Stealing when you’re hungry is not a crime

Sometimes the judicial system gives me hope.

An Italian court ruled that a man caught stealing some cheese and sausage – because he was hungry and penniless – did not commit a crime. This decision over-ruled a previous conviction for theft.

Included in the decision was this:

‘….the court’s judgment “reminds everyone that in a civilized country, not even the worst of men should starve”.

Amen.

My thanks to Quartz for this article and for making me feel better today. I caught the Offspring’s flu and I’m not a happy camper.

Meeks


#climatechange, #refugees and business as usual

Photo courtesy www.wolaver.org

Photo courtesy http://www.wolaver.org

North Africa and the Middle East too hot for human life?

Yes, that is the upshot from this article from Quartz.

If you care about how your children will be living in 50 years time, I highly recommend reading the whole article.

If you don’t have the time to read the whole thing I’ll boil it down to this:

  • climate change will push the populations of North Africa and the Middle East out of North Africa and the Middle East,
  • those populations will become refugees
  • where will those refugees go?

The article ends with this:

The last couple years have shown that the world is pretty bad at managing large-scale migration, but that may turn out to be a mere trial-run for things to come.

As an Australian living half a world away from North Africa and the Middle East, I should be immune to the problems of that area, right?

Wrong.

If climate change makes North Africa and the Middle East unlivable, it will do the same in the Pacific area…in my own backyard.

There are island nations in the Pacific – e.g. Tuvalu – which are already close to being submerged. What happens to the populations of these island nations when their homes are finally covered by the sea?

I can tell you they will not wait around to go down with the ship. They will become refugees too.

Where will they go? I think Australia is a pretty safe bet.

Now multiply these two examples with the number of low-lying countries in the world, and you can see why we have to come up with some effective, efficient and equitable way of helping people move out of harm’s way.

Climate change is not going away. Refugees are not going away. This problem is not going away because, apart from the rhetoric, our governments have chosen to do nothing about climate change. It’s too hard. It’ll cost too much money. Voters won’t like it. So let’s do nothing and hope the problem goes away [see pic at the beginning of this post].

But in real life, you make a choice, even when you choose to do nothing. It’s called the default option. For us, that means ‘adaptation’.

Do you know what adaptation means? It means dealing with a disaster after it happens and living, or dying, with the consequences. It ain’t pretty and one of the inevitable consequences will be mass migrations, the likes of which we cannot even imagine.

I probably won’t be around to suffer too much, but what about the Offspring? Or your offspring?

And for those who do not believe that ‘we’ could possibly have an impact on the Earth’s climate, have a look at this:

Photo courtesy NASA

Photo courtesy NASA

This is the US of A, photographed at night, from space. See all those bright lights? Those are cities filled with people eating, sleeping, driving their cars, working. Those people are creating carbon dioxide [and other] pollutants just by living their lives. And the US is just one developed country.

As individuals, we are like individual sticks – easily broken. But put us all together and even a giant can’t break us. That is my version of the old Aesops fable.

But that story has a darker, more modern version as well, and it goes something like this – as individuals, we are powerless to destroy the Earth, but put all 8 billion of us together and the Earth doesn’t stand a chance.

Climate change >> refugees >> a problem we cannot ignore.

Meeks

 


#Music – House of the Rising Sun

The man to blame for my current musical diversion is David Prosser. In his weekly blog he posted a video clip of Richard Harris singing McArthur Park – 7 minutes plus of quite amazing music. The lyrics, in particular, are beautiful, imho.

Anyway, having listened to McArthur Park all the way through once, it occurred to me that I had no idea who composed it [it’s Jim Webb if anyone’s interested]. That led to a detour via Youtube where I happened to see this:

Friends of a certain vintage will remember The House of the Rising Sun. The rest of you will just have to suffer. Either way, don’t blame me, blame David.😀

cheers

Meeks


‘Free’ doesn’t sell books – and here’s what does — Matthew Wright

canstockphoto8443816This is one of the best articles I have ever read about marketing.

https://mjwrightnz.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/free-doesnt-sell-books-and-heres-what-does/

cheers

Meeks


Space age living

I came across this article in Quartz just now, and the video clip literally blew my mind:

Here in Australia we’re used to having so much space, it’s hard to believe that an apartment so tiny could be so much fun to live in – almost like an adult sized dollhouse, or perhaps a space capsule.

