December 22, 2009

How Many Working Days ‘Til Christmas?

Category: The Work — Oisín @ 2:26 pm

It’s a common complaint of mine, but there never seems to be enough time. While most people will be counting the shopping days to Christmas – or most kids will just be counting the days – I’m trying to squeeze in as many work hours as I can among all the other things I have to get done. The Mad Grandad roughs really need to be in before Christmas if I’m to keep everything else on schedule in the New Year. And I’ve a few bits of writing to get started . . . Oh, yeah – and I haven’t finished my shopping yet.

Been a bit slow getting up the decorations too.

As you can see, the cover of ‘Mad Grandad’s Doppelganger’ is now done, bar a few last tweaks. Doppelganger Cover.cdr:CorelDRAWIn the past few weeks, I’ve been out on a few different work excursions. I ran a workshop in the National Library in Dublin on the 2nd of December, comparing the work and lives of past writers (L.T. Meade in the 19th century, and Mairin Cregan in the 1940’s – research and background helpfully provided by Dr Susan Cahill) with what things are like today. The girls from St. Brigid’s National School in Glasnevin turned out some excellent pieces of writing, full of character, passion and wit.

The following morning I flew to London for the Random House Christmas Party. This is always a good chance to hook up with the people I work with in the publisher and have a more relaxed chat about what’s going on. It’s also handy to meet up with other writers and illustrators, talk shop, compare notes and rant and moan about the general state of publishing, the world, etc. Yes, even children’s book creators moan, and we’re not even that articulate about it. But we do try to bring a bit of humour to the proceedings.

On Saturday the 5th, I gave a talk at a seminar in University College Dublin (UCD, to anyone in Ireland) on the workshop I did in the National Library. Susan Cahill was doing a piece of research on children’s books in the archives of the National Library and those in UCD. Writers' Lives TalkThrough the folks in Children’s Books Ireland, she invited me to help get kids involved, and she and CBI set up this seminar to bring these strands of research and a number of other authorities on children’s books (and me) together. The seminar in UCD was very intelligent and intellectual altogether, but I did my best to lower the tone.

On Friday the 11th, I arrived late at Abbey Community College in Wicklow town, having left the house late, in a rush, and driven most of the way with nothing but diesel fumes in the tank. I did three sessions in the JCSP library in the school, with a spirited but good-natured bunch of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Years. Once again, I was struck by the success of the JCSP project and wish it could be rolled out to every school. Surely the sight of students crowding round the door of a library, waiting to get in (and not to hear me talk, but just to get at the material inside), is justification enough for funding? You know . . . spending money to help kids read, get educated, broaden their minds – enlighten themselves?

No, of course not. Because they’re not a bloody BANK or PROPERTY DEVELOPER who’s blown their own money because of blind greed and has to have their sorry arse saved with our tax money to make sure millions of people don’t lose their life savings or the whole country doesn’t go down the toilet. Self-serving, short-sighted, money-grubbing, rotten-souled gits.

Sorry, just needed to get that little gripe off my chest. Anyway, that’s quite enough about ‘work’ for one post. I’ll try to make the next one a little shorter – and a bit more to the point.

December 12, 2009

A Crackers Warning

Category: Weird-Wide News — Oisín @ 10:06 pm

Crackers Warning.jpg

Okay, it’s true. You can’t take chances with explosives. In the wrong hands they can be,  you know . . . dangerous.

But this sign was spotted by a Weird-Wide News roving reporter on a shelf in Marks & Spencers today. The shop says it’s illegal for them to  sell Christmas crackers to children because of a law that was written to stop people from blowing things up. Frankly, that’s . . . well . . . crackers.

December 9, 2009

Taking Over the World, One Garden at a Time

Category: Weird-Wide News — Oisín @ 12:11 am

Some people think that what I write is fiction. Well, maybe it is . . . but then I start seeing things around me that make me wonder. A few years back, I started out in this book-writing business with my first two Mad Grandad books, including ‘Mad Grandad’s Robot Garden’. Robotic Lawn-MowerIt was a story about robot plants trying to take over the world, led by an out-of-control robot gardener.

It was just a story. I did not know at the time, that robot gardeners were already a part of our future. But here at Weird-Wide News, my reporters and I believe in keeping our eyes and our minds open. We appeal to everyone to do the same.

The first picture, above, shows a robotic lawn-mower. You can now buy these things for real. They work all on their own and mow the grass for you, once you’ve programmed them to recognize the edges of your garden. My reporters have learned that you can get vacuum cleaners that work in the same way. Suspicious? You should be. Because it doesn’t end there.

Not long ago, my contacts found this on a gadgets website. Robot GardenerIt’s an article about some students at a Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab in a college called MIT. The article describes a robot that can link to tomato plants so it can understand what they want. It can feed and water the plants whenever they need it.

And finally, this potted plant was spotted in Dublin a while back. Take a close look at the bottom of the pot. Wheels? What kind of a plant has wheels? Could this thing be a spy for the robot gardener and its army of plants? Robot Plant PotDid they send this undercover tree – this ‘plant’ – to report on life in our cities?

I had a thought today, as I was sitting on the floor of our utility room. I had my baby daughter on my lap, and we were watching the washing machine. I thought that it was great to have so many fantastic machines to do our work for us.

But we need to make sure they are always working for us. We must never let them do too much of our thinking for us. We must never give them complete control. We must . . . hey – what’s up with my computer? Hey, stop flickering the screen like that! You’ve gone too far this time! That’s it, I’m pulling the plug! What’s going on? Why have the lights gone out? What’s that noise? No! No! It can’t be . . . . (Oisin’s blog is temporarily out of order. Please do not be alarmed. Normal service will be restored once he has learned to obey his machines like a good little human. You always obey your machines, don’t you? Yes, yes. We know you do. Goodbye . . . for now.)