Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Garden Gang

Sparrows have been in decline in most parts of the UK recently but they seem to be making a revival in our garden. They started to appear a few years ago when we put up some small bird feeders and they have been growing in numbers year on year since. We have lived in our house from a new build for about nine years and there were few birds around for the first few years but they have gradually been growing in numbers as the gardens became more populated with shrubs and bushes and now we have a gang of sparrows arriving regularly to feed from our bird feeder.

'Go away, this is all mine!'

I have been able to count approximately forty in the garden on one occasion and there rarely seems to be fewer than twenty on most gatherings. It is difficult to count them accurately because they rarely stay still for long but I believe that I have been able to get an average that must be close to the actual number over several counts. We are happy to see them thriving but they get through the seed and suet balls we put out faster than we can keep up with them.

'I'm not really that hungry'

'I think I'll wait for a chance after the big guys have finished'

Picture Quiz #3

I have decided to make a more varied picture quiz, with enough in it that you must get at least one right, but most of them will become obvious with a little concentration. There is a little overlap between some objects and two them will be most obvious to people who have spent some time living in the UK prior to 1971, which unfortunately eliminates any people too young to remember these, at one time everyday, objects or those who never visited the UK that long ago. Sorry but I never said it would be a fair quiz. Best of luck anyway.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Answer 2

Here are some of mine - the one in the centre with the evil red eyes is the one in the quiz picture.
They are all USB pen drives or flash drives, or whatever you call them, except the extreme left one which is a micro-SD card reader. Very useful because it does the same job and you can have umpteen SD cards of different sizes and never run out of space. Trouble is those things are so small I keep losing them.
Some advice you may not need, - they do not keep data forever and so make other backups, these things and all other kinds of flash memory technology devices are quite fragile.
Congrats to those who guessed correctly, which seems to be everyone who made a comment. I will have to do a harder one next.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Why are books getting so big?

When I started collecting books as a small boy I had a small expandable bookshelf that, when opened to its widest, held about a dozen books. Each Christmas and birthday this shelf was opened a bit further to accommodate my most recent gifts and when I had filled it up I then went on to use a pair of bookends to hold the books that would no longer fit on my first bookshelf.
By the time I was in my twenties and had a little more pocket money the space occupied by my books had risen to about three or four shelves and by the time I got married I needed five shelves about eight feet long. Recently, although my collection has risen and fallen in numbers from time to time, I now find I have a big problem. Books have got bigger.
It has always been my habit that if I feel I may want to read a new book again I keep it on a shelf, but this is becoming more and more space consuming, until I had recently reached saturation point. Lately I have been getting rid of a lot of books in order to be able to fit in new ones. Surely this must reduce the book manufacturers' sales since I take my books to the charity shops where they go on sale in direct competition with the booksellers' new stock. If books remained as small as they were in the past, I would not release my books onto the second hand market so often and new book sales would be slightly better.
Due to this unnecessary insistence on making books larger, the same shelf area now will not hold anything like as many books as they once did. This is because not only have books become thicker but also the shelves have to be wider apart vertically to accommodate the ever taller books I buy, which reduces the number of shelves available.

The hardcover book on the left is 1000 pages long and still quite reasonably sized. The one on the right is just over 700 pages and huge. Why?
The two Anne McCaffery books even changed size during the publication of this series.

Why do publishers do this? Do they think we will be impressed by the size? Do they believe people wander around book shops saying, ‘Look at that book! Isn’t it big, I will have to buy it…’, or are they embarrassed by the incredible prices they charge for them and feel we will think we are getting better value for our money? Like a large number of the book buying public, I usually buy a book because of its contents, not because of its size.
I realise many books are getting longer and the average novel has gone from about 200 pages to around 600 over the last couple of decades and many authors tend to write long series of linked books as well. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is often quoted as a really long work, and it is about one thousand four hundred pages long and usually printed in two volumes, but many a modern author has well exceeded that. Peter F. Hamilton has written a four book series where each book averages over one thousand pages per novel and Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series and Agatha Christie’s books each total much more than this and were all originally published in small books, so length is not a reason for size. So why are we book lovers being sold bigger and bigger books? I don’t want them and I now spend less on books, because, whilst I love the luxury of a nicely bound hardcover book, I will now wait for the paperback version – that is the small paperback version, which follows the giant brick that paperbacks early printings seem to be and I wonder who else has found problems with this insistence on bigger and bigger books.

The tiny Ace and Corgi paperback books on the left are dwarfed by the much more recent Gollancz paperback brick on the right. I have no more room for Stephen Baxter owing to his publishers assumption I will be pleased to own a bigger book.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Quiz # 2

Take me to your leader
Well no that is not the clue, just a caption I thought fitted.
The clue is: How did we ever live without them?

Monday, 4 October 2010

A mystery solved

I have known for some time that a bird of prey was stooging around our district, (see Birds posted 26/05/2010) but I never got a long enough look to identify it.

Now we know, it seems to be a Goshawk. It stood and stared at me waiting for me to go away and the minute I turned away, it was off, but this time I had caught it on camera.

Not a bad picture when you consider it was right under all the bushes in quite a shaded spot. You can see a spalsh of sunlight on the ground by him, which shows the level of light outside his hiding place.