The “Golden Age” of Science Fiction

My wife and myself have been having a clear out. Our children are grown, but throughout their formative years, we kept most stuff out of harm’s way safely secured in the loft. One things I knew was up there but now I’ve had a chance to savour again is my collection of Science Fiction Books, or more correctly my collection of Science Fiction Art.

I love my kindle reader on my tablet and on my phone, but as with all things there is a price to pay for technology advances, and something that is missing now is the link between books and cover art. I still recall now the absolute wonder I felt when I saw my first “proper” Science Fiction Book in the school library way back in 1973 when I was just 11 year’s old. It was a copy of the late, great Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation”.  I was mesmerised not so much by the book contents, but by the cover.


Asimov’s Foundation

It portrayed a strange looking craft, in a strange blue realm, with wispy, cloud-like formations. The craft looked all unbalanced, almost put together at random, no symmetry and not obvious at all which was the front and which was the back. I was enthralled.

Every other Sci-Fi movie or picture I had seen showed alien space craft as saucers or sleek, silver rockets, not this haphazard, almost space-junk vessel that seemed to defy any kind of aeronautical engineering rules.  More mysterious was that nowhere in the book was any mention made of anything like the spaceship on the front.  I’d never experienced anything like it before.  I read the book and it was good, but different from what I expected.

It was a story that spanned hundreds of years of a imagined future where one man, Hari Seldon predicts the future of fall of the Galactic Empire through his pyscho-mathematics, based on statistical analyses of human behaviour, and is banished for his heresy.  Star Wars definitely borrowed some of Asimov’s ideas such as the faster-than-light “jump” and Trantor which is a planet wide city, heart of the Empire.   Asimov wrote this in the 1940’s, way before computers were available so there are still strange references to slide-rules whilst space-ships leap across light years of space instantaneously. It’s wonderful stuff.

However I remember that whilst reading the book in bed at night, I kept looking at the cover and marvelling at the detail and the imagination of the man who created it. The man I found out was called Chris Foss. Some of you may know him now as one of the key artists who worked on Guardian’s of the Galaxy.  Check out his website, (yes he’s still alive!) at .  Chris was a pioneer of Sci-Fi Art and his air-brush paintings and drawings have influenced so many other artists. His imaginings have seeped into popular culture, particularly movies, where those massive spaceships with all those fiddly details all stem often from Chris’s influence.


Asimov’s Elijah Bailey Stories

From then on I was hooked and I sought out other books, based it has to be said as much on the cover as anything.  Other Asimov books I vividly recall were “The Caves of Steel” and “The Naked Sun” two stories featuring Elijah Bailey, a detective who dwells in an underground city as earth has become so populated there is not room on the surface to live. The population has also banished robots to work only in outer space due to the fear of them. This theme is echoed in the classic cult Sci-Fi film “Blade Runner”.  Although the film is based loosely on a Philip K. Dick novelette, it owes as much to Asimov’s ideas and Chris Foss’s imagination as to anyone’s. Bailey solves one murder on Earth then in “The Naked Sun” he is ordered off -world to solve another murder on Solaria. But like all other Earthmen he suffers from crippling agoraphobia when outside the underground cities, and holds an inherent mistrust of robots which the Spacers, who live off-world, find extraordinary.

Seeking out yet more Sci-Fi, I came across the “Lensman” and “Skylark of Space” Series by E.E “Doc” Smith. The covers on these books were even more bizarre and extraordinary than I’d seen with Asimov’s books. Cone shaped spaceships above artificial looking landscapes, wreckage in the foreground of Hindenburg-like scenes and incredible detailed craft unloading smaller scout ships were some of the scenes depicted. I just couldn’t get enough of this stuff.

James Blish and A. E van Vogt were two more authors whose books and covers captivated me. “Cities in Flight” by Blish was a sprawling space odyssey where whole cities wrench themselves from the Earth to go seek their fortunes amongst the stars using the “Spin Dizzy” faster than light drive, and van Vogt’s amazing space opera “Voyage of the Space Beagle” which surely had to have influenced the creators of Star Trek in some fashion.

