17144 Followers
60 Following
msknight

Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics
Dalai Lama XIV, Ian Coghlan
Progress: 23/433 pages

What utter moron....

...thought it was OK to damage a classic book by slamming a sticker on it for a third rate movie? My ghast is well and truly flabbered.

 

250 year old subscription library

This BBC article details an old subscription library in Leeds - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-46522378

Mr Hutton says: "For some people, the library is the thing that gets them up out of bed in the morning.

"We have writers who come here to enjoy the ambience and find it's an industrious place to work, we have some people who just love reading books and a younger element who like that we're diversifying into events."

To celebrate its milestone, the library has hosted about 200 events including film screenings, poetry nights, author talks and theatre performances, working with 32 different organisations in the process.

Would I join a subscription library? Probably not. That this one is still going, and in Leeds (large city in North England) shows that for some people, this method of doing things still works and that not everyone has gone the way of the modern age. After all, the rest of society has only recently moved to subscription services for music and films; not being that fussed about actually owning the article itself. That books were there way before them, isn't that much of a surprise.

 

I have to admit that I do go through my book collection every year or two, and only keep the books that I want. If book prices rise higher then I'll be even more careful over what I buy. My mother, on the other hand, uses the public library which, funnily enough, is next door to where I work!

 

I couldn't really answer why it is that I don't use the library more. I think it's a mixture of things; one of them being the lack of quality reading time, so reading a book properly can take me outside the usual lending period. That's something that I hope to have more of next year. Linked to this is that the popular books have queues, so if I haven't finished it in time then it still has to go back regardless.

 

Other than that, many of the books that I have read lately, have not been from the mainstream even despite being new books; and some of the subject matter has been decidedly awkward. "The history and arts of the Dominatrix," was one of the new ones. One of the more difficult ones to find was, "The Girdle of Chastity," where the author went into a deep dive of the actual history of the chastity belt. So, you see, walking into the local library and asking for these sorts of books... and in a building next door to where I work, even... isn't perhaps the wisest of moves.

 

It was an interesting article, however, to read about that library, how it functions and there are some interesting anecdotes in there as well. And if book prices start rising then I suspect it will continue for another quarter century. Long may it survive the passage of time.

Review - Firefly Legacy Edition Book 1

Firefly - Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Chris Samnee, Will Conrad, Patton Oswalt, Zack Whedon

It's a good book, as a collection of the comics; and I'm looking forward to book 2. But it wasn't sparkling.

 

The art itself is good quality, and the humour was typical Firefly Serenity as I remember the TV shows. However, I found the pacing to be off and I failed to connect in places; the flow wasn't there and I ended up looking at a panel and wondering what the connection to the previous panel was, and why was I now reading something which seemed totally disjointed.

 

There were some good parts in it, and the plot is what I'd expect. They never do get to keep the gold, despite all the trouble they go to.

 

It did go in to Shepherd Book's history; in an interesting reverse fashion, showing key snippets of his life and the decisions he made.. but in reverse. In each section, he was younger than in the previous. It was a very engaging part of the book.

 

Although I'm not like a cat on a hot tin roof waiting for book 2, I am looking forward to its eventual arrival in February.

Sub 300 followers

...and falling.

 

Let's face it. You can't have an ego, and be as bad an author as I am. The result would be an utter tragedy.

 

I've actually banned accounts which have most likely been genuine people, but have had very little to say and haven't been seen this side of the moon landing.

 

Strangely, I found a few accounts of people that I enjoyed conversations with, but haven't been on the platform for a while. I did feel a tug at the old heart strings when their avatars scrolled onto the screen.

 

Still about 170-ish accounts to go through, and now I'm starting to go back in time to the people I started conversing with when I first joined BL... and there are fewer and fewer spam account showing up now. I'm noticing a few people who I really should drop a PM to... but it's one of those things that, when a conversation has reached a natural end... it is right to nudge someone, even though it's just to say, "Hey! I still remember you and really enjoyed our conversations." ... that's one I'm going to have to think about.

