Amazon Fire 7″ (9th gen)

A few years ago we got an Amazon Fire tablet and I could almost copy and paste that review for the ninth generation unit.

My biggest complaint this time around is the battery life. It feels like it’s always in need of recharging. Almost everything else from last time is improved. It’s slightly smaller. The build quality is much better. It’s faster.

Having said that it’s still no iPad. While faster it still feels sluggish compared with Apple’s tablet, the screen is a lot worse and the software library is laughable by comparison. But, as before, it’s also a tenth of the price. As an almost disposable consumption device, I have few complaints.

Reading 2019

I failed.

By half a book! I missed my goal of twelve books in 2019 by a few hundred pages1.

In my defence, “Guns, Germs and Steel” is very long but the real culprit (like the previous year) is my lack of a commute. Not that I’m sick of working from home yet but that was my reading time and now I just don’t have a time that I consistently set aside.

Still, eleven books isn’t bad when you consider all the other material I was reading too. (Might be better for my mental health if I dial it down on Brexit news!) In 2019 there was a better mix of fiction and non-fiction, too, so, while I didn’t reach my target, it worked out pretty well anyway.

I’ve set the same target of twelve books for 2020. Let’s see how that goes.


  1. Depending on how you count them. I read a few technical books (“Scala Cookbook,” “Deploying to OpenShift“) among others but somewhat arbitrarily I’ve not included those in the tally. ↩︎

Two Brothers

It’s been fascinating watching Ben Elton grow as a writer. I read his first book, Stark, when it first came out. It was political and funny, as you might expect for a stand up comedian. It wasn’t terribly well written, though.

Next came Gridlocked, which was better written but not as funny.

I’d argue that he finally hit his stride with Popcorn, which was a real page-turner, with structure and humour and it was well written.

Two Brothers dispenses with the humour almost entirely, but keeps the drama and everything he’s learned about story writing. The rise of the Nazis provides a familiar structure but the believable characters and unpredictable twists are what makes it work.

His first couple of books may have had me close to tears of laughter. This one has emotion and I was on the verge of very different tears. I say this without hyperbole.

Overall, highly recommended.

Innovation department

When I see a company that has an “innovation team” or a “chief innovation officer” I immediately understand that it’s not the kind of company I want to work for.

Innovation isn’t found in a particular team, person or department. It’s your culture.

If you need a special team outside the normal management structure to innovate, what does that say?

Grenoble


It’s a Monday night and no one that lives here goes out for dinner. Most of the restaurants are shut for one thing.

It’s dark and starting to get a little cold so I don’t feel like wandering around for too long. I manage to find somewhere open on a square near a tram stop.

The restaurant is pleasantly busy. There’s a family and a few couples. There are also three men, other than me, dining alone.

One arrives after me and finishes his meal super-humanly quickly. Then he fastidiously counts out a large pile of coins on the table and pays the bill with them. I don’t think he enjoys eating out alone.

Another has a huge fist of rings. I wonder what he could possibly do for a living. I invent a backstory for him, which includes a leadership position in an organised crime syndicate. He’s unhurried, finding plenty of entertaining activities on his phone. As you might expect of a mobster.

Meanwhile, the family wish their daughter would find their phone entertaining. She enthusiastically moves around non-stop. They keep shushing her and finding new programmes for her to watch, largely unsuccessfully.

The couple next to me speak English to the waiter, French to a waitress and German to each other. They eat their burgers with a knife and fork. I suspect they’re Swiss.

Me, I read on my phone and people-watch. I laugh when the waiter notices my English accent and automatically brings me ketchup rather than the mayonnaise he’s brought for everyone else.

Photography, opinions and other random ramblings by Stephen Darlington