It wasn’t only Asimov and Smith stories fronted by Chris Foss’s art from Panther Science Fiction that attracted my eye. Robert Heinlein, Brian Aldiss, and Frank Herbert were published by New English Library who had an association with artist Bruce Pennington. I particularly recall my love of the Heinlein’s “Revolt in 2100”, Herbert’s “Dune Messiah” and Aldiss’s “Space, Time and Nathaniel” covers, even though the stories themselves have not stayed with me if I am honest.

Another classic author I enjoyed was Arthur C. Clarke who is most well known for being the visionary who first postulated the use for satellites for communication. His most famous work is his 2001: A Space Odyssey, however I felt that his other books were far superior, “Rendezvous with Rama” and “Childhood’s End” for two.

I cannot say what it is that makes me feel so fond of these books and their covers, of this art. Perhaps it’s just happy memories of childhood, recalling the wonder of exploring other people’s imagination, what was possible with colours, ideas and predictions?  What I can say is that I feel I am richer for it.  I firmly believe that overall in the world, things are much better now than they ever have been, but I can look back on this aspect of my life with much fondness, and try to remember what is was like discovering for the first time those marvellous books by Asimov, Clark, Smith, Van Vogt, Blish and so many others. That for me truly was the “Golden Age” of Science Fiction …





It’s been a weird few days. For many months on Facebook and in other discussions I’ve often defended what I suppose some people might call “the establishment”. The Monarchy, the House of Lords, our voting systems. I have my reasons, which I believe are valid, as to why we should keep these institutions and systems, which I’m happy to discuss another time, this post is not about that, it’s about the topsy-turvy situation we find ourselves in.

I voted Leave, quite determinedly as I believe that the UK should not allow itself to be handed over piecemeal to a European elite dream of a United States of Europe. This would not happen in the short or even medium term, but it would undoubtedly happen in the long term if we remained in the EU.

I believe this to be a bad thing, and I can see it’s a bad thing simply by looking across at our friends in the USA, whose federal government is at the mercy of lobbyists and power brokers. Millions upon millions of money spent on elections, millions upon lobbying backed by powerful corporations. We laugh out loud, if a little sadly, at the USA’s inability to introduce even the simplest of gun controls, why? Because of the gun lobby. There are other lobbies too, but this one impacts the lives of everyday folk in the most tragic ways.

When the Dunblane horror occurred in this country, the government was quick to react, and whilst there was the Manchester incident, shootings have remained mercifully rare in this country. Why could we do this? No lobby powerful enough to control the wheels of our directly elected government or its sanity checking House of Lords.

Ultimately as the EU grows, and expands, big business has realised the secret to getting your goods into the EU, is to lobby the politicians and the bureaucrats, and that is what is happening. The likes of Monsanto and Bayern even now, are trying to get banned bee-killing pesticides into the EU and whilst the EU parliament is providing some temporary obstacles, the EU Commission has rolled over to accommodate them. TTIP is the same, a product of lobbying by big business. As Daniel Hannan a Tory MEP states “big corporations lobby the EU for regulation, not because they are good citizens, but because it means only the big corporations can afford the cost of regulation and hence they can stifle innovation and competition…”. See the full video at

I believe the individual governments of sovereign states can more effectively thwart this powerful and undesirable feature of the free-market system, simply by the fact that there are too many of them for a single company to try to control, hence I believe the political union dream of the EU should be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, the political and trading aims of the EU are so intertwined now that they cannot be separated, hence my firm belief that we should leave the EU project to hopefully implode on itself and allow countries to find another way trade together, without having undue influence over each other, thereby denying the big business lobbyists their nirvana of a single transnational point of contact.

I have observed that my fellow debaters on Facebook are often decrying the lack of democracy in this country, shaking their proverbial fist at the “establishment”, the “toffs”, the “aristocracy”, the “out of date fuddy-duddies” who protect their own interests. Yet they have failed to see the same faults lie within the EU bureaucracy. The very people who accuse myself and others my age of “living in a past imperial dream age, long gone” are , in my eyes, blind to the absolute peril and tyranny that the United States of Europe project will bring down on Europe and the UK if we stay.

And the amazing irony is, that the very people who have in the past months and weeks berated the “establishment” have through their remain vote and with their determination to undermine a genuine democratic decision by trying to force a second Referendum have aligned themselves with the very organisations and structures they have cursed and derided over and over again.