 

Not tonight, however. I've put down the ban hammer for the evening and I'm about to hunt a cup of tea. It was an early start this morning, and it's going to be another early start tomorrow morning. No rest for the wicked... and I'm downright evil :-)

 

So the copy of Firefly is still resting on the floor in the bedroom, with a book mark poking its head out of the pages, and my reading glasses resting there; awaiting my attention. Crikey, by the time I get around to finishing it, part 2 will be with me. I mean... where did the holiday go? I was sure that I thought there'd be plenty of time to catch up with some reading.

 

Apparently, not.

Thinning the herd

Spam followers never really occurred to me, regarding this platform. I mean, why do it? How many people are really going to read a spam profile?

 

Personally, my time means that I can't investigate all the profiles. Plus, I only started paying extra special attention when the follower count was slowly working its way towards 1,000. I thought, "I'm going to have to do something special to celebrate." ... and something did hatch and I am working on it.

 

The situation was compounded by the fact that I run blocking systems to stay safe. U-Block Origin, No-Script and Privacy Badger. They do a lot of good work protecting me from malicious scripts, although configuring them and staying on top of things takes a bit of patience and work.

 

Those blocking systems was preventing me from even knowing that there was a ban option on the followers.

 

Tonight, I fired up a different browser without the protections, and started to go slowly through the followers, loading them one by one, to check that they aren't solid profiles, before banning them.

 

I'm now down to below 700 followers, and that's going to get a lot lower as I continue.

 

The 1,000 celebration? Well, that's not going to stop me. I'm still working on finding an artist... and then I'll have something to show you. But it's going to take months. Well, it's not as if I'm going to reach 1,000 any time soon ;-)

When crowd funding goes wrong

I might have mentioned that I backed, "Lonester: Heart Of The Hero," on Indiegogo. This method of funding our future reading is seen by many, (me included) as a way of breaking the morass that commercial publishing has become.

 

Firstly, I'd like to put all the controversy to one side. Mike's behaviour concerning his religious beliefs got him blacklisted (hence his handle) from the comic industry, when he attributed a religion to a character at a public event. He's been a target for de-platforming at various comic venues because of various things he's said and then there's the whole #comicsgate thing. Yes, there's a chunk of stuff following this guy, but all that goes to one side.

 

So... Mike goes live with this campaign and I sign up for a basic perk. (August) Later, I sign up for a higher tier (September) ... but I don't appear to have been refunded the lower tier.

 

Then, delays happen. This isn't surprising and can be expected. Creators, often work alone, or with the support of fans who are often at a distance and can not do much to help practically (due to location, etc.) so there's a lot on their shoulders and stuff can happen unexpectedly. So the original publish target of September, shifted to December for reasons totally expected.

 

Now, however, we have this...

"Hey Lonestar Squadron!

I have some A-MAZING news that I can't entirely share with you... but suffice it to say that a MAJOR MEDIA PERSONALITY has agreed to do a REVIEW of LONESTAR on his podcast that could reach hundreds of thousands... maybe MILLIONS of viewers/listeners!  This should happen in January, and because of this opportunity... I have to apologize.
Why? Because I'm putting the printing on hold. You all know, the book is DONE. The files are literally AT the printer. But if even a small percentage... a TINY percentage of the people who see/hear this podcast order LONESTAR, I might have to DOUBLE my print run! So bear with me for just a bit longer, and yes, this may push LONESTAR 2 out a few weeks as well, (I have been diligently working on that issue!) but it will all be for the greater good!

So thank you, I'm sorry, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  2019 is going to be OFF THE HOOK!!!

God bless,

Mike"

So he has unilaterally suspended printing for an unspecified period... not because he can make more sales... that's going to happen anyway... but because it will make his printing cheaper if he does things in one go.

 

There's no right or wrong to this, but it's putting money before his obligations to his backers; and that's going to have an impact on his reputation.

 

And it's not the first time he's taken this approach. He discounted his tiers throughout the process. Roughly 30% on average, to drive sales. That's one in the eye for those who originally backed his tiers at the higher prices.

 

The outstanding question is that, if another of these unmissable opportunities comes his way during the extended period that he's granted himself... will he then delay printing even further?

