Another thing I’ve been up to with my site is looking at other themes. WordPress has a considerable range to choose from, and earlier today I was playing around with said themes. After all, a redesign never hurts!

So far though, nothing has leapt out at me as being straightforward enough to change it too. Still, I may yet find something I like!

OnBasiliskStationOne of the things that I love is books. I have always enjoyed reading, and as a kid I would read Roald Dahl books over and over again. It was his vivid and often macabre imagination that fired my own, and his books were just a joy to read!

As an adult my tastes lean more toward science fiction, and I dare say I’ve read a lot of science fiction! I was introduced to the Honor Harrington series by a guy that worked in my local bookshop, and whilst I have a few reservations about his later work, David Weber’s earlier entries to the Honorverse are superb examples of not only good science fiction, but good storytelling and good characters.

The first entry is On Basilisk Station, first published all the back in 1993, and whilst some stories suffer from having to explain a lot of back story, Weber manages to maintain a sense of pace to this story whilst giving us insights into the characters that aren’t full of exposition. Honor is presented not as a flawless Mary Sue-type character, but rather, as a woman of strong will who nevertheless holds on to insecurity that stems from her academy days, thanks to events that haunt her, even as she begins her first command. She doesn’t let these issues stop her though, despite being undermined by certain superior officers who feel embarrassed by how she shows them up during training exercises, and despite facing a devious external plot with the resources of only one ship.

One of the things that sets this book apart from its peers is that the characters and setting have a ‘lived in’ feel. This is not some pseudo-plastic, shiny universe where everything gleams and is perfect. The characters are human beings, flawed people, subject to the same fears and frailties as the rest of us, and ships and equipment get dirty, break down and need fixing. Politicians still argue and lie, and people can still reach high ranks within a military because of their family name, rather than talent. This all helps the reader to relate to the characters, and the nice attention to detail by Weber sucks you into this world and helps you care about the characters.

It all builds up to a tense finale that actually had me sweating with anticipation and concern about the fate of various characters. The battle scenes are reminiscent of 19th Century naval duels, except fought over much greater distances! If you like naval combat scenes that are realistic, good, consistent portrayals of technology, political intrigue and most of all, relate-able characters, On Basilisk Station is a fantastic start to a good series!

10/10

Back to Reviews

Recently I kick-started an idea to do with busting jargon. On reflection (as I am trying to do this on a semi-professional basis), I have decided I am not playing to my strengths. Yes, I feel I can offer some insights into how retail works – and I might well continue to do so, but instead it might be better to focus my efforts on something I know more about – so it’s time to offer my thoughts on various books, games and films/TV shows I’ve enjoyed (or not enjoyed!). I hope you are entertained!

So I’m walking with my wife and daughter as we head home from her school, when we hear a woman shouting for help from down the path. Turns out the poor dear tripped and cut her arm and bashed her hip! My wife and I, and a neighbour, helped get her home (along with her two dogs!). I hope the poor dear is ok!

Round four of the 2015 F1 season took place earlier today, under the floodlights of the Bahrain International Circuit, and having delivered a pole lap nearly half a second faster than Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton was largely untroubled as he took his third win of the season. His race was uneventful, save for one slightly hairy moment when, after the first pit stops, Rosberg was right on his tail. Aside from that, he once again controlled the race, opening up a 27-point lead at the top of the standings in the process.

Not everyone had a race that was quite so straightforward. Vettel had split the Mercedes’ by qualifying second, and he held on to second at the first corner, whilst Raikkonen squeezed his Ferrari into third. Rosberg, beleaguered after being out-raced three races in a row, had to show some fight today, which thankfully he did, passing both Raikkonen and Vettel on the track in the first few laps, before passing Vettel again after the first stops, and again after the second stops (which saw Vettel make an error and run wide at the final corner, damaging his front wing enough to necessitate a change). However, Rosberg once again could not get close to Hamilton.