Strangely, it is the “naïve” Leave voters who have seen through the charade of the “establishment”. The failure to connect with the ordinary people of this country and to deliver the benefits of the growth of the western world in a fair manner. But the “establishment” is not the “toffs” and “Etonians”. And the Leave campaigners know this instinctively. The “establishment” are at the heart of the UK and EU commerce. It is the bankers, the insurance brokers, the investment banks, the big businesses, the career politicians, the spin doctors, the media, the intellectuals, the self-appointed experts, the EU commissioners, politicians and bureaocrats.

They are the people trying to protect their interests, and who in their ivory and concrete towers in Canary Wharf and Brussels are so quick to instantly dismiss as bigotry and racism, the complaints and concerns of the Northern, Welsh and Midlands working classes and middle classes. Those communities can almost hear the snide and derisory insults directed at them, as the establishment sips cups of coffee in the local office Starbucks.

And the populace of London and the urban areas who voted Remain laugh with them, not seeing the deceit, not realising that they have been drawn into the establishment. They themselves have become the “establishment” tool to preserve the “status quo”, the “norm” and take the “safe route” of EU integration. Quietly letting the real power-brokers of Europe, the lobbyists and big business dictate our future, based on a new “establishment” now even more remote than London, even less in touch with the people and utterly impossible to change through any kind of vote. The European elite’s dream coming true.

One benefit of being my age, is I remember life before the EU, and whilst it was far from perfect, it did exist and was pretty much as now, except our elected government had the final say in all things. We controlled for better or for worse how this Country did things. It wasn’t perfect, it still isn’t. But we knew that in 5 years’ time we could change the government, change direction, should we wish to. The EU has not changed direction in the 40 years it has been in existence. It’s a juggernaut on a single course, no matter what the consequences. It’s monolithic, out of date, but it’s unstoppable and it will be the ruination of more nations like Greece, until somebody has the courage to stand up and say “No more”.

And sadly, it hasn’t been the intellectuals, the bankers, the people with the power who have had the courage to say “No more”, as they are now all part of the “establishment” and are too consumed with keeping the wheels turning, keeping the grants flowing, keeping the gravy train going.

No, it’s the rural workers, the small town workers, the manual workers, those disenfranchised voters, whom nobody now listens to, not even their fellow countrymen, who have seen through the disguise of the EU, seen it for what it really is: the new and future “establishment”, the new “toffs”, the new self-appointed “aristocracy”.

Meanwhile the superior liberal elite of London and urban sanctuaries who so deride the Leave voters as simple rural “idiots” and “racists”, are attempting to usurp the result of democratic referendum so that they can continue blissfully walking into their own oblivion. The multi-national corporations must be rubbing their hands together, laughing …

It’s a topsy-turvy world …

There is always something new to discover … even in Microsoft Word!

I’ve used Word for I don’t know how many years, yet I just found out something I never knew before … that Aa button on the ribbon under the Home tab/Font section … it allows you to select different casings on your sentence or words … really neat … sorry if you knew that already, I just though it was great as I’ve always dived into Notepad++ to do that kind of thing before.

Little gem hidden in the ribbon ...


Dave Mc

SharePoint 2013 JavaScript API – SP.Taxonomy.LabelMatchInformation

I’ve been working with the SharePoint 2013 JavaScript recently and had cause to want to fetch the Id of a Term within the Term Store using the Taxonomy namespace.

Problem was, the documentation about this particular aspect of the JavaScript API is less than comprehensive to put it politely. In fact it’s pretty mysterious. However I managed to glean that in order to select a specific set of terms relating to a specific label you need to use the SP.Taxonomy.TaxonomySession getTerms() method and pass the method a single parameter of type SP.Taxonomy.LabelMatchInformation.

This is where my problems started.  The documentation says to create an instance of this type you need to pass in a parameter ‘a’ to the constructor.  No information on type of parameter at all.  So I tried simply putting in a string which was the label for my term. Nope. Null? Nope. Zero? Nope.  OK … how about the client context? Bingo!  Yep it’s the client context.  Except that doesn’t actually seem to work when you pass it into the getTerms() method, it doesn’t error, but neither does it actually allow you to enumerate through the returned terms.

OK, back to the drawing board. What about that method called newObject?  So I tried that also with the Client Context and double Bingo … yep created an instance of the SP.Taxonomy.LabelMatchInformation type and it created the enumerator for the returned terms in the call-back function correctly.

