galbraith

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I've been reading "Solo" recently, the new James Bond novel by William Boyd. It's a fairly decent read, although surprisingly lacking in thrills. However, while it's a decent novel, it's just not a very good James Bond novel.

I've been thinking about just why this is, and I have a theory. Unfortunately, if correct that theory means that nobody can ever again write a good new James Bond novel. Indeed, even Ian Fleming couldn't write a good new James Bond novel at this point (if he were alive, of course).

The issue is what I call 'markers'.

In certain series there are distinct markers that are used as a shorthand to the audience to put them at ease and make them comfortable. A Superman film will never deviate very far from the classic suit design, will have Clark Kent as Superman, will have Lois Lane as the love interest, and Lex Luthor will never be too far from the scene (as I understand it, he's in the sequel). Similarly, Batman is Bruce Wayne, the orphan billionaire. Similarly, when casting the new Star Trek movies, there was a need that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto bore a certain physical resemblance to Shatner and Nimoy, respectively. A Star Wars movie pretty much must include lightsabers (and, probably, two particular droids).

And so on.

With the James Bond movies, the set of markers has become quite extensive, indeed to the point where pretty much anyone could write a (really bad) James Bond movie: take two or three exotic locations, three gadgets from Q-branch, a car packed with all sorts of gadgets, three attractive women (he's been upgraded - it used to be two), a bad guy with some sort of obscure physical defect, "vodka martini", "Bond, James Bond", the Walther PPK, some terrible puns... give them a good shake together, and it's done.

(And, yes, "Casino Royale" didn't use all of these, and subverted some others, but actually that was rather the point in that movie. But with "Skyfall" we're back to business as usual.)

The thing is, though, that the James Bond novels also have a set of markers. And these are both subtly different from those in the movies and also, in a few cases, they're incompatible with the ones in the movies - for instance, Bond drives a different car, and drinks a different drink, and is very particular about such things.

The problem is that the majority of readers of a new Bond novel will be people who have only ever seen the films. They will, therefore, expect the novel to contain the various markers that they're used to. And for commercial reasons, therefore, the novel needs to match those expectations.

Conversely, people who have read the novels will expect any new work to serve as a companion piece - they'll be looking for the markers from the novels.

In order to succeed, therefore, a new Bond novel needs to satisfy both. But since the markers are incompatible, this cannot be done.

There have been three recent attempts to write a new Bond novel, and thus three attempts to square that circle. Of these, I've read one, skipped one, and am reading the third. (I skipped Deaver's attempt as I have no real interest in a "literary reboot" of Bond. I find the notion of a continuing adventure, set in the 60's, interesting, but not any update.)

For much of its length, I found "Devil May Care" by Sebastian Faulks to be an excellent read - for about 200 pages it's almost indistinguishable. Unfortunately, it completely goes to pieces in the last third, turning into a bad Roger Moore Bond film in tone. Such a shame.

William Boyd has taken a very different tack, though. Where Faulks tried to write "as Ian Fleming", Boyd has instead absorbed the existing novels and then written his own novel. Essentially, he's doing a work "inspired by" Fleming's novels. Which is a fine approach, I guess, and it gives me reason enough to consider looking up his other works. But the truth is that I wasn't looking for a William Boyd novel; I was hoping for a James Bond novel, and by that metric it fails. Again, a shame.

I will be interested to see if they do another attempt at a new James Bond novel, and if so in who they choose to write it. Assuming it's again set in the 'classic' time, and assuming it's a continuation rather than another reboot, I'll no doubt pick it up and give it a read... and then complain about it again. Still, I do think it's a worthwhile exercise; if nothing else, it helps me identify authors that might be worth giving a look in their own right.

#36: "Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Limited Edition Rulebook", by Cublicle Seven

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


The bathroom ceiling is now dry, and unlike previous attempts this one has actually succeeded - no nasty cracks all across it.

So, that's that job done.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dear Tabloids...

If it's not too much trouble could you please, please stop trying to talk us into a war with Russia? At present the situation in Ukraine looks really bad, and it's certainly very tense all around, but there's far more that we don't know than that we do. The last thing we need is people pouring large amounts of oil on it.