 

He has offered some extras to those who backed early, and he also offered a christmas card as an extra to all physical purchase backers as well... but obviously, christmas has been and gone, and there is still no sign of a shipping date.

 

The net result of all this, is that this has left a very sour taste in my mouth. I still don't have the refund for the lower tier, and no readjusted shipping date. And more importantly, Mr Miller is notably silent on these issues, in spite of his proclaiming throughout the whole thing, that the customer is the most important part of the whole process.

 

Let's be honest; sometimes creators are great at the creation, but not so hot at the business, customer and paperwork elements; which are critical to any business' survival. However, that's no excuse. Customers and issues have to be dealt with. Ignoring them only leads to hacked off people. The very people that pay the bills.

 

More importantly, I now have no faith in Mike Miller and the process of funding independent creators. I'm now done with this way of doing things.

Boom in second hand books

BBC  Report here - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46386557

 

And Patrik Oqvist from World of Books, the UK's largest second-hand book retailer, estimates the market is growing by 8-10% a year.

"There's no stigma to buying second-hand now," says Mr Oqvist. "We take them to the beach and spill coffee on them, but they don't stop working because of that." Then there's the lower price, and the fact that you're recycling.

But there's also the chance of finding something unique. World of Books had a call last year from a grandmother in Australia who had ordered an annual that she remembered owning as a child, full of quizzes, mazes and puzzles. When it arrived, she found it was her own original copy, complete with the inscription from her parents to her.

So what’s the deal with technology?

This is going to be a bit of a long one. We rely on our tech for everything… book reading among those things. A post by Grimlock recently, is the driver for this post now … http://allhailgrimlock.booklikes.com/post/1821010/brief-news

 

It’s also not going to tell you anything you don’t already know.

 

Basically, Grimlock was saying that Apple wouldn’t repair the computer, which was actually fixed by Dad tightening a screw.

 

Me? I work in technology. It’s been my career for decades. Keeping abreast of the technology market place is part of my job and also, my life. That’s part of the problem these days; our lives are so busy that we rarely have time to learn skills outside our careers… and electronics repair is one of those things that even I’m trying to learn.

 

So lets get down to the bottom of this. Companies exist to make money. Their shareholders are their number one concern… but as many of us invest in the stock market, or put money into pensions that also use the stock market to grow our retirement funds, you can quickly see that we can end up in a vicious cycle.

 

Customer lock-in has been a feature of the technology world for decades; even going back to the days of mainframes. Suppliers and manufacturers do their best to make sure that when you need parts, you have to go back to them… by locking out the competition.

 

In the book world, lock in appears in a variety of guises; the most obvious is that when you buy an e-book from Amazon, you can’t suddenly decide to read it on a Kobo, because the file is encrypted and locked to the Amazon platform. You break your Kindle… you’ve got to buy another one if you want to continue to read all those books you purchased.

 

So you know all this already. What’s new?

 

Well, in Grimlock’s case, she was bitten by Apple’s gouging. Third party repair shops are having their replacement parts seized at the border by Apple complaining to border force that they are counterfeit. Actually, they’re not. There’s a difference between counterfeit and refurbished … a point that Apple lost in Norway recently - https://www.macrumors.com/2018/04/13/apple-lawsuit-repair-shop-norway/

 

Basically, refurbished are legitimate parts which have been repaired; many reports I’ve read, state that the refurbishment has been taken out by the same factory that made the parts brand new. But Apple don’t want them to be available to third market repair shops. They want all repairs to go through them… and that’s when they’ve got you over the barrel.

 

To this end, they’ve done many, many things including the T2 chip which makes it impossible to get your data off your device if it fails. It also makes it impossible to replace some components… even with original parts… unless you’ve got special software which will, “OK,” the new part to the machine - https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/12/18077166/apple-macbook-air-mac-mini-t2-chip-security-repair-replacement-tool

 

There are other ways that customers get a nasty end of the stick… like using slower memory on cheaper phone models - https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/10/20/cheapest_apple_iphone_7_memory_waaaaay_slower_than_pricier_model/

 

The problem here is that people are paying a premium price for what they believe is a premium product. Yes, there are people who use these phones as a status symbol for their wealth… but let’s put that one side for the minute.

