The Open University provideth

There are not many Brits I revere more than Michael Young. Well, maybe the two Matt Biancos, but that’s a different kettle of fish, as they weren’t responsible for the founding of the Consumers’ Assocation (these days ‘Which’) or the Open University. I have been a devoted OU student for many years now, and I will hopefully be for another few. This year my third alma mater sent me to Bath University to participate in my course’s summer residential school. A full week of lectures and experimental work they do stretch their days quite long: you start at 9 and finish at 21:00. And then they expect you to take part in fun and shenanigans until midnight. How the course staff manages this for 4 full weeks I have no idea, as I am already knackered after day one. To get to Bath, these days one has to drive through 4 hours of torrential rain (if I ever meet a climate change denier I will make him walk through one of these floods and then let him explain to me why we suddenly have Monsoon rain in the UK).

Bath University itsself has all the charms of Basildon before it was beautified…

But this is nothing compared to their undergraduate accomodation:

My first impression was ‘solitary imprisonment in high security location’ but apparently this is standard accomodation for undergraduates around here. Oh dear. Anyway, it looks like I’m not going to spend a lot of time in there (communal showers with the other lads, btw. I feel like I have been inserted into a mid eighties American teenage comedy. Or a Kim Stanley Robinson novel.  Next thing there will be towel fights).

Tutorial staff is excellent and highly motivated (certainly a difference to my first Uni) and my fellow students are all as keen as a bunch of Labrador puppies facing their first ball shaped object. So, while the actual topic is as tedious as a flock of German civil servants working for the federal agency for tediousness in Tediousbrough, TL (Tediousland), the experience is actually quite fun.

And tomorrow I’ll be able to psychometrically test 100 unsuspecting students.

Mwuahahahahahahahaaaa (I worked on the laugh).

Signing off,


Kim Stanley Robinson’s First Stinker?

Kim Stanley Robinson is one of my favourite authors. I have read and re-read the Mars Trilogy, awed by this chap’s visionary tales, loved the ‘Three Californias‘, sniggered at ‘Escape from Kathmandu’, fell in love with the NSF during the ‘Science in Washington‘ trilogy, wanted to live in an Asian utopia in ‘The Years of Rice and Salt‘ and longed to be on Pluto while reading ‘Icehenge‘.

And now I have just finished Galileo’s Dream, and what can I tell you?

It’s a stinker. Absolutely terrible.

Everything that made me a fan of KSR in the past is missing: the carefully researched scientific prose, the utopias that were so well thought out that they were likely to happen very soon, the sociological visions, the heterogenous groups of vastly different protagonists and, of course, communal bathing and a ‘Frank’. Always a Frank.

So, what do we get here? A curmudgeonly Galileo Galilei that gives the reader no chance for empathy or sympathy, as he’s an obvious anthrophobic, lying, scheming egomanic arse. And just because 17th century alone is obviously not sci-fi, Galileo gets whisked away ever so often to the Jovian moons of the 30th century to help out with the issue of newly discovered life in and around Jupiter.

Yup. No kidding.

With other words, KSR has abandoned his legacy as being the one Sci-Fi author you could safely recommend to your friends who until now saw Sci-Fi as for the anorak wearing members of society.

Not anymore.