Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 10 posts of 2016

It's been a (relatively) quiet second half of the year on the blog, so while there's minimal change since August here for the record are the Top 10 posts by page views.

1. Science-fiction as mind bomb
2. If Meta Filter were filk fixated - File 770
3. Science-fiction needs you - join me as a Hugo Awards voter
4. Trouble at the business end of democracy - the #usepens affair
5. Cute title, sad book - Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
6. Noblesse oblige
7. The shortlist that never was
8. Town and city names in song titles - a non-definitive list
9. YA goes gothic - Frances Hardinge's The Lie Tree
10. In the Lovecraftian mode, but not the Lovecraftian mood - Stephen King's Revival

Or, by topic:

Book reviews - 3
Politics - 2 
Lit criticism (after a fashion) - 3
Website reviews - 1
Random music geekery - 1

The top four posts on the list also made their way into my top ten most-reads, which probably signifies a minimal amount but which is nonetheless gratifying.

Bye bye 2016!

Friday, December 30, 2016

A quick top 10 films of 2016

1. Hunt For The Wilderpeople
2. Sing Street
3. Joy
4. Arrival
5. Spotlight
6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
7. Hell Or High Water
8. The Girl With All The Gifts
9. Ghostbusters
10. Star Trek: Beyond

Honourable mentions: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, My Feral Heart and Rogue One (displaced from the second iteration of the top 10 as it was pointed out to me I'd forgotten Joy, Spotlight and The Girl With All The Gifts)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Welcome to the House of Links

Welcome to the House of Campaigning and Organising Links... which is not the House of the Rising Sun, not The House of Flying Daggers and particularly not the House of Endorsements. 

I'm in the process of going through e-mails from the eCampaigning Forum I've been saving this year, which is where most of these links come from. Thanks to everyone who shares their wisdom there.

Blogs, talks, reports

Beyond vanity metrics - towards better measurement of member engagement (Colin Holtz, Jackie Mahendra, Michael Silberman)

How do networks of people actually generate the power to change communities? (Esther Foreman, The Social Change Agency)

A miscellany of interesting sites and the resources they hold training resources for facilitation, strategising and organising
Bond theory of change resources (Jenny Ross)
Digital Tribes UK - meetup for people developing online communities
DIY Toolkit - all manner of planning and idea-generating tools
Exposing The Invisible - using social media for investigation - new national platform for community information sharing
Moodle - open source online learning platform
Nextdoor - the private social network for your neighbourhood
New Economics Organisers' Network resources page
Timeline - easy free-to-make timeline tool
Visualising information for advocacy

Sunday, December 18, 2016

An imaginary playlist for 2016

Side One

Public Service Broadcasting - Gagarin
The Associates - Club Country
Ibibio Sound System - 1, 2, 3, Let's Dance
Jurassic 5 - Concrete Schoolyard
Neneh Cherry And The Thing - Cashback
The Beta Band - Dry The Rain
Frank Turner - Get Better
REM - Little America
Gang Of Four - Natural's Not In It
Alcest - Printemps Emeraude
Gold - O.D.I.R
Deafheaven - Brought To The Water
Panopticon - Into The North Woods
The Lounge Kittens - Rollin' 

Side Two 

Van Morrison - And It Stoned Me
Yndi Halda - Together Those Leaves
Mono - Glory
Lambchop - Up With People
Eyre Llew - Vorfreude
Bon Iver - Flume
Hexvessel - Cosmic Truth
Ulver - Island
Myrkur - Jeg Er Guden, I Er Tjenerne (acoustic version)
Steve Von Till - In Your Wings 
Jesu feat Jarboe - Storm Comin' On
The Duke Street Workshop feat Laurence R Harvey - Negative Forces
Chelsea Wolfe - Iron Moon
Thomas Truax - Why Dogs Howl At The Moon

2016 in books

My favourite reading from 2016. Thanks due in particular to family, friends, Mr B's Emporium in Bath with its book spa service and the Hugo Awards for passing many of these my way.

Links are to reviews on the blog. 