I should probably make clear at this point that I'm not defending Vladimir Putin. By all accounts, he's not a particularly nice person, in charge of a not-particularly-nice government. But there are three things to be considered:

  1. He's not a modern-day Hitler or Stalin. He's just not. Behave.
  2. It's fair to say that our own leaders aren't particularly nice either. For instance, I'm not entirely convinced that Russia's anti-gay agenda is really worse than telling terminally ill people that they're fit to work. And, of course, after Iraq we don't really have any moral high ground on the issue of invading other countries.
  3. Probably most important, though: nice or not, Vladimir Putin is smart. In fact, he appears to be a good bit more intelligent than our leaders. So if he is indeed the mastermind behind the shooting down of this plane, it's because he's trying to start a war, and that because his forces are ready. That's something rather important to consider before rushing in.

Military action against Russia may now be inevitable. It may even be the right thing to do. But it also goes beyond being something we don't want to do unless we absolutely must - it's something we don't want to do even if we absolutely must. Because even if we 'win', we'd end up vastly the worse off for it having been done.

So, yeah, rather than the daily set of headlines designed to out-outrage your rivals in order to sell copy, with the by-product of talking us into a war we really don't want to fight, could you please STFU and let cooler heads prevail? I'm sure Jordan has some tasty revelations about her private life you could cover instead. (And, incidentally, that goes for the BBC and, especially, Sky News as well.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Update on Goals

Another 50 days done, reaching day 200 of the year. So, time for another update...

  • Weight: This hasn't gone well - as usual, my trip away caused a nasty weight gain which means I'm actually worse than where I started. Hopefully the remaining 165 days of the year will be more effective on this one.
  • Work: Work remains good. That said, I've been on holiday for the past week and a half, so I couldn't really complain, could I? I'm hoping the remainder of the year goes the same way, and if so then I'll be happy indeed.
  • Books: I'm now, suddenly, ahead on this goal - I've read 35 of the books for the year, taking me to the end of July, and I'm not without hope I'll actually hit 38 by the end of this month. Better yet, I'm up to date on all of my sub-goals, with the sole exception of the Pathfinder which, due to an oddity in the release schedule, doesn't have an entry in July but instead has two in August. So that's good.
  • Games: There's not been much movement on this one. I played in another session of Numenera, completing that sub-goal, which means the only thing remaining are my one-shot games. I have two scheduled, "Ultraviolet: 2XS" and "Firefly: Inglorious", which leaves me one short of my target. I'm hoping to schedule something in October, but that remains to firm up - I'll update next time.
  • Maintenance: I had a 'final' attempt at fixing the bathroom ceiling, but it didn't work. I'm now in the process of having one more, really final this time, attempt at the same. One way or another, I'll have an answer on that by Monday. Lady Chocolat has also graciously taken the carpet cleaning off my hands, so that's no longer an issue. Those two done, this goal will be belatedly finished.
  • Computer: This was completed last time.
  • Money: One payment to go, and so by this time next month I'll have completed this goal.

And that's that. The above is almost exactly what I predicted with my last update, and I'm pretty happy with it. The only goal that remains problematic is the first one, and that's not really a surprise when looked at objectively.

The next update should be on the 7th of September. I don't expect to have too much to report at that stage - I expect the Work and Books goals should now remain on target, and that the Maintenance and Money goals will join the Computer goal in being completed. I do hope to have some progress to report on the Weight issue, and I'll have come to a decision regarding games for the remainder of the year, one way or another.

By the next update, the band's competition season will also be complete, so at that point I'll have something to report there, too.

The Order of Willie Scott

So, I went to see "Transformers: Age of Extinction" last night. I'm not going to bother with much of a review: Michael Bay has these down to a fine art now, so if you liked the first three you'll like this; if you didn't like the first three, you won't like this. For what it's worth, I rate them 2 > 4 > 1 > 3, but that's like rating Spice Girls singles - they're just varying levels of awfulness.

(That said, I did like some things: most of the Autobot character designs; Hound; the Dinobots!; Prime's original disuise form; that Prime had the Autobot shield in his new disguise form; Frasier Crane's character; and the Dinobots!)

But I'm getting really sick of a particular depiction of women that seems to crop up in films rather too often, which I have chosen to call the Order of Willie Scott, after the character in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom".

This character type is distinguished as follows: the actress is cast because she looks good but usually (but not always) lacks any acting experience and indeed talent. The character is then portrayed as being completely useless. She exists to shriek at opportune moments, to get herself into all sorts of trouble, and to generally motivate the manly men to go off on their adventures. As a side-order of awfulness, the character is usually (but again, not always) depicted as being 'strong' by virtue of constantly defying the paternalistic male figure in her life - be that her father as here, or the hero (who, by virtue of being the hero must of course be the surrogate father-figure /sarcasm) - generally serving to get herself into yet more trouble.

