Saturday, December 31, 2005

King Kong

We finally got to see Peter Jackson's King Kong the other night and, after all the hype and build-up, we still really enjoyed it!

This is essentially a remake of the 1933 original and Jackson has pretty much stuck to the same plot and, unlike the 1976 version, it hasn't been modernised...

It's the 1930s and the depression is having an effect on the entertainment business and when ambitious young actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) finds herself out of work when the theatre closes, she is desperate for another job. Times are hard and she's advised to use "what she has" to make sure she eats!

Meanwhile, almost famous, but not quite, movie producer Carl Denham (Jack Black) has come across a map to the undiscovered and reputedly mysterious Skull Island near Sumatra and plans to wow everyone by shooting his movie using it as a location. But Carl has problems with his investors and no leading lady so when he spots Ann outside a Vaudeville theatre, he reckons she'll do just nicely. Besides she's a size 4 and she'll fit the costumes.

So, on the run from his creditors, Denham gets Ann, script writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), and what film crew he can muster onto a ship and sets sail for the far east in search of his island. After searching for some time and with the crew ready to give up, they find the island but it is surrounded by an enormous wall and their initial meeting with the natives does not go well. When they kidnap Ann and offer her as a sacrifice to their god, a gigantic ape called Kong, then Carl, Jack and the crew venture beyond the wall to rescue her and that's when the adventure really gets going.

I was a bit worried about the casting of Jack Black as Denham as he's better known as a comic actor and, while the part is written with a slightly comic feel, Black pulls it off reasonably well. Naomi Watts does a good job competing with Fay Wray and her screaming is pretty convincing. I'm not sure Adrien Brody is exactly my idea of the hero and as a bookish looking scriptwriter, he's not really built like Arnie or Sly. Still the star of the piece has to be Kong, motion captured by Andy Serkis who played Gollum in Jackson's excellent The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and brought to life by the brilliant WETA Digital team.

The movie is excellent and, even though it's a bit slow starting, once the action gets going it's really good. The realization of Kong is seriously well done and the action sequences with him, Ann and the dinosaurs is phenominal. The island is also very well designed and, along with the sound, it really gives it the air of mystery and foreboding required to make a great film. Well worth seeing!

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
My Rating: 9/10

Friday, December 30, 2005

Amalfi, West Nile Street, Glasgow

The Amalfi is one of our favourite Italian restaurants. It's small, seating only about 36, and the chef cooks the food in a really small kitchen right out there in the body of the place. The menu isn't vast and extensive but, given the space he has to work with, it's really pretty good. The wine list isn't huge either but the house red is an excellent Sangiovese and it usually does us.

The place is always reasonably busy, the staff are friendly and the food is really good. Service is usually fast too, even with the chef going manic, trying to cook about four different dishes at once, but at least that can be entertaining as well.

We'd popped in yesterday on the off chance of a table before going to the movies and just managed to get in before they started turning people away. It was a bit chaotic as they'd been holding a table for 17 (about half the capacity) and they hadn't turned up so that had to be rearranged and the queue was building up. Still we enjoyed our meal and will be back.

Cuisine: Italian
My Rating: 9/10

Monday, December 26, 2005

Aftermath and a Discovery

Well the big day is over and we're recovering from the over-indulging. We've been out for the obligatory walk around to clear the tubes, etc. and now it's time to settle back down and think about more food and drink...

A major discovery we found on our stroll around the area was a new supermarket. When the local Safeway got sold off to Morrisons, it ended up being shut down and boarded up, which meant having to drive to the nearest Sainsbury's at Braehead. Not that Morrison's is a patch on Sainsbury's but it was handy enough to stroll down to for odds and ends.

Anyway, we were just getting to the end of our wandering and were about to turn and head home when lo, rising from the skyline, we saw a great big Morrison's sign. Approaching nervously, we came across the car park and, nestling at it's centre, a brand new Morrison's mega store (shut of course as it's Boxing day).

The obvious excitement at the revelation of a new store aside, the best present we've had so far are the first indications that our noisy and anti-social nightmare neighbours are moving out!

