Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Year in 2016

Well, thank goodness that's over! 2016 just sucked from start to finish. It was a bad, bad year.

And now I'll try to be positive and upbeat in my end-of-year round-up. Being nothing if not predictable, I'm sticking with the same headings...

My Year in... Blogging

I notice that this is the fourth-least bloggy year since I began here - 108 posts for the year, behind all but three previous years (one of which was the first 'year', which started in September!). That's not terrible, being an average of 9 posts per month, but I think I'll try to aim higher for next year. There just hasn't been much to write about!

My Year in... Work

There's an awful lot I can't talk about at work, including some stuff I can't even talk to LC about, which is far from ideal.

But of the things that I can talk about... it's going okay. Not spectacularly, or even hugely well, but it could be much much worse. And there's at least some prospect of it getting better in 2017.

There was no call to travel in 2016, but I fully expect that to change in 2017. I suspect I would have had at least one journey to make late in the year, but other factors meant I just couldn't go anywhere.

My Year in... Health

Most of the year was actually pretty good, verging on very good. And then the end of November saw things get much worse for a spell - another round of IBS just making things suck.

My Year in... Gaming

On paper, 2016 was actually a pretty successful year - I ran both Firefly and D&D games, hosted a good number of sessions, and as far as I know people had fun. And yet, I spent most of the year feeling dissatisfied with gaming this year.

Part of that is a growing move away from D&D 5e as one of my games of choice, part of it is down to too many pointless arguments on ENWorld (culminating in my walking away from the site), and part of it was just a general malaise with gaming in general. It probably didn't help that the Christmas Game had to be cancelled due to delays with the house move.

My Year in... Band

Band has been much like last year - it's been mostly enjoyable, though the bit of it that I least enjoy remains the competition season that is increasingly the band's raison d'etre. Our results in the competition season were deeply mixed.

One firm conclusion I came to at the end of the 2016 competition season was that even if I spent another season with the band, I wouldn't be using the buses except where it was essential to do so - for Forres, Ireland if the band goes, and probably for the World Championships. I just found that environment increasingly toxic as the year went on.

All that said, it is extremely likely to be a moot point - I fully expect to be leaving the band early in the New Year. I do feel I should at least try, to see if the commute is practical, but my distinct impression is that it won't be, for exactly the same reason it wasn't practical for me to travel to the BB in Chryston when I moved to Falkirk - yes, the journey can be done, but it sucks enough to spoil the event as a whole. So we'll see, but I really doubt I'll be there come February.

My Year in... Resolutions

As always, the wrap-up of annual goals, and setting of goals for next year, are handled in another post.

My Year in... Travel

This was a year of several short trips.

The first trip of the year was a long weekend down south to celebrate Grandma's 90th birthday (that is, dad's mum). That was a good weekend, and a good chance to get caught up with the various cousins. Good to see them again, especially at a happy event.

Then, in April, LC and I took our annual trip, this time to Arbroath. This trip is mostly notable for being almost entirely unmemorable - it was fairly cold and fairly wet, with relatively little to actually do thereabouts. Plus, the dates didn't really match up - due to a quirk in LC's school's holidays, the Easter break didn't include either our anniversary or LC's birthday.

This was then followed by a trip that was paradoxically both more enjoyable and sad - we spent a long weekend in Banff to scatter LC's grandad's ashes. That was a gloriously sunny weekend, and was strangely restful. Odd that that should be one of the highlights of the year, but there it is.

Our only trip abroad this year came in July, when we spent several days in Amsterdam. That was another good trip, and one I highly recommend. I also highly recommend the iAmsterdam card, which we found to be hugely beneficial.

And then August saw us spending a week in a place called Brighouse Bay in Dumfries and Galloway, celebrating Dad's 70th birthday. This was okay, but as with so many family events there's an inherent weakness in the system: they are (necessarily) geared heavily towards the needs of the children, with the consequence that those of us without children are left to our own devices. And when those devices include a visit to a genstone museum the amounts to "here's some rocks", that's not exactly ideal!

Finally, October saw us spend some time in London, on a trip that was most memorable for the chaos surrounding the house move. The highlight was our visit to the Harry Potter studios; the low-point was probably our visit to the Sherlock Holmes museum (it's fine, but not worth the price). Oh, and "Aladdin" was good.