Raikkonen was on a different strategy to Vettel and appeared quicker, even before Vettel’s error. He closed in hard on Rosberg in the final stages of the race (aided in the final couple of laps by a brake problem for the Mercedes driver) and got by the German when he ran wide at turn 1.

Williams suffered at the start when Massa’s car wouldn’t move off the grid for the warm up lap, but he battled his way to 10th and a points finish, whilst Bottas got ahead of Vettel after the latter’s wing change, and used the power of his engine to keep Vettel at bay, taking a credible 4th place.

The Red Bulls both came home in the points, with Ricciardo in 6th (albeit crossing the line with a smoking engine) and Kvyat in 9th, whilst Grosjean took a credible 7th for Lotus and Perez took 8th for Force India, despite an initial charge from Sauber that suggested points were possible. Alonso came 11th for McLaren, a sign of ongoing improvements for the team, though Button couldn’t even start the race, thanks to an ERS problem.

Neither Toro Rosso finished, both having to retire due to mechanical problems.

A shout out has to go to Will Stevens of Manor, finishing some 40 seconds ahead of teammate Roberto Merhl, an impressive difference between the two today.

So Vettel, having raised his stock in recent weeks, has dented it a little today. Raikkonen impressed and Rosberg showed some spirit, but it was Hamilton who took 25 points. Will anyone stop him from winning in Spain on the 10th of May?

Back to F1 2015

image

After a break of only a week since the Chinese Grand Prix, we have arrived (metaphorically in my case) at the Sakir circuit in hot and dusty Bahrain.

Last year this race (which was the first Bahrain GP to be held at night) saw an exciting, race-long battle between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, featuring some near wheel-to-wheel racing that ended with Hamilton emerging victorious on that occasion.

With Hamilton and Rosberg at the centre of an interesting exchange of words in China, a repeat of that battle here could be a very fiesty affair. Rosberg needs to show he can match Hamilton and needs to that soon rather than later. However, there is a new variable this year, with Ferrari perhaps eying another good race in hot conditions (something that suited them in Malaysia).

A possible issue for Ferrari will be the decreasing track temperatures as night takes hold, which could see the Mercedes get stronger as the race wears on.

Key areas to watch here are Turn 1 (at the end of a DRS zone), Turn 10 (a hard braking zone following on from a quick sequence of turns) and Turn 11, which should also serve up a good overtaking opportunity. As of the end P3, Hamilton has been only narrowly faster than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, which suggests an interesting qualifying session and a fascinating race.

Back to F1 2015

So the Chinese GP took place only a few hours ago, but the acrimony between the Mercedes drivers of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg that came to define a lot of last season has reared up once more, following Rosberg’s accusation that Hamilton deliberately backed him up, thus forcing Rosberg into the clutches of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Rosberg’s argument is that Hamilton was going too slowly, thus forcing him into his dirty air, something that can damage F1 tyres. The only means for Rosberg to avoid this would be to likewise slow down, potentially making him vulnerable to Vettel.

Hamilton insists this wasn’t the case, and he could certainly argue, if he wanted to, that he was looking after his tyres (which he is entitled to do). Whether he was trying to hurt Rosberg’s race (which would in turn risk the team’s 1-2 finish, something they naturally wouldn’t be happy with) or whether he was just keeping on an eye on his tyre wear is something only Hamilton knows.

There’s a clash here as well, between the desires of the drivers and the wishes of the team. Hamilton will see Rosberg as the greatest threat to his championship hopes – after all, they have the same car, the best car – and thus Hamilton will want to do what he can to unnerve and rattle Rosberg. It would not surprise me in the least if Hamilton was actually holding Rosberg up on purpose.

The flip side is that Rosberg, if he felt he had the pace, could have tried to overtake Hamilton, but seemed more concerned with consolidating second place! I can only offer my own humble opinion here, but were Hamilton behind Rosberg, I don’t see him settling for second, I see him going for it. It seems that Rosberg is losing the battle on the track (he’s been out-qualified three out of three this year, and finished behind Hamilton every race so far as well), but also the psychological one as well. We are only three races in, but Hamilton is looking serenely confident, and Rosberg has no answer to that.