All that's left now is to decide on whether it's the duck or fajitas for dinner.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Must Kill Fridge Designers

Having just spent about two hours trying to reverse the doors on our new fridge/freezer, I've decided that a rant against the designers is necessary...

The instructions looked simple enough, pop the doors off, reverse the fittings and pop'em all back on again - hah!

In order to get at the screws to release the top door, the instructions indicate pulling off a little top cover. Looks easy on paper but it wouldn't budge and both of us were grunting and pulling at it for ages until a cup of tea was required and tempers cooled. Of course, smart arse that she is, Lorna looks at it and pops it off easily by pulling it up the way. I should have sensed that things were going to get worse.

Okay, the doors came off pretty easily after that and we thought this is okay, we're going to do it, until we got to the bottom. With Lorna tilting the unit back so I could get underneath it, I discovered that lying on the floor isn't that easy a way to unscrew fittings while hoping my better half won't drop the fridge on my head. It gets worse, I'm lying there, trying to unscrew these bottom fittings and having no luck - none of my screwdrivers'll fit. Then it dawns on me - these are bl**dy TorX bolts, now how many people have TorX tools at home?

Do they do this intentionally, just knowing that some poor sod will have the fridge half dismantled and be lying on their back when they find that they're stuffed?

It's the start of the weekend before Christmas, the old fridge is outside and all the food, and there's a lot of it, is in the garden shed waiting for a nice new fridge to go into so what can you do? Obviously we needed to go get a TorX driver so off we go to B&Q and return about 40 minutes later and seven quid poorer, bearing the magic tool that we'll probably never need again.

We hates the Whirlpool engineers, we just hates them!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The iPod video

Finally got my hands on one of the new 5th generation iPods (with video) and now I'm wondering why Apple bothered...

I remember Steve Jobs being quoted as saying that Apple had no plans to upgrade the iPod to play video and that it was essentially a bad idea with no market. Of course a few months down the line and out comes a video enabled iPod to much marketing hype selling TV series episodes via the Apple Music Store.

However, having seen the woefully small images of a few widescreen movie trailers displayed on the tiny 2.5" (320*240) screen, I believe Jobs is probably still right and they should have left well enough alone or developed a much more video specific device. Sure, the quality of the picture is exceptionally good but it's still too small to view comfortably for long periods.

The iPod is essentially still the best personal music player available and I don't think that'll change anytime soon but to promote it as a video player that you could use to watch a full movie or even an hour-long TV series episode is pushing it too far. Not that you'd get much viewing done as the battery life while playing video is said to be reduced to just over two hours.

I can see the potential use in storing decent quality video on it for replaying back through a TV for say, going on holiday but there's no actual movies available unless you rip'em off yourself or download them illegally. Even the TV stuff is still limited to the US market at the moment so where's the market for this?

In my opinion, it would have been a much more viable prospect if they had turned the screen sideways, made it 16:9 (568*320) and boosted the battery life but that would probably have made it too large to accommodate the click-wheel control.

One of the guys in work brought in his early Christmas present, a Sony PSP and boy is that so much better. Pity it didn't have a video out capability or we'd have been seriously entertained. Of course, it can't compare to the iPod for music storage capacity but for video and games - wow!

Horizon Storms - by Kevin J. Anderson

This is the third installment in Anderson's excellent series, The Saga Of Seven Suns and it just gets better and better. If you're not familiar with the story, here's a very brief outline of the tale so far...

Earth and its colonies comprise the Terran Hanseatic League (Hansa), which is run as a corporation headed by a ruthless chaiman and ruled by a puppet king. Interstellar space travel is only possible using a stardrive given to them by the alien Ildiran Empire and which runs on Ekti, an exotic allotrope of hydrogen harvested from the atmosphere of gas giants.