My Year in... Faith

This was a poor year. I completed a third read-through of the whole Bible, but the honest truth was the most of it felt more like a chore than a pleasure, especially since it included two full repeats of the New Testament and the Psalms, which are by now very familiar texts.

The other issue is that LC and I currently find ourselves without a church: we've gradually moved away from the church in Chryston on the grounds that we'll want to find a new church in Livingston, but we haven't as yet achieved that. Which is not ideal.

So, this will need to be something I address in 2017.

My Year in... Love

There's nothing much to say here. For much of the year, we've been feeling the strain of being stuck in the flat, which has had the effect of putting everything else on hold. Plus, LC's commute has been far from ideal, and when combined with the extra-curricular demands placed on teachers generally, that has not been good.

So, that's another reason I'm welcoming 2017!

My Year in... Growing Older

2016 was the year I officially became 'vintage' (previously I was 'retro-chic').

Probably the single biggest highlight of the year was the birthday party that LC put together to mark that occasion, which I've talked about before. It was obviously good to see so many friends and family again, including some I've not seen for too long, and a good night was had by all. Huzzah!

My Year... Overall

As I said right at the top, 2016 has just sucked, and I'm not going to sugar-coat that. Unfortunately, some of the reasons it has sucked are either things that are ongoing or have left a legacy of problems that will continue to hurt us for the foreseeable future (Brexit, Trump). But in some areas, and in particular in some key areas, the problems that have dogged 2016 were particular to that time and circumstance, and so should not be repeated. Hopefully, 2017 will be the year we start to put things right again.

As with last year, this will be my last post of this year, so I'll end off by wishing anyone who still reads my nonsense a very happy New Year, and all the best for 2017.

End of Year Update on Goals

With the year rapidly coming to an end, it's time for the end-of-year wrap-up. And so my first post on the topic is the update on my goals for the year:

  • Weight: This goal hasn't just failed, but has in fact gone backwards. There are several good reasons for this, and also several bad excuses I might offer. But the bottom line is that the goal has been failed.
  • Books: I'll be posting a full list of the books I've read this year a bit later, so for now suffice it to say that this goal has been completed with some ease.
  • Games: Both the "Firefly: The Lost Episodes" and "Eberron: Dust to Dust" campaigns did indeed continue in 2016, thus completing this goal. In fact, both games came to their end, which was perhaps not ideal but was also not the worst thing. More disappointingly, the "Christmas Game" this year had to cancelled due to the stresses involved in moving house.
  • Super Secret Goal #4: I'm calling this a partial success - there's still some stuff to be done, notably concluding the sale of the flat, but we also have a reasonably clear road-map to the end, and we've made a lot of progress.


Of the four goals, two have succeeded, a third that's a partial success, and one has failed spectacularly. Of the goals, by far the biggest was SSG#4, so that being a partial success sets the tone for the year as a whole - a partial success. Not bad, and not too much that could have been done to improve matters meaningfully, but not a total success. So, that's okay, I guess.

The failure of the weight goal, again, is a big concern.

The goals for 2017 will largely be about setting up "Part Five" - we need to get settled in our new home, we need to find a new church, I need to sort out what's happening with band and/or the game group, and so on. So it will be a bigger list than last year, but will also include a lot of goals that should complete fairly quickly.