 

The customer is paying the premium for a phone/laptop and service. Many still believe that Apple are virus proof. Back in the day, even Apple themselves advised on their web site, that people should run anti-virus software… and I saw that with my own eyes… but that advice vanished and the myth that Apple’s software is invulnerable, persisted. Heck, who is Apple to deny people’s beliefs? As long as it doesn’t perpetuate an untruth itself, then the situation isn’t Apple’s fault… right? Here’s an article on that - https://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12/02/apple_mac_av_advice/

 

There’s been a number of bugs and other issues in their software that can cause all sorts of problems even in iPhones - https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/15/17015654/apple-iphone-crash-ios-11-bug-imessage

 

To top the cake off, just watch Louis Rossmann’s channel and you quickly understand that the premium product that you paid good money for… isn’t actually all that premium. Repairing Apple kit has been a solid source of Rossmann’s income and social media fame for some time - https://www.youtube.com/user/rossmanngroup

 

Now … you can say that Apple is right to restrict repairs… third party repair shops can be low quality and dangerous. Well, Rossmann tackles that in this video, where he shows just how bad Apple’s own repairs have been; (at about 2:30 in) and I’ve watched his other videos where supposedly new boards were actually re-worked; and re-worked badly so further failure was inevitable... which is how come they end up in Rossmann's hands. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K669-vhKshU

 

For me, I’ve seen people put money into Apple products because it’s convenient. I understand this. The technology world moves so fast that I can’t keep up with it… and it’s my career!!! It’s easy to have a phone, desktop, laptop, that all talk to each other and just work. The plug and play nature of many things, including Time Machine’s peace of mind.

 

Another argument that can be put to one side, is the issue that Apple haven't been the actual inventors of many of these progressive technologies; they've succeeded because they've packaged them in a way that seamlessly worked. At least... to a degree, as you've now seen.

 

It’s been easy to highlight Apple in all this because they’re hitting the press all the time, but these business practices were actually around even before the days of I.T. and perhaps Microsoft are even worse, with their Surface systems getting consistently low scores by iFixit. https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/microsoft-surface-pro-ifixit-tear-down/

 

I’ve encountered Surface units which have been stored in chilled server rooms, that refuse to turn on until they’ve come up to room temperature. Yeah… Microsoft and their Surface battery problems… big sigh … https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-quietly-fixes-second-surface-pro-3-battery-problem/

 

So… what now?

 

Well, that decision is down to you. The key thing is that you’re aware of what you’re walking in to, when you’re buying these devices. If the trade off for the money is worth it for you, then sure. Continue to buy Apple.

 

But if it isn’t, then you can be stood there, wondering what else you’re going to do. That’s going to take research, and also making some rough choices. And yes, even waste some money on some bad choices… or even throw some money on new technology that hasn’t even made it to market yet.

 

And that takes research and digging.

 

Back in May 2013 I bought a mobile phone from a company called Jolla. It was running an operating system called Sailfish. Yeah. Who?! … to cut a long story short…. Nokia (you’ve heard of them, right) were working on their next operating system (Meego) when they were bought by Microsoft. Meego and the team were ditched, and the team started up a company (Jolla) and Meego became Sailfish.

 

So, that unknown company actually had pedigree, and some of the features of the first phone didn’t come to reality… but Sailfish is going strong and I now have three phones with that operating system on them. (My original Jolla One, which I had to repair at one point… a OnePlus X on which I loaded Sailfish, and my current daily driver, a Sony Xperia X, which I bought second hand and replaced the battery… and Sailfish is running on that.) … and it hasn’t all been plain sailing either. If you get involved in tech early, then expect some pain.

 

Sure, I had to learn how to obtain and side-load Android applications on it… and it can’t do a chunk of the things that an official Android phone can do… but I’m confident that the phone isn’t tracking me, or sending my personal data off to a greedy corporate… or tracking my location… and for me, that is the trade off. One of the side benefits is that the phone… is a phone. I’m not glued to it like some people are.