When an archaeologist, exploring a world once occupied by the now extinct Klikiss race, finds the designs for a device that can turn a gas giant into a sun, the Hansa are keen to use it to allow them to terraform the moons and thus get more space for humanity. When they use the Klikiss Torch on Oncier, the planet is indeed converted into a sun and the Hansa are delighted but unknown to them, Oncier was the home of the Hydrogues, an immensely powerful species living at the super-dense pressures in the core of such gas giants. Needless to say the Hydrogues aren't pleased at the deaths of millions of their kind and issue a declaration forbidding all Ekti harvesting on pain of destruction and they back up the threat by destroying several harvesters on different worlds and assassinating the current King. They're not interested in other species, hence the fact that their existance was unknown, and simply don't care that Ekti is vital to both the Hansa and the Ildirans and so war ensues.

I could go on and on as there are loads of sub-plots and character stories but that would only spoil it for anyone wanting to start reading from the beginning. Here's a taster of Horizon Storms...
The titanic war between the elemental Hydrogues and Faeros continues to sweep across the Spiral Arm, extinguishing suns and destroying planets. Chairman Wenceslas and King Peter must now unify the human race with iron-fisted policies in a final bid to stand together -- or face total annihilation. The breakaway Roamers and Theron clans are forming an alliance at odds with the Hansa and the Ildiran Empire struggles after the death of their Mage-Imperator. On taking over his father's throne, Jora'h, the new Mage-Imperator, learns that the Hydrogues are not unknown to them and that they barely survived a war with them 10,000 years ago and that only because of a secret pact with the Klikiss Robots.

This is one of the best science-fiction series I've read for a while and I can really recommend it. The depth of the story and the well developed characters make it really worthwhile and enjoyable reading. Roll on book four, Scattered Suns!

Genre: Science-Fiction
ISBN: 0-7434-3067-0
My Rating: 9/10

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Paperino's, Byres Road, Glasgow

Friday saw about 120 of us heading out to our annual work's Christmas lunch and this time, it was the local Italian restaurant Paperino's that had to cope. As usual, mostly everyone sat in their own little groups and didn't mix very much.

Lorna and I have eaten in their Sauchiehall Street restaurant and really enjoyed it so it seemed a good choice to try out their new Byres Road venue, which only opened in May 2005. It had been a Kentucky Fried Chicken and before that a Burger King so this was a bit of a step up the ladder for the building. It's a good size as well, easily handling our numbers with lots more space left over for the passing trade. Not that too many ventured in, seeing as our horde was monopolizing the kitchen and serving staff.

The menu looked pretty good but it was Christmas and I didn't fancy pasta so I'm afraid I had good old turkey (Tacchino Natalizio) followed by Christmas pudding (Budino Natalizio) but at least they had Italian names and it was all washed down with a few bottles of Sangiovese. It's difficult to judge a restaurant based on festive fare like this but they did a really good job, the food came pretty quickly and was still hot, even with over a hundred to serve. Tasted good too and we all pretty much enjoyed it, didn't here anyone complaining!

Then we all went to a pub and again, pretty much split into work groups and proceeded to drink and drink. Well I hate to say it but I don't have the stamina I used to and gave up after about eight or nine hours so we went home via Burger King in town.

Gone are the days when we used to have the "do" in-house and you could quite easily find yourself dancing with the CEO, well if you were young and female you could. We'd get a bar in and hire a disco and you wouldn't feel it as a real event unless there was at least one fight or the Police stopping in to see what the hullabaloo was.

Anyway, that's the season under way and I think I've just recovered from Friday night and there's about two more weeks of this... aaaaagh!

Cuisine: Italian
My Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Big Fridge...Small Kitchen!

Our fridge freezer has decide to trying warming stuff up instead of cooling it down and, since it's over 10 years old, it was time to order a new one. So, the online shopping engine clanked into gear and...

...have you ever tried to find a 50cm wide fridge freezer?

Our kitchen is very small, about 6' * 6', so there's very little space for appliances. So that means we can only fit in a narrow 50cm wide fridge unit and there's very little choice of models out there. I'm sure this is a side effect of the current trend towards large American style fridges, some of which could easily masquerade as a small spare room for visiting Eskimos.

