Thursday, 2 May 2013

Want Google Glass? You Bet Your Ass!

I just wanted to add my upbeat warble to the chorus of excited chins wagging about the next big innovation from Google called ‘Google Glass’. I had a chance to demo an early version of this fine technology (see picture, right) and, even if I haven’t heard anything from them about the Google Nexus 10 I’m eager to demo, I believe Google Glass will revolutionise the way we look at the world.

If you don’t know how it works, Google Glass resemble a pair of lens-free glasses which respond to simple touch commands along the side stem and project the results onto a small screen raised and to the side of your vision. The screen can display different things such as the date and time, which is great if, like me, you’re too busy to raise you left hand and look at your watch. Instead, you simply raise your right hand, swipe your glasses with an upward motion to access the main menu, swipe it to the side three times until you get to time, and then double tap your glasses to access the clock functionality. Then you read the time from the screen. It’s really that quick and easy.

Yet that’s not all that Google Glass can do for you. It can display photos, access your Facebook account, and, perhaps most amazing of all, give you directions if you've managed to get lost because you weren't looking where you were going whilst you were wandering the streets accessing your Facebook account. That's a great time saver and stops you having to log onto Facebook and tell your friends: 'Help! I'm lost in Stoke Golding (it's near Nuneaton).' That's minutes saved every day of your life and they do add up!

My favourite feature is the ability to take photographs with the simple act of winking. Unfortunately, this did prove a bit problematic when I trialed the glasses since I am one of the few men with a rare congenital condition that makes me wink whenever I pass water. This did cause my glasses to overload the Google servers with pictures of urinals, trees, bushes, lampposts, brick walls, stone walls, rocks, the sea, bins, the back wheel of my Jag, the left leg of Jeremy Kyle… What can I say? I drink a lot of coffee…

Yet perhaps the most exciting part of Google Glass are the plans for the future. There will be a chance for people to document their entire lives via live webstreams, which means fantastic opportunities for those of us who would like to document our entire lives up here on the web. I’m hoping to get a live camera stream on this blog going as soon as my Google Glass arrives. I want people to get real-time access to every exciting thing that’s going on in my life, whether that’s my walks to the post office, production meetings, Judy’s darts nights at the local village pub, or my reviewing the papers on BBC News 24, which is the best gig in town and earns me £50 a pop, just for scratching my chin over the day's papers. And, what's more, I get to keep the papers!

Exciting times ahead? You bet!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Uncle Dick’s Alternative Book Club: My Ebook Recommendations for May

I've spent a good deal of my winter reading books but, more specifically, ebooks which are cheaper, lighter, and less liable to stain when I read them in the bath. That’s why I thought what better way to celebrate the arrival of Spring than to give you a quick rundown of some ebooks that you can’t read outside, under the glare of the sun, unless you have an e-ink reader. I, of course, don’t have an e-ink reader and read everything on my iPad, which does, however, allow me to turn the background to black so I can look at myself until the sun goes down. This is especially helpful when I’m in the bath. Not that I’m making a case for me to buy an e-ink reader when what I really want is a Google Nexus 10. But nor am I doing what some bloggers would do, which is to write something like that and hope Google will send them a brand new Nexus 10 to review… Oh, no. That sort of thing doesn't happen to me and I really wouldn't want to use this blog in a blatant attempt to cadge luxury goods for purposes of review. However, if I did review a Google Nexus 10, it would undoubtedly be positive and I would recommend everybody I know to move over to Android…

However, I digress.

The point of this informative blog post is to give you a quick rundown of a few of my favourite recent reads and I hope, in return, that you’ll offer me some suggestions of your own. Or perhaps you’ve just written an ebook and want a place to promote it… If so, send me the details (and a free copy and/or Google Nexus 10) and I’ll slap it on this page. However, I can’t promise to read it given the aforementioned sun, shiny screen, bathtub situation and my lack of a Google Nexus 10.

Anyway, my five favourite recent reads were:

1. Bedford Park by Bryan Appleyard

One for the more literate among you, this novel is about a moment in time, beautifully realised. It's the story of a corner of London that just happened to be vitally important to who we are today since it was home to many of the great scientific and artistic minds of the early twentieth century. I enjoyed this one all the way to the end, so much so that my bath water went cold... Incidentally, my word processor wants me to change that ‘who’ to ‘whom’ but ‘whom’ doesn't sound right. I’m sure the word processor on a Google Nexus 10 wouldn't have that problem.