 

My next mobile? Probably a FairPhone 2, again running Sailfish. They’re at the point where you can buy phones pre-loaded with Sailfish now. The operating system has been commercially active for more than five years already. (In fact, by the time I need a new phone, they might be on the FairPhone 3.)

 

And many of my choices, for some years now, over what technology I use and where I shop… have been made with this trade off in mind. It all comes down to personal values.

 

When I buy e-books, I buy in an open format. My own e-books direct from my publisher, are unlocked and in multiple formats. That’s our ethics. Fortunately, I have a day job where I can afford those ethics. My data is in my control and I can move it wherever I please.

 

That’s a position that many people won’t ever appreciate until they are in the position of suddenly losing everything and having it locked away from themselves… let alone any thieves. Or even being unable to change their e-book reader without having to re-buy everything again.

 

I have bought a series of blu-rays and, while watching the specials, the “disk menu” and “chapter skip” buttons are actually locked out. I have to either stop the disk completely (and then endure all the forced trailer adverts again) or else speed up the presentation 6x until I get taken back to the menu again. And there’s the rub. The pirates don’t have to put up with this force-fed junk, or the removal of the ability to even do basic operations on media I’ve bought with my own money. Heck, me, the paying customer, is treated worse than the pirates. I really feel sorry for parents that buy their kids a DVD, and the first thing that happens, is that the kids are force-fed three adverts for other films, before the main menu pops up. That’s going to cost the parent a small fortune thanks to nagging power. More to buy.

 

When you tire of having your bank account, property and intelligence abused by corporates, then you’ll start to wonder about the alternatives. But that’s a choice that everyone will make in their own time. Life running too fast? Then slow it down. You’re actually in charge of that. I even make a conscious choice to leave my mobile phone in the home office, when I go to bed. You’re in charge of what book formats you buy; or whether you value paid books more than freebies.

 

You want to know why I’m on BookLikes? It’s because GoodReads was bought by Amazon. That was the primary reason. Ethics. But I know that there are times when I can’t afford my own ethics… and that bites.

Seen on Twitter...

Comicbook Of The Month - Grafity's Wall

 

Written by Ram V, Art by Anand Radhakrishnan, Lettered by Aditya Bidikar, Colours by Jason Wordie, Irma Knivila and Anand Radhakrishnan. Art assistance by Girish Malap.

 

Dear Reader,

The book you are holding came about in a rather different way to most others. It was funded directly by readers through a new website: Unbound. Unbound is the creation of three writers. We started the company because we believed there had to be a better deal for both writers and readers. On the Unbound website, authors share the ideas for the books they want to write directly with readers. If enough of you support the book by pledging for it in advance, we produce a beautifully bound special subscribers' edition and distribute a regular edition and ebook wherever books are sold, in shops and online.

That's interesting! I've done this form of creation purchasing before, and I'm certainly open to it. I was even one of the backers fro a documentary, "Conquering Northern China." However, for the moment I'm up to my limit in cash and time... but this is certainly on my list for future investigation. I've had enough of the mainstream.

 

Quick status report, I've finished the first read of the Firefly compilation, and I hope to do the second read this weekend. This book will go in the TBR queue, but the comic books are going to take preference over the usual written works, until I've caught up... which I'm hoping will happen in late December as it's my turn to take the extra holidays that fill in the gaps between the statutory holidays... so I'll get a decent break.

Review - Cicada

Cicada tell story.

Story good. Story simple.

Story even human can understand.

Tok Tok Tok!

This book has a moral to the story, plus a twist at the end. About thirty pages, most of the presentations are art on the right page, with a paragraph on the left.

 

The moral here is up to the minute, but it took some pondering for me to fully understand the journey... which I thought was going to be straightforward, but it contained a final message from Tan, to the reader, about life and self.

Human coworker no like cicada.

Say things. Do things.

Think cicada stupid.

Tok Tok Tok!