We found one, not exactly ideal but there wasn't much choice, so it'll hopefully be here before Christmas or we ain't having a very festive time food wise and I really want my trifle!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

On The First Day Of Christmas... find out that your Christmas tree lights have a few dud bulbs! Yes that was us last night, putting up the tree and getting all the decorations out. I know a lot of people do this much earlier but we're a bit more traditional.

Anyway, some of our bulbs appeared to be dud so that was a pain, having to try and find the one on that line that was actually blown. Luckily we eventually found the spares and fixed it so we had an official switch on.

The heavy work done, I left Lorna to continue decorating (she likes playing with glass balls and tinsel) while I did something else like search for a present for me online.

Nipped down to Woolies today to try and get some extra bulbs only to find that they didn't have any. Hopefully the line hasn't been discontinued or it's new lights next year.

My Life: Cows, Scones and Porridge!

All Packed And ready To Go!
Cousine Roderick and I on Aunt Jean's Suitcase.

School holidays were always something to be looked forward to. I'd usually be bundled off to my aunts in Dennistoun for most of the summer break while mum and dad were at work but that was okay as there were a couple of lads in the close of a similar age and we got on fine together. Holidays abroad were practically unheard of back then but we'd usually go away as a family for a few weeks and stay with relations.

However, my earliest memories of holidays were when my aunt Jean would sometimes take me up to stay at her father-in-law's croft at Forss, near Thurso, and we could be up there for weeks over the summer break. If you thought having no running hot water was bad, the house didn't even have running cold water and all the water had to be hand pumped into the tank from a well up the hill. This was usually done twice a day and it was one of those chores that a wee boy just had to have a shot at every now and then - builds character and muscle doing that for twenty minutes, twice a day.

Farm life was great for a small boy as there was loads of stuff to be getting into. Probably a health and safety nightmare these days to let children anywhere near half of it but things weren't so strict then but the really dangerous stuff like sickles, shears and scythes were always locked away.

Great Aunt Liz and Uncle Arthur were seasoned crofters, renting their bit of land from the Milk Marketing Board of the time. They had a small herd of dairy cattle that produced the milk quota for the board, which amounted to only about two or three churns of about 45 gallons each a day. There was even a little dairy shed for pasteurizing the milk, all shiny pipes and bubbling noises. The full churns were heaved onto a wheel barrow, usually with me on top, and then dropped off at the end of the lane beside the main road for pickup by the milk lorry and I'd get a hurl in the barrow back up the lane. That's me and Arthur in the photo.

It was standard practice for Uncle Arthur to be up and about by 5:30 to get ready for milking and if he slept in, the cows soon woke everybody up, complaining about being full of milk and fit to burst. Same again at around six in the evening, the cows were brought in and milked again so having a day off just wasn't really on the cards for a small farmer. I liked the bit where I got to feed one of the calves, me holding a bucket of milk for it and trying desperately not be trodden on, as they weighed a lot more than me then, or licked by their sandpapery tongues. I also didn't really like getting squirted by milk if Uncle Arthur was feeling mischevious and I got too close during milking but then he got a milking machine and some of the fun went out of it, at least for me but I'm sure he appreciated not having to milk each one by hand. By the way, you have to try real fresh milk at least once, it's so different from the processed, semi-skimmed stuff we get nowdays but was really thick and creamy.

There were hens and a few ducks so I got to help collect the eggs and could be a dangerous job. They'd often give you a solid peck while you were rummaging around under them, feeling for any eggs. I also liked searching around the farmyard as you'd often find a few rogue layer's nests in the barns or beside the dykes. The there was the barn, an amazing place full of hay and occupied by an old mechanical wooden threshing machine, which was still used to strip the various cereal crop grains of the stalks and bag it up for market. It was a great place to have adventures and to chase the ever present mice around.

As well as cows, they had sheep that lived mostly up on the hillside above the farms and Arthur had a really good sheepdog that loved herding the hens around as well. Mind you it was a working dog and you daren't ever try and pet it as it'd have had your hand off. The sheep'd only be brought down into the fields for lambing, shearing and wintering. Shearing those days was a manual job and I kept well out of the way as that was serious work.