  • Weight: This is the same goal yet again: I'd like to lose a stone and a half next year.
  • Books: And, again, the same goal once more: 60 books. I also have my sublists picked out: 12 books from The List, 12 Pathfinder books, 6 Pathfinder Tales, 9 "Culture" novels (the series by Iain M. Banks), and 12 Shannara novels. However, this last is liable to be abandoned - I'm going to read the next trilogy in the series, and then take a decision.
  • Super Secret Goal #4: Simply put, I want to bring this to completion. As soon as possible, please!
  • Part Five: The House: As much as we like it, the new house isn't perfect - there are a couple of rooms we'll probably want to redecorate, there's definitely a need for some new or replacement furniture, and there are the remaining practicalities inherent in getting settled in. So, of course, we want to get that all sorted out this year.
  • Part Five: Church: As part of establishing ourselves in Livingston, LC and I will need to investigate the local churches and find a new 'home'. We've gone too long without a regular place of worship, so this will need to change.
  • Part Five: Band: For the first month after we move, I'm going to investigate the possibility of sticking with the band in Falkirk. Assuming that isn't practical (and I don't think it is), I'll need to investigate the possibility of moving to another band in Livingston. Or I might decide to step away from pipe bands altogether for a while. The goal here is to find an answer, without prejudging what that answer might be.
  • Part Five: Gaming: Likewise, I'll have to investigate the practicalities inherent in sticking with the Falkirk RPG group after the move - it might be better to instead network with other local groups. But, again, the goal is to come up with an answer, whatever that answer might be. It's also worth noting that I'm not setting any goal for actually running or playing any games; indeed, I have no intention of running anything (other than perhaps a rescheduled "Christmas Game") any time soon.
  • Super Secret Goal #5: This is very provisional at this stage, and may prove not to be a goal at all (I'll know in April or May), but it's included here for completeness. But don't tell anyone - it's super secret!

And that's that. Seven (ish) goals, mostly associated with constructing a foundation for Part Five from which we can move forward. To a certain extent, it looks like 2017 will be about tidying up the mess from 2016, which is no bad thing... 2016 was a very messy year indeed!

#71: "Volo's Guide to Monsters", by Wizards of the Coast
#72: "For the Love of God, volume two", by Don Carson
#73: "Holy Bible", by Various Authors (strictly speaking, a book from The List)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I wrote two blog posts yesterday (one here and the other on the Imaginarium), and I'm not terribly happy with either. Maybe "Rogue One" didn't inspire me quite as much as I'd thought, or perhaps my desire to avoid spoilers robbed them of any substance.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rogue One

We didn't go to a midnight showing of the latest "Star Wars" film. In all honestly, I don't think that's all that surprising - I've actually only ever gone to three midnight showings: "Attack of the Clones", "Spider-Man" (actually, an advanced preview a week before the official release of this one), and "The Force Awakens". So it's not as if there's a long-standing tradition of my attending such showings.

But the consequence of not going to a midnight showing was that I actually didn't see the new "Star Wars" film for ages after it came out - Saturday to be precise. Which means I didn't even see it before it came out in America! Oh, the humanity!

Anyway, LC and I saw "Rogue One" on Saturday, in a 3D showing in a regular cinema. (I'm kinda hoping to find time to go see it again at the Vue, where they have the 70mm projectors - it was filmed in Ultra-Panavision, so I'm interested to see how that changes the viewing experience.)

It was worth the wait. I very much enjoyed "Rogue One", more indeed than I did "The Force Awakens". This was largely because it was something new - TFA felt very much like "Star Wars' Greatest Hits", which is all well and good, but is really less good than just watching, well, "Star Wars". Conversely, "Rogue One" was a very different type of a film - sort of "The Dirty Dozen" in space. Which is cool.

And, actually, I think that's all I'm going to say about that. Except to note a certain ambivalence surrounding two particular characters, who didn't quite fit right - every time those two were on the screen I was jarred out of the film by wondering "how did they do that?" (And, actually, there were another two that had that effect, though in their cases I knew exactly how it was done, and that also was a bit jarring!)

But, basically, I'm happy with that. It does seem that Disney is a good home for my favourite films...

#69: "The Ultimate Helm", by Russ T. Howard
#70: "The Salmon of Doubt", by Douglas Adams

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Taunted by My Own Joke

One of my two favourite jokes about the appeals of Falkirk is that it is really easy to leave (because of good motorway links to both east and west, and good rail links to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Stirling).

Turns out, not so much.

We had news this morning that we're now very unlikely to get moved before the New Year - the remaining steps are estimated to take just over a week, and the various offices effectively shut down between the 23rd of December and the 4th of January. (I hasten to note at this point that I entirely understand that - our offices do exactly the same thing, and for the same reason. Plus, as a matter of principle, people are entitled to a holiday.)

So that all sucks. Especially since it would have been very convenient to be moving during the ten day period when neither LC nor I have to go to work. But never mind - no point in dwelling on things that can't be helped.

(Incidentally, for those wondering, my other favourite joke is that Falkirk has both Lazer Tag and a bowling alley. I didn't say they were good jokes!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A New Act of Union?