 

 

Obviously, my camera can't do justice to the art in this book. After seventeen years, the cicada retires from its low paid job working for a crummy, penny pinching company.

No work. No home. No money.

Cicada go to top of tall building.

Time to say goodbye.

Tok Tok Tok!

But I did say that there was a twist. And this is a children's book, if I understand the publisher correctly. Not knowing cicadas, I didn't see this coming. Or the particular cicada that this was referring to. A bit of DuckDuckGo and it all made sense. And then, after having all the pieces of the jigsaw, I was finally able to piece Tan's message together, and ponder over the deliberate colouring while letting the meaning swim around me.

 

Some might ponder paying £15 for a relatively short book, even if the art and production is of good standard. But I'm coming to terms with the realisation that these are not books, and not works of art like you would put on your wall. As such, it is difficult to review; as it has a few layers within the work. I can only compare it to a puzzle that is approached, and then the pleasure is in decoding it, and enjoying the process itself. If that makes sense.

 

It is the kind of work that should be discussed; it's meanings. It pricks the conscience on some levels, and lifts the heart in others. It serves as a reminder to the direction of life and the rat race.

So far... typical Firefly humour

Firefly - Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Chris Samnee, Will Conrad, Patton Oswalt, Zack Whedon

Love what they did on the back

Just took a look at the back of the Dr Who comic that arrived today, and I love what they did with Capaldi's T-shirt. I literally laughed out loud, as this is a real stick in the eye for the whole woman Dr haters.

 

Today's landings...

A couple of book orders arrived today.

 

First up was a collection of books from Page45, among which was comic of the month for last month, "Kingdom," by Jon McNaught. It also includes a gift for a friend, the Dr Who "The Road To The Thirteenth Doctor" and as I'm a Serenity fan, I decided to get the first Legacy Edition (second of the two books is on order) and I subscribed to the new series which has just begun. A, "Left Field," spur of the moment purchase was "Cicada" by Shaun Tan, but I've completely forgotten which section it was in, or why it got my attention. Expect reports in due course.

 

Another creation is, "The Firelight Isle," by Paul Duffield. He is one of the artists behind children's comic, "The Phoenix," which is worth looking up if you're in the UK, have a child and want to get something a little different for them. You can find them here - https://thephoenixcomic.co.uk/ - but in the case of The Firelight Isle, it's a web comic that you can read here - https://www.paulduffield.co.uk/firelightisle-tall - and it is presented in a vertical book fashion. If you want to back the future episodes, he has a Patreon here - https://www.patreon.com/paulduffield - but it got my attention because it is a venture into religion and society... which is a journey I've been on, personally, for thirty years. But even though I've personally concluded that I'm atheist, my mind isn't closed and I continue to ponder the issues involved... hence my interest in this work and where Paul will take it. The book itself will be reviewed in due course, event though I've already read the web comic.

 

I've joined Comicbook of the Month

A comic shop which I've bought from on a number of occasions, Page45, has a Comic Book Of The Month - https://www.page45.com/store/comic-book-of-the-month.html

 

They promise the following...

Don't worry, we won't weird you out every month with some obscure, Czechoslovakian, one-eyed widow's collection of woodcuts! We decide what would make the best Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month by simply picking the finest work on offer irrespective of its creator, publisher status or genre, or in some instances the work most deserving wider attention.


So yes, the creator may be as established as Alan Moore, or they may be someone up and coming. It may also be a comic rather than a graphic novel, but it won't be something in the middle of a run in either instance. To be perfectly frank the chances of it being a superhero comic aren't that good, as it's a rare superhero book that matches the quality and accessibility of the finest material outside that genre, and they get enough exposure anyway. And no, just in case you're wondering, we don't choose the book based on how much the creator has paid us!!
 
So... as well as an audio cassette once a month of music I've never heard before, I'll now be getting a comic book of some description, that I've never read before.
 
This will be interesting.

Sad news about Stan Lee

The world is alight with the passing of Stan Lee, aged 95. Heralded as the creator of the golden age of comics.

 

Thanks for the memories that go right the way back to my childhood, Stan. All speed in the next life... whatever form it takes.