Uncle Arthur had a little blue tractor that ran on paraffin and when I was a bit older I sometimes got to drive it around the field while he dropped off turnips for the sheep from the trailer at the back. It was his normal practise to start the tractor running across the field with the throttle set and then start unloading the turnips out back and one of my firmest memories of the time was of me, seeing that the tractor was about to run into the burn at the edge of the field, taking control of the wheel and saving the day. I'm sure he would have nipped up and turned it himself before it was too late, as he did it by himself all the time, but I felt like a wee hero back then. After that it was my job to steer the tractor while he did the feeding - kept me out of his way I suppose and made me feel useful.

Aunt Liz was an amazing person, one of those wee women that never stopped. She cooked, cleaned and fed the poultry and collected, cleaned and graded the eggs into boxes, which she sold to a shop in Thurso. She also made crowdie, sometimes flavoured with caraway seeds, butter and cheese from the milk and sold that too. On a Monday she baked, and I mean baked, almost the entire day was taken up with baking the week ahead's supply of soda bread, scones and pancakes on her trusty Raeburn stove and on Wednesday, she topped up the supplies again. English readers please note that Scottish pancakes are not the thin things you know by the same name, they're about 10cm in diameter and up to 1cm thick. Our crumpets are closer to your pancakes but they're much lighter. I suppose I began my love affair with scones back then as they accompanied almost every meal.

Breakfast, which was taken much later than you'd normally have it nowadays, at around 10:30 as Uncle Arthur had been on the go for several hours, was usually porridge accompanied by a bowl of fresh creamy milk and followed by lots of Aunt Liz's baked wonders. The porridge was made with salt and the concept of putting sugar or honey on it just never arose, probably an English corruption of one of our national dishes, and I've taken with salt ever since. Also, you didn't pour the milk over the porridge but instead took a spoonful and dipped it in the bowl, which stopped the milk warming up. I can't remember having lunch but we did come in mid afternoon for what was called "half-yoking".

Once I'd got into fishing I used to walk round the hill and fish for trout in the River Forss or we'd go down to Brim's Ness and spin for coalies and pollock. Great times and great memories were had there.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Gore-Tex and Heavy Metal

Spent another afternoon in town yesterday. We'd decided that we'd get each other decent weatherproof outdoor jackets for Christmas as we do a bit of walking and we've got just about everything else we need. I keep asking for an ice-axe but Lorna's of the opinion that, if I had one I'd actually try and use it on something dangerous.

Anyway, the ice-axe issue aside, we're not badly equipped...

  • Boots - ✓
  • Binoculars - ✓
  • Bobbly Hat - ✓
  • Camera (Digital) - ✓
  • Scarf'n'Gloves (uncoordinated) - ✓
  • Walking Poles for Lorna (women and wooses only) - ✓
  • Rucksack (small) - ✓
  • Rucksack (mid-sized) - ✓
  • Waterproof Jacket - ✓ (but not Gore-Tex)
So it was a trek around the outdoors shops to see if we could find anything that suited us. We were looking for light, breathable ones that you could zip a fleece into so that meant decent quality and a good make. These ain't cheap and the shops have most of the good ones wired to alarm systems so trying them on is like negotiating a bank loan. No, actually that's easier! Anyway I got one for Lorna but the shops were closing by then so I'm still looking for mine.

Tried to persuade Lorna to go see The Chronicles of Narnia since we were in town but she wasn't up for it, having tramped around the shops for hours.

'course we ended up in Virgin and I bought a couple of stocking fillers. I love the way you can pick up any CD, scan it and then listen to a sample of each track. It's a great way to discover new music.

The first choice was Ghost Reveries by Swedish band Opeth for me, which is pretty heavy metal stuff and that means David'll blag it once I've digitized it. Also picked up Highest Hopes by Finnish band Nightwish - a bit lighter than Opeth but still listed as Metal. This is a "best of" CD that includes a live cover of Pink Floyd's, "High Hopes" and a three-track live bonus DVD.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


After all the hype and what looked like a promising trailer, we went to see Doom last night. It hasn't been out long and it was looking like it wouldn't be hanging around for very much longer either but, being a sucker for a no-brains action movie, I persuaded Lorna that it'd pass the evening.