So if you want to fetch just a few terms from the term store, don’t bother using the constructor for the SP.Taxonomy.LabelMatchInformation type, use the newObject() method and pass in the Client Context and you’ll be fine….


What I also found was that unless you fully populate the SP.Taxonomy.LabelMatchInformation with initial values, it also gives you problems, despite the fact that the documentation says there are default settings.  So here’s a snippet of code to successfully create  a call to the terms store to fetch a specific term:

// Get the client context
var context = SP.ClientContext.get_current();

// Create the taxonomy session passing in the client context
var taxonomySession = SP.Taxonomy.TaxonomySession.getTaxonomySession(context);

// Create new instance of LabelMatchInformation
var lmi = SP.Taxonomy.LabelMatchInformation.newObject(context);

//Populate the various properties
terms = taxonomySession.getTerms(lmi);
context.executeQueryAsync(successcallback, failurecallback);

function successcallback(sender, args) 
    //Do something with result.
function failurecallback(sender, args) 
    //Show some error message.


Dave Mc

My Dad …

My Dad celebrated his 80th birthday two days ago.

It only seems yesterday when I was looking forward to seeing my Dad come through the door of our bungalow, where I grew up.  I didn’t see him much during the working week, as he was always away, but I treasured the weekends, as he would take me and my brother up to the golf course or to the squash courts and teach us both how to play. He used to kick a ball around with us and when I was still young I learnt he had once been a professional footballer and qualified football coach.  He played for Leyton Orient in the 1950’s when he was in his early twenties and he completed his national service whilst going through training as a footballer.

My Dad on National ServiceAfter some disappointments in his footballing career, he moved into the rather cutthroat world of sales, and got involved in the selling of oscilloscopes, state of the art ones at the time.  He found he was good at sales, not by being pushy, but by being persistent and developing long term relationships with his customers.  He moved around a few companies, Hellerman Deutsch, Sourieau and then in the early seventies he moved to a small company based in Swindon called Raychem.  This is where he hit his stride, and was involved in selling specialist cabling to the aerospace and marine and oil industries.  He excelled in this role and the company grew from a small offshoot of the American firm to being a hugely successful branch of the business.  He ran sales projects relating to Concorde, Harrier Jump Jets, Tornado Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, Challenger Tanks amongst others, he became greatly respected and very successful.  He recruited and mentored a large sales team who to this day remember him with fondness and respect.My Dad looking his suavest

Whenever people ask me who my heroes are, it’s an easy answer. “My Dad” is my simple and immediate reply.  Oh, I have other’s, but my Dad is the person who taught me the most important lessons in life, not by preaching to me, but simply by living his life in the right way. He acted with consideration and politeness to everyone, but never expecting a free ride or hand-outs. Through his hard work he showed me that it is actually better to give than to receive, because it enriches your life so much more to give yourself fully to every endeavour.  He taught me through his actions that we don’t “have rights”, but we are privileged to live in this country and as a result we have responsibilities to treat everyone with dignity and fairness. He taught me to never judge other people by the way they look or they way they sound, or to judge people based upon what other people say about them.

He detested gossip. He viewed wealthy people not as greedy, nor snooty, they were just good at making and keeping money, otherwise they’re were the same as he was. I cannot recall him ‘moaning’ or ‘complaining’ about the state of the nation, merely being thankful that he had the opportunity to live and work in a country that was not wracked by famine, drought or extreme poverty.

He never  criticised people for making decisions.  He showed me there is no “they”, there are only people who make decisions and those decisions are often made with the best intentions even if they result in bad consequences.  He was slow to criticise, quick to praise.  He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word.