Ben Aaronovitch, Whispers Underground, Broken Homes, Foxglove Summer and this year's The Hanging Tree 
Viv Albertine, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys
Charlie Jane Anders - All The Birds In The Sky
Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader
H G Bissinger, Friday Night Lights
Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric's Demon 
Becky Chambers, The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet 
Samuel R Delany, Dhalgren
Philip K Dick, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, The Man In The High Castle and Valis
William Goldman, The Princess Bride
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln
Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree
Barbara Harford, Greenham Common: Women At The Wire
Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic
Dave Hutchinson, Europe After Midnight
N K Jemisin, The Fifth Season
Ursula Le Guin, The Wind's Twelve Quarters
Cixin Liu, The Dark Forest
R K Narayan, The Bachelor Of Arts
Naomi Novik, Uprooted 
Nnedi, Okorafor, Binti
Sydney Padua, The Thrilling Adventures Of Babbage And Lovelace
Joanna Russ, Extraordinary People  
Philip Sandifer, Guided By The Beauty Of Their Weapons
Neil Stephenson, Seveneves 
Charles Stross, The Annihilation Score
Koushun Takami, Battle Royale
James Tiptree Jr, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever 
Catherynne M Valente, Deathless
Jo Walton, The Just City
Alyssa Wong, Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers and The Fisher Queen

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Health-geekery November/December 2016

Another ever-growing, pulsating list of health and social care links ruling from the centre of the Ultraworld and being compiled here between now and the end of the year.

As usual, inclusion doesn't necessarily mean full agreement. And apologies for the alternately grey and blue hyperlinks, which for some reason I can't fix in the mix html.

More STP analysis

King's Fund weighs in with a look at STP's through interviews with insiders in health and local government (and an assessment of draft plans)

More STP proposals now released in the area I cover for your reading pleasure(?):

Birmingham and Solihull
Black Country
Cheshire and Merseyside
Coventry and Warwickshire
Herefordshire and Worcestershire
Shropshire and Telford

Thanks to Health Campaigns Together, who are doing a good job of collating these across the country.

And the (internal) December 2016 NHS England Corporate and NHS Performance Report, while not referencing the STP's directly, provides a useful assessment of the the state of the NHS from the top, as Roy Lilley has pointed out.

Continuing Healthcare

A new report by the Continuing Healthcare Alliance, which the Association is a member of, has found that the CHC system in England is failing people with MND and other conditions.

Autumn Statement reportage and responses

Public Sector Executive - Councils and NHS bemoan 'missed opportunity' to fix adult social care
MND Association
MS Society 
New Economics Foundation - No relief for struggling households
Carers UK
United Response
Royal College Of Nurses
National Voices
Care And Support Alliance

Patient and citizen involvement in health

Reports and resources from NESTA and the Health Foundation enabling people to take an active role in their own health and care, in support of the NHS Five Year Forward View vision to develop a new relationship with people and communities.

Plus six principles from National Voices for engaging people and communities, intended to link up with NHS vanguard work and create a series of high-impact interventions.

Kings Fund research on the power and efficacy of different approaches to feedback.


The Association's evaluation of its volunteer Visitor role - around 9/10 of people living with MND and their carers think it's effective, which is pretty darn good I'd say.


Summary briefing by Neurological Alliance on National Audit Office review of progress in neurology since 2012 (September 2015 but worth reiterating here as it's still a very useful snapshot)

The MS Society published the results of its 2016 survey of people with MS under the heading 'Is access to treatment still a lottery?' Interestingly, 83% of English respondents had not been offered a care plan or care plan review for their health care.

And otherwise on the NHS

Feeling The Crunch: the Nuffield Trust asks what it would take for the NHS to find planned savings of around 22 billion by 2020 (and then does so interactively)

A range of views on how much money the Government is putting into the NHS (Grauniad)
Interactive data on Northern Ireland hospital waiting times, including neurology inpatient and outpatient appointments (NICVA / Detail Data / ODI Belfast)

Following a previous survey, NHS Providers report on (write about what you know, yeah?) the state of the NHS Provider Sector. The accompanying press release has some quite stark statistics about trusts and other providers' lack of confidence in long-term financial situation.

NHS Confederation mythbusting statements on primary care, NHS managers and competition.