Based on the best-selling computer game of the same name, the story is as follows...

There's a problem at the Olduvai research station on Mars. All communication has stopped and what little there was before that happened was very worrying. A level 5 quarantine is now in place and it's now up to the Rapid Response Tactical Squad to go in and investigate, sort things out and neutralize any threat with extreme prejudice.

The RRST are a bunch of hardened Space Marines and they're pretty confident they have the determination and the means to do the job. The squad leader is Sarge (The Rock), a seasoned marine who'll stop at nothing to do his duty, and backing him up are an experienced team of men with some serious history. But Olduvai will prove to be their hardest mission and for some of them, their last!

Okay, it's based on Doom the computer game, a first-person shooter where Marines were sent in to investigate something gone wrong on a Space Station so the plot is very close to the original. As with most computer games, depth of plot and character development goes pretty much out the window once the lead start flying as you're usually too busy trying to stay alive to worry about those kind of things. But here, we can sit back in the cinema, relax and watch someone else do all that so the writers have had to do a little work this time.

There's not a lot of mystery to the plot and it soon becomes clear what's happened. Some scientists have fallen foul of their own genetics research and when their test subject mutates into a monster and escapes, it kills most of them and infects a few with the same condition so we have a station full of nasties.

One of the surviving scientists is Samantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike) and she accompanies the squad in order to download and save the research files but she's also the sister of one of the squad, John Grimm (Karl Urban). The pair have some some history at Olduvai as their parents were killed in an accident there some years before. The rest of the squad has its share of motley misfits; Goat - the religious fanatic, Portman - the mouthy one, Destroyer - the big hard dude, The Kid - the green recruit and Pinky - the disabled backup. These along with Sarge, Mac, Duke and Hell Knight make up the team but that's as complicated as it gets.

So it's pretty much a no-brainer as expected and, while there is a fair bit of action, it doesn't come close to the non-stop mayhem of the video game. There is one sequence that tries to recreate the first-person view of the game as Grimm wanders through the station, blasting anything that moves, but it only lasts about ten minutes. The monsters, when you see them, are pretty well done though.

Doom may be a classic video game but this incarnation certainly won't help Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's career much. If he intends to try and take over Arnie's crown as the movie super-hero, he'll need better stuff than this.

Genre: Action, Science-Fiction
My Rating: 5/10

Just Another Saturday

Got dragged into Glasgow town centre by the kids today, even though Jac had already been in with her mother in the morning. It's a kind of ritual, we go in for a couple of hours most Saturdays, sometimes just to buy a magazine but I get to spend some time with them and we usually drop in on their grandparents on the way home.

The Christmas shopping frenzy is well underway as the place was packed. Got lucky in the car park and got a space without having to prowl around for ages, stalking anyone that looked like they were getting ready to leave.

Anyway, the usual route usually means we go into GAME first to see if there's anything new and to check for a copy of Baldur's Gate 2 in the second hand PS2 games bin. David's after a few games this Christmas so trying to steer him away from any that we know have been bought already is getting trickier as time goes on. Still no Baldur's Gate 2 and we leave empty handed.

Then it's sometimes a guitar shop for David to drool over the merchandise. If we're lucky he'll have a play with something way too expensive, usually gathering a small audience, before we depart. We almost never buy anything unless he sees a song book he fancies. Anyway, we've been looking at effects processor boards for a few weeks and the shops are full of Boss GT-8's but his mate has one and says it's pants. David already has a POD XT but fancies the larger POD XT Live so maybe Santa will come good again this year.

Then it can be anything from a wander through the St. Enoch's centre or up to Buchanan Galleries, never seriously looking for anything and really just passing the time.

We always end up in W.H. Smith's where Jac looks for some TV series magazine like Star Trek or Cult Times and I get a fortnightly copy of Web User and look wistfully through the sound and vision mags.