Now, in fairness, there is a certain counter-argument here: faced with a war between giant transforming robots, it's not really a surprise that someone might go to pieces. Indeed, there was one scene in particular that would have had me curling up in a ball and just accepting death. But that's actually part of the point: in film, it's invariably the female character (especially the OWS) who cries, and cowers, and gets rescued, while the manly men bellow, and stand, and do the rescuing. It's not a realistic human response to danger; it's a patronising faux-female response to danger.

(The reality, with something like this, is that some people would be shattered and some would adapt more quickly. But it's likely that that adaptation wouldn't cut across the 'classic' lines: faced with a war between giant transforming robots, there's no telling whether it would be the manly man or his seventeen year old daughter who is better able to cope. Indeed, there's an argument for it being the latter, as she has less life experience to be confounded.)

So, I'm afraid I'm going to have to induct Nicola Peltz's Tessa Yeager into the Order of Willie Scott, alongside Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's Carly, and of course Willie Scott herself (but, incidentally, not Megan Fox's Mikaela Banes - Michael Bay does actually know how to do better, he just chooses not to).

(Of course, I've also previously complained about the 'fake' badass warrior woman - the one who is portrayed as being tough and independent and awesome... right up to the point where the script-writers need to establish how great the 'real' hero is, at which point she'll need rescued. I don't like that either. My preference is for characters like Lady Sif from "Thor", Eowyn from "Lord of the Rings", Delenn or Susan Ivonova from "Babylon 5", Sarah Connor from "Terminator", or Ellen Ripley from "Alien".)

Actually, it occurs to me that "Transformers: Age of Extinction" could have been improved hugely by the simple expedient of changing the sex of Mark Wahlberg's character. Though it should be noted that I didn't see anything wrong with his performance.

Friday, July 18, 2014


A couple of years ago, I complained that "How I Met Your Mother" had run into problems, largely because it had fallen into a holding pattern. I was actually quite dismayed when the 9th season was announced, because while I wasn't enjoying it, I felt a need to see it through to the end (see also: Wheel of Time, Song of Ice and Fire, Outlander). But I actually enjoyed most of the 9th season - the need to bring things to a close forced the writers to actually get moving and tell their story (see also: the last book of Wheel of Time), and the introduction of The Mother added a whole new dimension to the show. Good stuff.

Then they did the finale, and managed to completely blow it.

Of course, most of the discussions about the show have already been had, probably those months ago when it finished in the US, so I'll be brief. My problems with the finale were threefold:

  1. They casually threw away basically all of the character growth and change of the past several years. I actually complained about Barney's "growing up" those two years ago, but it was an undeniable aspect of the character, and his and Robin's relationship was pretty key. And then then threw it away, had him revert back to his former persona... and then do another 180 turn in an instant. Not good. Similarly, one of the key features of the last season was Ted's finally realising that Robin was not the one for him, and that he had to let her go. And then they turned that one around, too. Good work, there. The only characters who weren't betrayed by this were Marshall and Lily... who had basically remained constant throughout so had nothing to revert back to.
  2. Likewise, The Mother was very badly treated. That character had been crucial to so much in the show, even before she was seen, and then the cast and writers had done an exceptional job of showing that she and Ted were indeed right for each other (even without showing us the meeting). And there, again, she was written out in about fifteen seconds, because time was short. Again, not good.
  3. But the big issue was the epilogue, where it's revealed that the story's not really about how Ted met The Mother at all but, surprise!, it's all about Ted and Robin after all. And so we get a theoretical happy ending: Ted and Robin live happily ever after. But there's a massive problem with that: the show spent years making it abundantly clear that while Ted really wanted Robin to be The One, she just wasn't right for him. It had taken him an awful lot to realise that, and caused a huge amount of heartbreak along the way (messing up all sorts of stuff between them), but it was true: Robin just was not right for Ted - he was in love with an imagined version of her, not the reality. (I think perhaps the issue here was that their hands were tied by virtue of having filmed the scene with the kids a decade ago, and couldn't reshoot due to them aging in the meantime. But while this explains the problems, it doesn't so readily excuse them.)

So, anyway, that's that. And now I have another gap in my TV schedule to fill - counting everything there are maybe only half a dozen shows to watch all year.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Silence Falls

August is the month of the Seventh Doctor, as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy - sadly, also the last Doctor of the classic era. Thanks to the machinations of the BBC, I actually missed a large chunk of McCoy's tenure - I missed his first companion entirely, and saw only parts of the adventures with Ace!.

