Saturday, 12 December 2009

New Jerb

Been working at my new job for a week now. It's new shit, interesting
stuff, learning a bunch of new skills and science.

We're talking pharmacology here so it's a bit left of my core
molecular biology background, but it's not a million miles away.
Basically I know biologically what's happening on the plate but when
it comes to making that plate and analysing the data after the assay
I'm a bit clueless. Well, after a week I'm less clueless, they need me
to be up to speed by mid-January so they're putting me through my
paces quick smart, which, to be honest I'm very happy with. So much of
this is new to me the sooner I'm brought up to speed the better.

I'm looking forward to learning as much as I can here, so far everyone
has been awesome, and the site, although slightly inconvenient for
travel is well equipped and quite nice.

For the first time in a long time I'm looking forward to Monday
instead of dreading it.

freedoms_stain, employed, and as ever, out.

Sent from my mobile device

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Simon Scarrow – The Eagle Series

I don't think I've talked about books since I mentioned David Gemmell's excellent Troy series earlier this year, well, I'm gonna now. David Gemmell is very relevant here actually as it was the immense enjoyment I garnered from his Troy series that led me to Simon Scarrow. After reading Troy I decided I quite liked this historical fiction malarkey and would like to try some more. I looked at the back of quite a few different books by different authors covering a variety of different time periods and historical characters, Ramses in ancient Egypt, Genghis Khan in Mongolia, The French Revolution, various periods of Roman history... History is vast so there's a lot of choice there.

Ultimately I went with Rome. Simon Scarrow's Eagle series follows the adventures and misadventures of two soldiers in the Roman legions, Lucius Cornelius Macro and Quintus Lucinius Cato. At the beginning of the series Macro is the recently appointed Centurion of the 6th Century of the Fourth Cohort of the 2nd legion, Cato is a former slave who has been freed by Emperor Claudius Caesar as a favour to his father who was also a slave made free, on the condition that Cato join the Legions. As an additional "favour" Claudius orders Cato raised to the rank of Centurion upon his arrival to the 2nd legion. The Legions Legate, Titus Flavius Vespasianus (Vespasian), unwilling to promote a raw recruit to a post normally reserved for the most battle-hardened of Legionnaires who have proved their worth and bravery through years of hard and outstanding service instead compromises and makes Cato Optio (2nd in command after the Centurion) of Macro's century.

Thus are Macro and Cato thrust together, victims of circumstance, Cato has not only to adjust from the lavish lifestyle he led as a well treated Palace slave to that of a lowly soldier, learn to master the roles of both soldier and Optio simultaneously, he must also endure the resentment of his comrades for the nepotism placed upon him that meant one of their number missed out on a promotion they had actually earned. 

Despite the unfortunate beginnings to their relationship Macro and Cato develop a mutual respect and camaraderie that goes beyond mere superior and subordinate or even soldierly bonding and resembles something more of a brotherhood. This relationship begins to unfold early in the first book when Cato is instrumental in saving Macro's life when German natives spring a trap on a small force of Romans of the 4th Cohort forcing them to hold a small enemy town against enormous odds while waiting for backup. It later transpires that Macro is illiterate - literacy being essential to the Centurions role due to the large amount of paperwork on which the Roman army maintained it's order, and had been passing over his paper duties to the Century's clerk until that point. Cato's background as a Palace slave had left him with a good education and he consents to teach Macro to read and write in secret so that Macro may retain his position.   

The story begins in Germany where the 2nd Legion are stationed and where Cato joins the legion. Before long the Legion receives new orders: march to Gaul (France) where they will join three other legions and undertake an invasion on Britain under the leadership of General Plautius. This begins an arc which chronicles the involvement of the 2nd legion under Vespasian during the invasion of Britain. The story is largely told from the perspective of Macro and Cato - primarily Cato - at the front lines of the action, but there are other major and minor characters the story flips between. Perhaps the most important of these is Vespasian himself. This offers the reader an interesting insight to the lives of the common soldiery and also the life of a Legate.

Vespasian's predicament gets very interesting as he juggles his responsibilities to his men and his responsibilities to the Empire while simultaneously balancing awkward internal political situations that threaten his position and even his family. There is enough going on with Vespasian alone to merit a novel or two, it is therefore "gravy" that his story is covered somewhat in-depth in addition to Macro and Cato.

Of course Vespasians story isn't quite told in isolation and his story and that of Macro and Cato are inseparably intertwined as it is Vespasian's decisions that put Macro and Cato through their trials and tribulations.

This series is of course a work of fiction, the general setting and sequence of events matches the history quite well, but the detail is fiction, Vespasian is a genuine historical figure, but Macro and Cato are not and many of the sub-plots they become embroiled in simply did not happen (the abduction of General Plautius' wife and children for example). I've only read the first 3 (of 9) books in the series so far, and there's a lot to cover in there, I don't want to ruin the story for anyone, so I'll just leave you with a taster of what to expect: Assassination plots, hunts for treasure lost Roman treasure abandoned in Britain by Julius Caesar, political back-stabbing, kidnapping, young love and tragedy, desperate battles fought against poor odds, a young Boudica, confrontations with Druids.

Due to the way that the story is told it's a very compelling read, I find myself reading on and on when I pick one of the books up, and cursing the end of a train or bus journey that means I have to stop. If you like action/adventure type books then this is definitely a series you should look at, or, even, if you 're looking for Christmas inspiration there are way worse gifts than the first book or two from this series.

Simon Scarrow has written a lot of books over the last 10 years, 9 of the Eagle series and a further 3 (of a planned 4) of a series covering the lives of Napoleon Bonaparte and his rival Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington - those books I'll take about later.

That's it from me

freedoms_stain, Under the Eagle, out.


I haven’t really played guitar seriously in a while, and I was thinking just last night that I should pick up the old six string and re-familiarise myself with the old girl.

I was planning on working my way through one of Pearl Jam’s new (and excellent) songs The Fixer (I was planning on embedding the video there but the cunts at universal have ‘requested’ that the function be disabled on YouTube).

So of course I only went and slammed my finger in a shitter cubicle door at work today.

There’s a phrase for this – FML.

freedoms_stain, FML, out.