My favourite bit is the elevator cupboard in the kitchen. Imagine never having to bend or stretch again?

As for the cat facilities…what can I say? These architects have thought of absolutely everything, except perhaps the kitty litter. That was the one thing I didn’t see.

All in all, I would love to retire to one of these high tech apartments when I’m 90. Fun and function all in the one, small package.


How to fix the scamming of #Kindle Unlimited

Since I first read about the scammers undermining the Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription service, [here] I’ve read a lot of comments about what’s wrong with the system and how it should be fixed.

Some people think Kindle Unlimited was broken from the start and should be killed off entirely. Others believe Amazon will make incremental changes to the system until it finally gets things right.

I believe the ‘system’ cannot be fixed until the Kindle itself is changed. So yes, I see this as mostly a hardware problem. At the moment, Amazon cannot gauge page reads by page ‘turns’ – i.e. that moment when a real reader flips the page over. Because of that hardware limitation, Amazon has to fudge page reads and that allows scammers to game the system as well.

Imagine, however, if Amazon could detect actual page turns, and only counted them when it came to payments…

-imagines a scammer sitting there, manually turning page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page….-

cat eye spinning kindle

cross-eyed cat courtesy of http://www.leelofland.com

My Kinde Fire sometimes ‘loses’ my place in a novel, forcing me to manually page through until I find my spot again. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, so anyone desperate enough to do that for a living deserves every cent they get.

So my solution? Innovate the hardware. Make it possible for Amazon’s gremlins to count actual page turns, and pay on the basis of those ‘pages read’.

No system is perfect, and there will always be what we gamers call gold farmers – players paid to farm terribly boring things over and over again so their employers can sell said things to real players too lazy to farm for themselves. But in the case of the Kindle Unlimited subscription service, scammers want to make big money in the fastest, easiest way possible. They don’t want to become readers, they just want to simulate reading, so let’s not make things too easy for them.

Unfortunately, the rankings scam cannot be fixed by hardware. You can read about how the Amazon rankings and bestseller lists have been scammed here. Even if Amazon managed to create a software algorithm that scanned each and every sentence of a book for grammatical errors, for example, I doubt that any algorithm could scan for ‘sense’ so the scammers could still fill these books with perfectly grammatical nonsense.

The problem with Amazon rankings is that they are determined by software, and anything one software program can do, another software program, or a clever human, can scam. It’s as simple as that.

But if you take away the automation you’re left with just humans, and how would that work?

Amazon’s review system is already notorious for being gamed by account holders with an axe to grin, or who just enjoy being trolls. They may not be gaming the system for profit, but they are ruining it for normal customers, so basing rankings, bestseller lists, and most importantly recommendations on reviews won’t work, unless…those reviewers are vetted somehow.

Unfortunately, if you vet reviewers then you are simply returning to the old system of so-called professionals gatekeeping the system.

The worst consequence of having professional reviewers, however, would be in the backlash from normal customers. I enjoy having my say when a book or some other product is either very good or very bad, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. I would not be happy if I could not read genuine reviews of the books I want to read.

-throws hands up in the air-

So…I haven’t got a clue how to fix the bigger problem of rankings, but I do believe the page turn idea will happen, one day. Until then, we’ll just have to sit back and watch this grand experiment in democracy unfold.

cheers

Meeks


#Music to write by and give away?

This is what I’m writing to at the moment:

Evolicity comes from an album called ‘XII’ by Roger Subirana, a brilliant, self-taught Spanish composer.

I stumbled onto Subirana’s music via Jo Blankenburg via Thomas Bergersen [from Two Steps From Hell] via Soundcloud.

Just as an aside, I’ve discovered more music via Soundcloud in the last few months than I did in all the time I used to spend on Youtube. That said, I still go to Youtube to find most of the trailers and video clips I post here. -shrug-

Getting back to composers, Subirana is the latest in a growing line of composers who have played a vital part in the making of Innerscape. I know I’ve been writing about Miira for a very long time, but still, look at the list of composers I’ve listened to since November, 2012:

  • Jo Blankenburg [4 albums and some unpublished songs]
  • Thomas Bergersen [1 album, Two Steps From Hell]
  • Danail Getz [1 album, Audiomachine]
  • Roger Subirana [1 album]

Seven albums plus, and all by composers who are relatively unknown to the general public. I don’t know if all of those composers are Indies, or started out as Indies, but I suspect that many did, and that got me thinking about the type of marketing open to Indies in general and me in particular. Should I pay some huge corporation more money than I can afford, for advertising that probably won’t do much for the visibility of Innerscape anyway? Or could I do something a little different and use Innerscape to promote the music I love?