Unfortunately, having viewed some of the McCoy stories later, I'm inclined to think that cancellation actually was the best thing for the show. The reality was that computer SFX were just hitting big in the US but they were still very expensive. So Doctor Who was never going to match up with "Star Trek: the Next Generation", never mind "Babylon 5" and the shows that followed it. It really needed massive investment or it would look really cheap... and the BBC weren't in a position to give it the investment it needed.

Faced with that, I'm afraid cancellation was necessary. And in some ways it was good - it allowed a new generation of fans to grow up, and led directly to the RTD and Moffat eras.

This month's short story is titled "Ripple Effect", and is by Malorie Blackman. As the name may imply, it deals with the Doctor (aided by Ace!) making an unwise decision and the consequences being far reaching indeed. It features Daleks, but not as we know them...

It was a good read, certainly being a decent diversion for an hour or so. Still, as with so many of these short stories, it barely gets going before it's time to wrap up. In particular, I think I would have preferred a bit more deciding to fix the problem and a bit less being forced to fix the problem - there was an interesting dilemma there, but it was largely sidestepped by the urgency of the situation.

The novel was "Remembrance of the Daleks", by Ben Aaronovitch, the novelisation of his serial of the same name.

I suppose that was an inevitable choice - when picking eleven novels for a "50th anniversary collection" there are a few things you have to include: one featuring each Doctor, one each with Daleks, the Master, Cybermen... one written by Terrance Dicks, and one novelisation. This hits three of those in one fell swoop. And with it also being Ben Aaronovitch's first published novel, and given his later success elsewhere, it must have been a no-brainer to include it.

It's fair to say, though, that it wouldn't have been my choice.

There's nothing particularly wrong with "Remembrance..." Indeed, given that it was the last Dalek story for years, it made for a good ending for their particular story. And yet, it suffers a bit, as do many of the seventh Doctor stories, by the Doctor having a plan that he's following but which looks like a completely random sequence of actions. He goes here and does that, then he goes there and does this, and then... it all comes together. That makes things quite frustrating - it's as if some exposition is just missing.

The novelisation of "Remembrance..." also suffers from much the same flaw as I found with "From Russia With Love" - with that Bond story the film captured the essence of the book so well (and with "Remembrance..." it's the reverse) that it just seems redundant - yes, it's a decent story, well told and well written, but... I've seen it before. I can't read it without Sylvester McCoy's voice in my head, delivering exactly those lines. When Ace! says "but professor..." it's Sophie Aldred I hear. I know the story, I've seen it relatively recently, so why bother reading it?

None of which is Ben Aaronovitch's fault, of course. Indeed, one could argue that that's exactly what you want from a novelisation. But it does hopefully explain why I think I would rather have had something else instead.

Anyway, that's the classic era done. Next up is poor Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor, the longest and the shortest. I always felt that while his TV movie was pretty terrible, he himself could have been a great Doctor, and I was really glad to see him get another chance in "Night of the Doctor". So I'm rather looking forward to next month's adventures in time and space...

#30: "Firefly Roleplaying Game: Core Book", by Margaret Weis Productions
#31: "Cross-Stitch" ("Outlander in the US), by Diana Gabaldon (A book from The List)
#32: "Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks", by Ben Aaronovitch
#33: "The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day", by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen
#34: "Ender's Game", by Orson Scott Card (A book from The List)
#35: "The Crusader Road", by Michael A. Stackpole

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Riding of the Marches 2014

Another week, another competition. We at least got to play at this one, and did much better than we'd expected (we had real problems getting set up to play). We came 6th out of 8, which wasn't great but wasn't too bad, all things considered.

I also mostly enjoyed the parade through the streets, as the weather was nice and lots of people had come out in support. Also, some of the groups in the parade were really quite creative - I particularly liked the "Riding of the Minions".

Ultimately, though, it really wasn't the best of days, for all the usual reasons.

Oh well. There are now six competitions to go (two Championships and four minors), and then the season will be done. I'm looking forward to that.

(One thing that wasn't particularly good either is that I'm still wading through the book I was reading last year, which I'm still not enjoying. Still, I only have 155 pages to go...)

Friday, July 04, 2014

The Coffee Penance Ends

A couple of years ago, in a bid to distract me from my Irn Bru problem, I started drinking coffee at work (with the consequence that I now have both an Irn Bru problem and a coffee problem). After a few weeks of trying out various types and brands of coffee, I settled on Kenco's "Columbian" coffee as my drink of choice. Which is mostly fine and uncontroversial.