My Mum and Dad with my oldest son Chris

    My Dad retired at 53 years old and went work for himself successfully as a consultant for over 20 years. He even got me work in the IT industry when I really needed the money. He was unbelievably amazing at working with people.  I don’t ever recall him raising his voice in anger. I’m sure he did, but I don’t recall. He worked tirelessly to provide for our family and to do the best he could in his career, so that he might never have to worry about money in his old age.
    My Dad celebrated his 80th birthday two days ago. Yet he knew nothing about it.
    Last March he phoned me up to wish me happy 51st Birthday,that was probably the last meaningful conversation I ever had with him.  Since then, severe dementia has taken him to a place which I cannot imagine and pray I will never go. This year, he does not even know me, doesn’t know his grandchildren, doesn’t know his wife, my Mum, to whom he has been married nearly 60 years.
    I sat with a stranger, as he blew out his 8 candles, not knowing why and barely mustering the strength to do so it seemed.  I thought there an then, that my Dad is gone, there is only a body existing that looks like the man I knew and loved, because the essence that made him the person he was has gone.   Every now and again he may say something, a recollection of the glory days of his sales career, a reference to a meeting, a cabling system, a person. But it’s like the last embers of a fire, just flickering away, occasionally flaring up as the wind blows.
      The thing that annoys me more than anything when I visit him, is the way that he is treated and talked to. The carers are trying their best, but he is talked to like a child, treated like a simpleton, they did not know this man as I knew him, how could they?

Final Selfie, Me and My Dad

    There are many ways in which people die or age. Cancer, heart attack, accident. Some are drawn out and painful, some quick and painless. Having now experienced first hand the effects of dementia, I find it hard to imagine a worse way to go. Slowly and gradually day by day entering into a world of confusion, unable to understand the most basic of communications, and worst of all, having the person you are stripped away from you, so that you cease to be the person you have been all your life and become alien to your very closest loved ones.
    My Mum and Dad met at school. They were childhood sweethearts and have been together for nearly 70 years. My Mum is a ‘tough old bird’ as they say.  But I know she is broken hearted, the dreams of a happy, long and well-deserved old-age suddenly gone. She crys, I cry, I’m sure my brother cries too.  But I’m not writing this for any sympathy, I’m writing this for two reasons. Firstly in memory of my hero, My Dad, who lives on for me in my mind, and secondly to ask you who read this to remember to treat all people as you would wish to be treated, because one day there, but for the grace of God, go you.
    Dave Mc

Office 365 Web Part Menu Not Available IE11

I’ve finally managed to get around doing some work on investigating SharePoint 2013 Apps.  Yeah, late I know, but that’s the nature of project work and having a full life outside of IT.  Still better late than never I say.

Anyhow, I noticed this strange behaviour on Office 365.  The menu button for the web parts appeared to have changed and all you can do is to minimise or maximise the web part.


Further more the web part options in the Ribbon appear to be disabled too.  I’m logged on as Global Administrator for the tenancy by the way with Site Collection administrator permissions.


I was using IE11, so I just had this inkling of an idea that it could be a browser issue…  so switching to Chrome sure enough I see on the same page, firstly the Ribbon elements are enabled where appropriate:


And secondly, the web part drop down menu appears nicely:


So back to IE and using the F12 tools, sure enough if I switch the User Agent String to IE10 but leave document mode as Edge


Then the web part menu reappears nicely again.

So how to fix this for all the pages without having to mess around with the F12 tools every time I want to actually edit a page?  Well I’d hoped to just change the X-UA-Compatible meta tag in the header as often this solves such issues.  However the Seattle Master Page already has this set to IE10 – which should tell us something … so no solution there.  It’s not the Document Mode which is the issue really, which is what the X-UA-Compatible meta tag affects.  It’s the User Agent which leads me to suspect that it is the browser itself.  No issue with IE8,9,10, Firefox or Chrome, just IE11. Fab.  If anyone finds a solution let me know.


Dave Mc

Method not found: ‘System.String Microsoft.ServiceBus.Commands.Common.SecurityHelper.CreateServerAdministratorRole(System.String, System.String)’

Received this error today when building out a Workflow Manager installation “Production style” following Spence’s Instructions here.  It happened directly I tried to actually build the Workflow Manager Farm.  UP until then everything had gone to plan as per Spence’s instructions. A quick “Bing” and I came across this article.  Which hinted that was missing Service Bus 1.0 Package.  Absolutely not!  It was all installed through the Web Deploy.  I had however opted to install CU1 to the Service Bus 1.0 when I installed everything.  What was I thinking!  A CU that actually doesn’t break anything …? 

So I uninstalled Service Bus 1.0 CU, Service Bus 1.0 and Windows Fabric then re-installed Service Bus 1.0 and it all went through no problem.


Dave Mc