Honestly, that decision was a no-brainer. When Innerscape is ready to go, I will be giving away some of the music that gives the story soul. How I do that, however, still has me scratching my head as I want it to be fun as well as effective.

If you like any of the writing music I’ve posted on this blog, would you:

  1. like to receive it as part of some kind of promotion?
  2. would you prefer a promotion that used a random names-in-hat type approach?
  3. or would you prefer some kind of competition with 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize giveaways?
  4. assuming you ‘won’, would you be happy with me selecting the music on the basis of its relevance to Innerscape? That is, more of Jo Blankenburg and less of everyone else?
  5. Or would you prefer to be given a choice as to which composer/music you receive?
  6. As I would have to gift you the music via email, would you mind having your email address added to my [non-existent] newsletter?

Of all the questions, I found #6 to be the most vexatious. At a rational level, I understand the value of having a ‘captive audience’ of subscribers to send advertising material to, but at a gut level I also know that newsletters often induce anger rather than interest. And I really, really don’t want to do that to anyone who reads my stories.😦

One alternative that does tempt me is to ask people to ‘Follow’ me on Amazon instead of signing up for a newsletter. The ‘Follow’ feature is something I use myself, and so far at least, I haven’t found it to be intrusive or annoying. Plus another benefit of using Amazon instead of a newsletter is that I wouldn’t have to worry about what to write in a newsletter – all the interesting stuff in my life already ends up on my blog.

So what do you think? Am I on the right track or way off base? Given how little real experience I have of marketing, any thoughts really would be appreciated.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 


#Kindle #Scammers by David Gaughran & Phoenix Sullivan

angry meekaThis is a must read article for both Indie authors and readers alike.

Why? Because these scammers are gaming the Amazon ranking system, which hurts authors. But by clogging up the Top 100 lists with bullshit books, they’re also:

a) tricking readers into wasting their money or

b) making it even harder for readers to find good books to read.

If you have not been a victim of one of these scammers, you’re lucky. I bought what I thought was a classic Alfred Bester sci-fi novel only to discover it was a ‘study guide’ masquerading as the actual book. I was…not pleased. Believe me when I say these bastards are getting away with small scale fraud a million times a day!

Please read the article, and if you’re convinced this is a bad thing, make a noise because it’s time the silent majority sent a message to Amazon that this is not good enough!

https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/ku-scammers-attack-amazons-free-ebook-charts/

This was brought to you as a community service announcement by Meeka’s Mind, where all things are sporadic.


#Feijoa bounty! Updated April 16, 2016

Just have a look at my harvest of feijoa!

feijoua bounty

And the trees are still groaning with fruit:

feijoua tree1

feijoua tree2

The two trees shown above are about seven years old, but this year is the first time we’ve had a crop. And it’s all due to mushroom compost! I fed the two trees in early spring, and I’ve watered them over most of the summer and it’s insane how much fruit they’ve given back.

The Offspring and I have been eating them for two weeks now, and I’ve given bagfuls to the neighbours, but I think I’ll have to put some out by the front gate tomorrow with a sign that reads – FREE to a good stomach.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. some of you may know the feijoa as the pineapple guava.:)

p.p.s. and this is what they look like on the inside [you scoop them out with a spoon]:

feijoa on the inside 003

 


Vertical Farming, now and into the future

The key concept in the following video is that cities can become food producers instead of just food consumers…via vertical farming. But what is vertical farming? Is it the kind of inner city, urban farming that happened in Havana [Cuba]? Or is it ‘just’ hydroponics farming? Or is it something more?

The examples of vertical farming begin at about 11 minutes into this 13 minute video. Well worth the investment in time.

My thanks to A.C. Stark for introducing me to both the video and the concept of vertical farming. A.C. Stark’s site is full of interesting posts that range from politics to climate change.

cheers

Meeks


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