Unfortunately, Tesco in Falkirk have decided to become rubbish, and seem to be intent on reducing the range of things that they carry or, worse, stocking them only erratically. This has already had the terrible ordeal of forcing me to to buy green! mouthwash on one occasion (and, horribly, they've also sometimes had the green! and red! mouthwash on offer but not the blue stuff, provoking the most terrible of dilemmas). And the same has applied to coffee - naturally, they've retained a fairly extensive range but become erratic in stocking the one I actually want.

So, the last time I found myself running out of coffee, Tesco were of course out of stock. So, rather than go a week without, I was forced to try an alternative. After much careful consideration, I plumped for Nescafe's "Blend 37", that being one I hadn't had before. (Nescafe also have a "Columbian" coffee, but I've learned in the past that this is a cruel trick.)

So, I picked up a jar of "Blend 37", and that should have been the end of it. It was horrible, but it was just one jar and so just three weeks of bad coffee - not a disaster. And, indeed, had it been one jar I might even have been tempted to throw it away as soon as I could get an alternative. A waste, to be sure, but one I could blame on Tesco and so move on.

But I made a terrible, stupid mistake. See, I'd run out of coffee both at home and at work (because I'd run out at work and so taken the jar from home to work, and then run out again). So, having decided to try "Blend 37", just as I was about to move on... I picked up a second jar for the flat!

Naturally, this was a total disaster. I don't even drink coffee at home all that much, and could have easily managed without for a week. But, no, I grabbed the second jar of granulated horribleness, took it home, and then discovered my mistake (whereupon I didn't drink any coffee at home for weeks).

This of course created a bigger problem - it wasn't one jar but two, and it wasn't Tesco's fault but my own stupid mistake that caused the problem. Consequently, just throwing the coffee away wasn't an option. It had to be drunk.

(Plus, in another cruel irony, the coffee went from "dire" to merely "horrible" by switching from a heaped tablespoon per mug to two-thirds of that... meaning it lasted even longer. Gah!)

The upshot of that is that today is a day of celebration - I finally finished the last of "Blend 37"! And since I picked up some more as soon as it came back into stock, I can resume Kenco's "Columbian" on Monday. Huzzah!

Making an Exception

Over the past few weeks, I've been gradually reading through the rulebook for the new Firefly RPG. And, naturally enough, once I've finished it I'll be wanting to add it to my list of books read for the year.

There's just one thing, though. Back when I started recording the list of books read, I set up a number of rules: it's a book if the publishers say it's a book; one set of covers is one book; and when tackling an anthology of which I've already read part, I only need to read the 'new bits' to count the whole. In particular, that "one set of covers" rule has a corollary that eBooks don't count (not having covers). Indeed, I specifically noted this restriction way way back when I first posted on the topic.

The reason that that matters is that the Firefly RPG is a PDF, as the hardcopy hasn't arrived yet - it's on pre-order with Amazon, but has been delayed since March (-ish). Having gotten bored waiting, and since the electronic form of RPGs is frequently useful when preparing anyway, I picked up the PDF at fairly low cost, and have since started reading that.

So, I found myself with something of a dilemma - how to add the Firefly RPG to the list of books while adhering to my self-imposed rules?

So, I considered not including Firefly on the list, on the grounds that the rules exclude it. I also considered deliberately stopping just short of finishing the book until the hard-copy arrived, and then reading the last page or two in the physical version (and thus sneaking it in under the 'new bits' clause). At which point I decided that that was pretty absurd.

At length, I've decided to make an exception to the rules, and just include it once it's finished. If nothing else, when the physical copy arrives I'll take a look through it anyway, at which point I can sneak it in under the 'new bits' rule - per standard logic rules "all the new bits" evaluates to TRUE if there are no new bits. (Besides, I actually do expect there to be a couple of new bits - probably some back-cover blurb and one or more adverts for upcoming products - that have been omitted from the PDF.)

As a general principle, it's probably time to relax the "one set of covers" rule to admit eBooks and PDFs. (Not that I expect to make much use of such a clause, as I have neither a Kindle nor iPad, and don't like reading PDFs or eBooks on a PC screen.) The only problem there is that it's not immediately obvious how such things should be measured - if I were to get a compiled PDF of, say, the "Hunger Games" trilogy, would that count as one book or three? With a physical version, that's obvious, but not so with the electronic form.

(For now, I'll only include electronic versions of things that are also available as physical books, and list them in the same manner as I would the corresponding physical book. So if that electronic version of the "Hunger Games" trilogy matched to a one-book physical version it would count as one, where if it corresponded to a boxed set containing all three then it would count as three. Either way, I'll note when something was in electronic form, and if you really want to take issue with it then you can... though I don't promise not to shake my head sadly in your general direction.)