Back to F1 2015 News

Having missed the excitement of Mercedes being usurped in Malaysia, I set my alarm for the early hour of 6.45am (urgh) to ensure I was up in time to watch the Chinese GP in its entirety – and whilst the race was not overly exciting, it was certainly a more rewarding experience than the 4.45 experience I had getting up for Australia!

With Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes on pole and teammate Nico Rosberg right behind him, the stage was set for another routine 1-2 finish for the Silver Arrows – though after what happened in Malaysia, and with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vetttel right behind them, it would have been unwise to get complacent, despite the pace of Mercedes in qualifying. At the start, both the Mercs got away well and Hamilton kept the lead, whilst the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen got by both Williams cars on the first lap, whereupon he would shadow Vettel quite nicely – and Vettel would keep the Mercedes’ cars honest.

On soft tyres, the Ferraris were keeping pace reasonably well with the Mercedes’ and both were comfortably clear of the Williams pair of Bottas and Massa (who would end up having a quiet race, pretty much on their own). Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo had a miserable start and lost several places on the first lap, with the Renault engine once again clearly out-matched by the Mercedes and Ferrari power units. At one stage Ricciardo found himself under pressure from the McLarens, and also had to work harder than he would have liked to get past an uncooperative teammate Kvyat. Ricciardo would also make a couple of mistakes whilst trying to pass the Sauber of Ericsson, whilst Kvyat’s engine would fail.

The Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz would nearly suffer a similar fate – a gearbox issue led to a very slow couple of corners for the young Spaniard, but thankfully for him, he was able to correct the problem and carry on, whilst his teammate Verstappen showed composure beyond his years with a series of slick and well-executed overtakes that highlighted his potential as a future world champion.

For Force India, the race was nothing memorable. Hulkenberg was one of the retirements, and Perez would finish 11th, unable to make a meaningful impression on the race. Both the Saubers finished in the points (Nasr was 8th and Ericsson 10th), whilst the pace of the Lotus was a lot better, with Grosjean taking 7th and some much needed points for the team. The second Lotus of Maldonaldo retired (through no fault of his own once again) after a collision with Jensen Button – the normally unflappable Button going into the back of the Lotus at the first corner in an uncharacteristically sloppy move.

Both the Manor-Marussia cars started the race and both finished – they were well down on the pecking order, but to get both cars up and running is a major step forward for them.

At the front of the field, Ferrari attempted to undercut Mercedes by pitting Vettel on lap 14, a move that did indeed bring the Mercedes into the pits – first Hamilton then Rosberg – but with all the pre-race chat being that hard tyres would be the choice for Mercedes, the team opted to put both their drivers on soft tyres for their second stint – and it was then that Hamilton would appear to bunch Rosberg back toward the clutches of Vettel, with Raikkonen not far behind. Whether Hamilton was just conserving tyres and fuel, or whether he deliberately held up Rosberg in a bid to him to ruin his tyres, is something I cover in detail here.

In any event, the team urged Hamilton to pick up the pace, and as the second set of stops approached, Hamilton did indeed up his game. Having previously held the gap at around 1.5 seconds, suddenly Hamilton was racing clear of Rosberg, and by the time the front four had all pitted he was some 6 seconds clear, a gap he would maintain till the end.

On the hard tyre, the Mercedes cars both pulled clear of the Ferraris, whilst in the final stages of the race Raikkonen began to reel Vettel in, but backmarkers held him up too much for a chance to make a move. When Verstappen’s good race was ended on lap 54 of 56 (he retired due to car trouble on the start-finish straight), the safety car came out and led the rest of the field around the final two laps, securing Hamilton’s second win of the year, and Mercedes’ second 1-2 of the year.

So, after three races the title fight looks like this:

1. Hamilton (68)

2. Vettel (55)

3. Rosberg (51)

4. Massa (30)

5. Raikkonen (24)

6. Bottas (18)

Next weekend sees us roll into Bahrain!

Back to F1 2015