Dementia atlas for England - a nice geographic representation of dementia services including data like the proportion of emergency admissions. 

Social care

Four in five councils struggle to provide older people's care (Grauniad again) 
Age UK - 1.2 million in England struggle to get the social care they need.
Care Quality Commission annual state of care report
Why one company is handing back social care contracts to council (Grauniad)
The Generation Game: spending priorities for an ageing society (Fabian Society, Bright Blue and CentreForum from back in 2015)

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) are currently doing a lot of work around the future of care, billed as the equivalent of the NHS's Five Year Forward View.


Work, Health and Disability Green Paper (more on this in future updates no doubt)

Bedroom tax

Success and failure at the Supreme Court (Equality And Human Rights Commission and Disability Rights UK)

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland voluntary sector worried about the implications of Brexit on funding and the economy (NICVA)


Chief Medical Officer For Wales annual reports
The Welsh Government's well-being objectives
Briefing by Professor Luke Clements on the Social Services And Wellbeing Act (Wales) 2014
Statement from the Welsh Government on the domiciliary care workforce
2015 UK Government response to Commons Welsh Affairs Committee on cross-border arrangements for health (a bit retro but useful)
Plans for primary care services in Wales up to March 2018 - including clusters and more.
Carer's Trust guidance on commissioning services for carers - with interesting case studies and a no-brainer guide on why looking after carers washes its face ethically and economically.

A sobering final link

Report from Joseph Rowntree Foundation finding that 50% of people in poverty are either themselves disabled or live with a disabled person

A miscellany of Trumpean links

A miscellany of post-election reactions and reflections, collated here. As ever, inclusion of an article doesn't imply endorsement of the views, merely that I find them interesting.

The Way To Stop Trump - David Cole
Moving on from Trumpgate - Anna Feuchtwang
The American election was a referendum on system change - Brian Fitzgerald
Autocracy - rules for survival - Masha Gessen
The Weapon We Have Is Love - The Harry Potter Alliance 
The Failure of Facebook Democracy 

Cthulhu doesn't grow plants...

But if he did they would probably look something like this.

Taken at a visit to the Eden Project this Autumn.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's great when everyone's making the same movie: an evening with Mike Carey

Last month we caught writer Mike Carey in conversation as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival

Until recently, Mike was best known for his comic and graphic novel work, most notably Lucifer. However, that may now be superceded by his post-apocalyptic zombie-esque novel and film The Girl With All The Gifts, where Mike did double duty, not only writing the original text but the screenplay in parallel.

He gave us a sneak preview reading of the opening to the follow-up to Girl..., a prequel which may or may not end up being called The Boy On The Bridge and then fielded questions from the audience.   

Of particular interest to me was the discovery that working in comics had transformed him as a  writer - it had given him a prescribed form to work within in terms of structure, length and pacing and that had helped a great deal when using the ostensibly freer form of the novel.

Mike had been fortunate with his venture into the film industry - not only writing the screenplay for Girl... but having a sympathetic producer and director who were very much open to collaboration. As he put it, 'making movies is great if everyone's making the same movie.'  

So the film got made with a shared vision of how best to adapt the original material, what would translate between media and what needed to change. For example, the book's interior lives and multiple viewpoints - the very things that novels excel at - got largely sidelined in favour of focussing on Melanie, the girl of the title.  

This isn't a film review, but as an aside it's worth reiterating what you may have heard elsewhere: Seenia Nenua who plays Melanie is outstanding and the narrowing of perspective certainly pays off.  

Similarly, casting knowledge also helps to shape the script. As Mike pointed out, if you know you have someone of the calibre of Glenn Close attached to a role you'll darn well find yourself writing for her.

However, he also identified the temptation in screenplay-writing both to over-write and over-prescribe what was happening on screen; not only do you have to leave room for the director to cut extraneous dialogue and even scenes as they go through the film-making process, you have to give them the space to decide how they want to shoot the film. And of course for the cast to play it in their own way too.

Much like the distinction between the text of a play and its perfomance, I suppose, but I hadn't really thought about it that way before. 

A most interesting evening, and worth mentioning that Mike was a lovely guy who stuck around with his wife Linda (also a writer) to sign books and chat to attendees.