The Christmas light pixies have been busy this year and there are several really well lit up houses on the way home. I'm definitely going to take the camera with me over the next few weeks as some of them are really over the top.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Century Rain - by Alastair Reynolds

Another cracking science-fiction tale from Alastair Reynolds. author of the excellent Revelation Space series. This is a novel of space and time travel, adventure and mystery and a bit of a detective story...

When an archaeological trip to the frozen city of Paris on an Earth devasted by the Nanocaust goes wrong and a team member dies, Verity Auger is forced to take part in a dangerous mission to redeem herself.

While exploring on Phobos, one of Mars' moons, a buried portal is discovered that leads into an uncharted region of the Hyperweb, an unstable alien transit system. The portal leads to an astonishing discovery - Earth during the mid-twentieth century, but this Earth is different because World War II never happened!

Verity is tasked with entering the alternate city of Paris in 1959 and retrieving the lost documents of a murdered spy. A simple enough task for someone of her advanced civilization you might think but there are factions at work that seek to destroy this alternate world and would rather she failed. On top of that she has to contend with a struggling Parisienne detective's attempts to solve his one final case.

I really enjoyed this one. Fans of Revelation Space and its sequels should note that, despite the cover artwork, this story is not related in any way. That aside, it's an excellent story with a fair mix of action, adventure, mystery, romance and good old science-fiction. The characters are well developed and believable and the plot trots along at a reasonable pace with some pretty good twists and turns to keep you guessing as to the outcome.

It's pretty much a stand-alone story and, while there are no familiar faces or names here, it's left in such a way that perhaps a few of those here might come back and see us in a sequel.

Genre: Adventure, Mystery, Science-Fiction
ISBN: 0-575-07691-7
My Rating: 8/10

Saturday, December 03, 2005

China Sea, 12 Renfield Street, Glasgow

Got back from training in Edinburgh on Friday night and met Lorna in town so we decided to go and get some food. We fancied Chinese food so started hunting around out from Central Station.

There are quite a few Chinese buffet restaurants around there but we fancied something less frenetic. Anyway, we had passed by the China Sea as from the outside it looks really dingy and uninviting (map). It's basically a doorway between shops with stairs leading up and it doesn't really attract you in but we decided to go back and look at the menu anyway. The menu looked good and they had a pre-theatre deal for under £8 so in we went and boy was this a revelation...

Upstairs is pretty large and it was bustling with staff and customers, what had we been missing all these years. If you're going in then look up slowly, there's an enormous carved dragon coiling in and out of the cloud painted ceiling. Look up to quick and you'll do a double take, it's a fair sized beast.

The service and food were excellent, couldn't be faulted at all. The staff were friendly and the food and drink came really quickly. I had a really nice sweet and sour chicken, which had a really light batter, and Lorna had a chicken satay. The place has been there for years and I'm now sorry I'd passed it by so many tiems.

Cuisine: Chinese
My rating: 8/10

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Even More Edinburgh Lunches

Back to Edinburgh for more training, only three days this time though...

Wednesday - Zest, 15 North St Andrew Street, EH2 1HJ (map)

Back to Zest again. The atmosphere hadn't improved, still cold and not very inviting and it was pretty quiet. There was about 15 of us course delegates there but other than that, there was only one couple there.

I had a Chicken Jaipuri this time, which was an improvement on the last time's offering and quite tasty so I'll up my rating a bit.

Cuisine: Indian
My Rating: 5/10

Thursday - Smoke Stack, 53-55 Broughton Street, EH1 3RJ (map)

A wee change this time, Smoke Stack is a chargrill restaurant serving up a mix of burgers, sandwiches, steaks, pasta and salads, etc.

The decor is pretty sparse but the staff were friendly, business was brisk enough and the food was pretty good. I had a nice 6oz burger with bacon on a bun and some fries. Not very healthy but tasty just the same.

Cuisine: Various
My Rating: 7/10

Friday - Buffet
Time's a pressing so it was buffet time again. pity as we were supposed to be going back to Saigon Saigon but that's life.