2. The Book That’s Actually Much Filthier Than The One You Were Looking For by Felicity Grope

One for those of you in need of cheering up or simply wanting to laugh about our more primal urges... The book is a series of five short stories about romance, sex, and high adventure in a land populated by pandas, cowboys and men called Buck. It’s actually a lot less filthy than the title makes out but, as parodies of erotic literature goes, Ms Grope had me laughing out loud, especially the story called ‘Fifty Shades of Clown’. Thankfully, it wasn’t a sunny day so I could read this ebook a second time once I’d finished. There was, however, a serious lack of any mention of the Google Nexus 10 which I hope the author addresses in subsequent volumes.

3. The Church of Fear by John Sweeney

An often funny look at the Church of Scientology and how they harassed one Panorama journalist. Not that I’m knocking Scientology. Wonderful people, especially the big ones that lurk by your car late at night. This is a relatively quick and enjoyable read if you don’t want to tackle the longer but also excellent ‘Going Clear’ by Lawrence Wright which still isn't available as an ebook in the UK, even on the Google Nexus 10. I've read both and Sweeney's is probably the gentlest introduction to the whole trouble with Scientology and a reasonable explanation for his now notorious outburst which become such a big hit on Youtube.

4. Them by Jon Ronson

This is a collection of articles about extremists by Jon Ronson, so you know what you’re going to get: light, whimsical, and yet with enough meat to make some serious points. Judy looked over my shoulder at one point and suggested that ‘Them’ should be ‘Those’ but she’s been going through a pompous phrase recently after hitting Number One in the paperback charts. I hope when she gets her first royalty cheque she might buy me a Google Nexus 10 but I’m not holding out much hope. I'll be reading Ronson's latest soon so I might come back and tell you how it went.

5. 3 Classic Spy Stories by Alan Furst

This is what I’m reading at the moment (or will once the sun goes in) so I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend it before I’ve finished. So far these are wonderfully evocative stories, rich in detail, about people trapped in politically turbulent times and how violence affected their lives. Judy thinks I should try writing a spy story so I’m reading this with a notepad open on my lap. Of course, if I had a Google Nexus 10, I’d take notes on that…

Mayday! Mayday!

The 1st of May and I’m dropping by to do a bit of spring cleaning. Judy is still hibernating and won’t emerge from her bed of dried leaves and navel fluff for another week or two. However, I’m here to take a scathing blade to my old blog roll and to otherwise clean up this mess. There are many things to talk about, not least the way that my dear darling wife managed to leap to the top spot in the bestseller charts.

If you've not read her novel yet, then I suggest you go out and buy it. I've not read it myself simply because my signed copy has still not arrived, but, as I understand it, the book tells the story of an SAS operation to Cornwall that goes terribly wrong when Ricardo Monsoon, the glamorous special operations captain who wears tight polyester pants in hazardous conditions, discovers a hotbed of radical book clubs in the area of The Lizard. Not one of them has the prescribed reading list and it’s up to Ricardo and his team of grizzled war veterans to eliminate the opposition and install their own benign dictatorship in the form of a highly popular national book club filled with popular best sellers. Where she gets her ideas, I really don’t know but the numbers cannot lie: Number One in the charts for weeks on end and probably a Nobel Prize for Literature to arrive in the post in the New Year.

What else is there? I suppose I should mention, in passing, the threat to our bees. Not much I can do from this end but I encourage you to douse your gardens with enough pesticide to ensure there are no other critters out there stealing the bees' supply of pollen.

And what about the lack of seagulls this year? What’s that all about? I haven’t seen a seagull in about a week. Please email me if you see a seagull. Photographs would be a bonus.

Congratulations to Adele for winning an Oscar for the song to the last James Bond film. The producers still have my CV if they think about replacing Daniel Craig so fingers crossed… My Bond would be a return to the staples that made the franchise such a success: flares, fringes, and villains with deformities.

Radio 2 still hasn't called to say they want me back presenting in the mornings but I have landed a few gigs doing the newspapers on BBC News 24. You might indeed have seen me giving my rather strident opinion about potholes recently and I have to say that the feedback has been phenomenal. I was queuing to renew our TV license the other day and somebody in the post office gave me a ‘thumbs up’. I've not been so overwhelmed since we arrived at the Watch studios and they showed us to our own private broom closet.

 And what is it with eyelashes on car headlamps? The world’s gone crazy.