I see 2016 is ending as it began. In particular, we have had a much-hyped speech by a minor politician calling for a new Act of Union, recasting the UK in a federal structure. This is said to be necessary to prevent the break-up of the UK, has had massive media attention in Scotland (far out of proportion with what it deserves - I'm sorry, but as the leader of the third party in Scotland, Kezia Dugdale really is a minor politician, especially on the UK stage). The latest news on that front being that her plan has been endorsed by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, themselves former politicians.

The thing is: she's right. A revised Act of Union, and a federal structure for the UK may well be what is needed for the UK to stay together, and is probably enough to ensure that it does so.

But get back to me when Theresa May endorses the plan.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Reboot Revisited

Over the past couple of weeks, since my decision to retire Region One brought it to mind, I have taken the opportunity to re-watch my "Reboot" DVDs, partly out of curiousity as to how they hold up, and partly just for something to do. I made my way through series three last week, and then watched series four over the weekend. (Perhaps oddly, I don't have series one or two on DVD. But it practically became a different show at the start of series three, so that matters less than you might think.)


It's fair to say that the animation is very much of its time: "Reboot" was the first computer-animated half-hour TV cartoon, and it shows. And given just how far both computer animation and TV in general has come in the last few years, it really shows.

On the other hand, I'm not averse to watching old episodes of "Star Trek", or "Doctor Who", and "Babylon 5" remains one of my top sci-fi shows of all time, so bad effects aren't exactly a deal-breaker for me!

In terms of storytelling, I think those series of "Reboot" do still hold up, just about. And it's worth noting that the show does some things that I don't think I've ever actually seen anyone else do - including the literal end of the world while all the heroes are standing right there (which isn't even the end of the show - it's complicated). Plus, it really seems that, somewhere along the line, the writers forgot that they were supposed to be doing a kids TV show. That seems to happen to geeks a lot.

The bottom line is that I enjoyed it. Though I was perplexed, once again, that the show as a whole ends on a massive cliff-hanger. Personally, I think it would be better had it ended at the completion of the "Daemon Rising" arc, and the mega-happy ending that that implies, but never mind. "My Two Bobs" just didn't work for me, for several reasons... and then gave us that ending. A shame.

Unfortunately, having watched it again, it strikes me that "Reboot" is very much a show of its time, and not just in terms of the animation. Ironically, it is a show that itself probably shouldn't be rebooted. (Not least is the issue of Dot Matrix, whose name is a reference that was just about current back then but now is long obsolete. Though I suppose they could do a sequel-series many many generations further on...)

Anyway, that's that. I wonder now if I'll ever watch it again, or if "Reboot" joins "Babylon 5" and "Justice League Unlimited" on the list of great shows that are forced into the past by the technology?

#68: "Pathfinder: Dreams of the Yellow King", by Ron Lundeen

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Countdown to Part Five

If and when LC and I finally manage to get moved, it will be time for another rebranding of this blog: Part Four will come to an end, and Part Five will begin.

The major reason for that is quite simple: in some senses, we're still living in what was 'my' flat, whereas this will mark us moving into the first home that is truly 'ours'. This by itself marks a significant transition for us.

However, there's more to it than that: the start of each 'part' has been marked by a foundational change in life, marking a threshold beyond which nothing is quite the same again. And that's the case again here - although I'll be working in the same job, all my various activities outside of work will be at least changed if not stopped: band, the game group, etc. It's not a huge distance we're moving, but it's still a huge move.

And so, it will be time for a revamp. Who knows, maybe Part Five will have a different colour scheme?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Guide to a Stress-Free Christmas

Every year, the media publish dozens of guides to a stress-free Christmas, in newspapers, lifestyle magazines, and indeed on TV. In truth, they probably do this because it's an easy way to fill up pages, but I'm also presuming that at least some people buy them, read them... and then find that they invariably don't work.

The reason they don't work is fairly simple: they're crafted by and for people whose profession is 'celebrity', and in particular by celebrities whose entire fame is built on maintaining that 'aspirational' lifestyle. So when Kirsty Allsop casually says that she likes to craft all her own decorations, that's effectively because it's her entire job to show scenes of domestic bliss at Christmas. The rest of us need to fit these things around everything else in our lives, which is not so easy.

But it is possible to get a guide to a (relatively) stress-free Christmas. The problem is, you have to assemble it yourself.

Here's how...

Year One

Like many useful tools, the guide isn't something you should spend hours writing once up-front and forever after leave unchanged. Like rarely allows the time to do that. Instead, it's better assembled a bit at a time and refined as you go on. The added advantage of this is that it becomes more valuable as time goes on.

So, in the first year, you'll be working without a guide, and assembling the guide as you go.

  1. First, created a folder on your PC called something sensible like "Christmas Guide". (Or, you could start a physical folder called the same, but I'm not going to do that.)
  2. Within that folder, create a first document called something like "Scrapsheet". You might also want to start a document called "Christmas Guide", but that can wait.
  3. Do whatever it is you do for Christmas as normal. The only difference is that as you go you should take a note of what you do, how you do it, and when you do it. And if something goes wrong, record that, too. Take these notes in the Scrapsheet.
  4. For things like Christmas cards you send and presents you buy, make lists of who you send them to and any relevant addresses.
  5. Make sure you record the whole process, from start to finish - that is, from the moment you buy the first present/send the first card/put up the first decoration right through to the moment it's all packed away again.

After Christmas is all done for the year, and at the first available opportunity, it's important to start building your proper guide.

For each of the major tasks, you'll want at least a page in your Christmas Guide. In each case, put down the details of what's needed, where the things you need are stored (for example, if your decorations are all in a big blue box in the loft, put that in the guide!), and any other useful information. In each case, assign a date to the task - either the date taken from the Scrapsheet or, if something went wrong with the task, some earlier date. Make sure everything that is recorded in the Scrapsheet gets transferred to the Christmas Guide in some form.

As you fill out the Christmas Guide, you should remove the corresponding notes from the Scrapsheet - don't have things recorded twice. Eventually, the Scrapsheet should be empty, at which point it should be deleted.

Again, for things like Christmas cards and presents (and also the big "Christmas shop"), you should probably start a separate document/spreadsheet recording useful information - the list of people to send cards with their addresses, the list of people to buy presents and any relevant price limits/likes and dislikes, and the list of things to buy.

Be aware that none of these documents will be perfect. They're not meant to be perfect; they're meant to be useful.

Year Two

For the remainder of that year, don't worry about Christmas until roughly the end of October. Then go access the Christmas Guide you wrote last year, which you'll now use to help you organise your activities.

This time out, you're using the Guide to help with Christmas, but you're also using Christmas to test the Guide. So go through the process, but don't trust the Guide to be correct - if you find that you've forgotten to record "put up the decorations" in the Guide, you should probably still do it! If and when you find a weakness in the Guide, do whatever you should and then fix the Guide.

At this stage, you should find that Christmas goes much more smoothly, but you'll probably also find plenty of things wrong with the Guide. Both of these are good things.

After Year Two

After the second year, you should find you have a Guide that is a pretty good record of what you do at Christmas, plus pretty decent lists of all the people you send cards to, all the presents you need to buy, and the list for the big Christmas shop. (Again, the key here is pretty good. They won't be perfect.)

This is now the point where you should start thinking about optimising the process.

Personally, I would compile four lists: things that you enjoy, things that you don't enjoy but 'have' to do, things that you don't enjoy and don't have to do, and things you don't do but might like to try. (For instance, you might really like Christmas dinner, not like wrapping presents but have to do it, not like putting lights on all the windows, and think you might quite like to make some decorations.)

For the things you enjoy: great! Don't change anything.

For the things you don't enjoy but 'have' to do: since these have to be done, try to minimise them. (In the example of wrapping presents, you could either adopt a policy of wrapping one or two every evening so that it's spread out into bite-size chunks; or you might decide to set aside one afternoon to just tackle them all and get it done. There's no 'right' answer to that - do whichever you think you'd hate least, or try both and then decide.)

For the things you don't enjoy and don't 'have' to do: Don't do them. It really is as simple as that. (And, indeed, note that in your Guide - "We've decided not to do this!")

And that opens up time for:

Things you don't do but might like to try: Set aside some time to try it out next year. If it works, great. If it doesn't work, well, now you know not to try it next year. (As a good rule of thumb, for each task you drop in the step above, you should be able to try out one new task here. So if you don't light your windows, you can try making some decorations.)

Year Three, and Beyond

With each additional year, you should pull out your Guide and use it to organise your process. As before, if you find the Guide is wrong, change it. But that should hopefully happen less and less as the Guide gets better, and the Guide should become increasingly useful.

An Additional Note on Christmas Cards

When the time comes to deal with Christmas cards, you should pull out your handy list of people and addresses. However, this list is more prone to change than most elements in the process, so bears some additional thought. So, ask yourself some questions:

  1. Do I still want to send a card to all these people? If the last time you communicated with them was when you sent them a card last year, the answer is "probably not". But that's your call - just be sure to ask yourself the question.
  2. Is there anyone else I need to send a card to?
  3. Are these the right addresses? If not, fix your list. But, hopefully, most of the list will remain accurate most years - and having a handy list all in one place should save significant time, even though it needs checked each year.

An Additional Note on Getting Started

It's quite likely that when you first start out in your own home you have visions of a 'perfect' tree with a tasteful abundance of decorations, of sending everyone handmade cards, of having a perfect turkey with too many trimmings, and so on and so forth. It's all wonderfully over-the-top, impractical... and actually impossible in year one.

My strong recommendation here is not even to try to do all that in year one. Instead, it's far better to do a very small set of things well, and then build up. So, maybe in year one you decorate the tree with a whole lot of borrowed decorations. Then, the year after, you substitute some of those for new ones, then a few more, and a few more, until you eventually reach your goal. Likewise, maybe in year one you do the cards and presents, but don't do the turkey at all (dine out!). Then, in year two, add the turkey, then the carol concert in year three, and so on.

An Additional Note on Changes

The big problem with using a Christmas Guide to get organised is that it can cause things to become rigid and samey. After all, if you're doing exactly the same things in exactly the same order every year, where's the spontenaity?

My recommendation here is to actually build the changes into the Guide - once you've got Christmas organised and working the way you like, start doing a "change one thing" - either each year, or every few years, identify one thing you'd like to try differently. And, that year, do that one thing differently. That way, you get the reassuringly comforting for almost everything, and you get the novelty of trying something new. (Of course, you might find you don't like the "one thing", in which case you know not to do it again. Or maybe you love it, and it becomes the new norm. Huzzah!)

Anyway, that's my thoughts on the Guide to a Stress-free Christmas.

#66: "N.E.W. Science Fiction Role-playing Game", by Russ Morrissey
#67: "Cold Comfort Farm", by Stella Gibbons (a book from The List)

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Mental Gymnastics

As we know, the A1 gold standard of gift giving is to find something that (a) the person would really like but (b) they would never buy for themselves. This is, of course, fiendishly hard to achieve, to the extent that I think it's probably not even worth aspiring to - it's something where if you just happen to see the perfect gift then you can celebrate, but if not it's better to go for "good enough" rather then seeking a perfection that may not even be available/practical/possible.


Each year for Christmas, my parents give each of us a sum of money with the expectation that we'll then go and purchase some suitable gifts to give to them to give to us so we can be surprised on Christmas Day. Or something.

Which led to me extensively pondering a key question this week: "what would I really like, but wouldn't buy for myself?" And then I bought it for myself.

It's been a strange week.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Dear Blogger...

I'm afraid I'm not keen on your new Dashboard. File that one under "if it ain't broke"...


We've had a delay in the house move. Actually, we've had two, one each on the buying and selling sides of the process. Which sucks - at present, our projected date for the move is now the 17th of December, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if that had to be put back again.

That said, I'm halfway inclined to respond to this delay by putting up the Christmas tree. Partly on the grounds that I fear we'll have another delay and still be waiting come Christmas, and partly on 'shower' logic - the principle that if you're waiting for a phone call, it will inevitably come just as you get into the shower. So putting up the tree should guarantee that we'd have to move immediately thereafter.

As might be expected, this is all hugely annoying. But I'm trying hard to take the view that it's really just an inconvenience, and that the important thing is to get all the various stages of the move successfully completed, rather than having to get them all done right now! - we've had a painful few months at the end of a really sucky year (that just keeps on sucking), but it is just a few months.

Anyway, that's where we are right now.

#65: "Consider Phlebas", by Iain M. Banks