Category Archives: review

Food service Daleks?

Okay, as a future geek and sci-fi-phile, how could I resist this?

I notice thought that a human is sweeping the floor. Hmmm…..


Future tech – the ‘Dragonfly’

I discovered the concept of quadcopters this morning via a blog post on my reader. That led me to the video clip below:

From there I looked at a couple of other video clips on Youtube until I was lucky enough to stumble on this one:

The geek in me is thrilled by both the quadcopter and the Dragonfly, but the sci-fi writer sees a darker use for both these technologies. They may look like toys now, but the Dragonfly, in particular, is already being promoted as a serious tool for both offense and defence.

Can you imagine police procedurals in the future? How will the cops catch murderers when the murder weapon could be a weaponized Dragonfly?

I hope this lovely bit of technology is never used for such dark purposes, but the pragmatist in me can’t see how it would not be misused. Human beings never change. Give us a rock and we’ll use it to beat each other’s brains out. Give us a Dragonfly and heaven knows what we’ll do with it.

Definitely tech for thought.

Happy Sunday,

Meeks


Watch a real exoskeleton at work!

Sci-fi movie buffs will be familiar with this scene from the movie Aliens 2 where the heroine [yes, a woman] uses an exoskeleton to try to save a child from the baddie.

And if aliens are not your cup of tea, how about Iron Man from the Avengers movies? That pretty red suit he wears is not just a fashion statement, or yummy body armour, it’s actually an exoskeleton as well.

But now, for the first time, real exoskeletons are making an appearance in the hospitals of Japan. Designed to aid both patients and carers, this amazing, robotic invention is set to become commonplace in the real world.

And that, my friends, means that at least one, small part of my Innerscape story is no longer sci-fi! If you’re curious, my protagonist, Miira, wears an exoskeleton in the very first scene to give her a degree of mobility and independence. [You can read the most recent version on Wattpad here]

Ironically, I snuck the concept of an exoskeleton into the beginning of the story to provide a subtle clue that Innerscape was, in fact, a science fiction story. Now I’ve been foiled by the rate of technological advancement. It makes me wonder what else will be out of date by the end of the year, let alone the end of the century.

I’m not complaining, but this incredible technological advance does highlight one of the major drawbacks of writing in the ‘near future’ – no one can accurately forecast what that future will look like. Still, it’s fun to try. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks


Canva for ebook covers

Never heard of Canva? Don’t worry, neither had I until this morning. Canva is a [free-ish] online graphics program? facility? that allows us cash-strapped writers to design our own ebook covers. It also allows us to do a lot of other things, but I only needed an ebook cover so that’s what I played with.

After doing the 2 minute tutorial, I spent about an hour playing with the graphics and, I have to say, I am very impressed. The image below is a draft of the cover I came up with for Innerscape:

innerscape cover draft

The cross hatching is part of the watermark [along with the name CANVA in the middle of the image]. The reason for the watermark is that I chose 2 non-free images for the cover – the landscape and the picture frame. Each image costs $1 – yes, that was not a typo, just one solitary dollar – for both personal and commercial use. So all up, my costs would have been $2.

I was very tempted to just pay my money and be done with it, but they have a special deal whereby you can buy 11 images for ten dollars, and I thought ‘oh, parts 3 & 4, and 5 & 6….’.

-cough-

Anyway, a bit about the design. The final, ‘real’ cover will have a different graphic on it, but for the moment I like the idea of mirror images and worlds within worlds and the visual tension of seeing the title as a not-so-subtle price tag. Paradise is only for the rich, after all.

Of course that could all be a bit of BS – there is a reason why I’m a writer not a graphics designer. -sigh-

Once you are ready to download your newly created image/cover, you are given the option of either paying for any non-free images you have used, or downloading a draft. I haven’t tried the paid option but assume it is the same as the draft one – you get to choose between downloading a 70 DPI resolution image or a 300 DPI pdf file.

DPI stands for dots per inch so 70 DPI would give you a reasonable resolution [as in my cover image] but nothing great. The good thing about it is that it doesn’t chew up your bandwidth. My image weighs in at about 75 kb, which is next to nothing. When I downloaded the 300 DPI pdf however, it took quite a while to download and was HUGE. Well over a megabyte of data.

I would use the 300 DPI for actual print covers but not for ebook covers. Finding the right balance for the cover image will require a bit of trial and error so that it looks good but doesn’t take half an hour to download.

Oh and one last thing. I converted the 300 DPI pdf file to a more reasonably sized jpg file but discovered that my version of the software didn’t include the fonts used by CANVA. My app substituted similar fonts but you can see that they do not look quite right. Next time I’ll either use fonts that I know I have, or I won’t mess with the image. πŸ™‚

And for those who might like to play with CANVA themselves, here’s the link to a great Indies Unlimited tutorial on how to use it.

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2015/05/11/canva-for-free-ebook-covers-and-more/

Comments? Please feel free to let rip. I haven’t paid for anything so you’re not going to hurt my feelings or my wallet. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks


How to link to your story on Wattpad

angryIn my last post about Wattpad, I talked about my failed attempts to link to Innerscape, Part 1, and the workaround I finally discovered. I was not particularly happy with the Wattpad interface, and said so.

Since then, Fernanda from Wattpad support replied to my email and explained how to link to my story properly. The following is a quick, pictorial version of what Fernanda told me.

Once you have created and published your story to Wattpad, you are ready to promote it beyond Wattpad.

Step 1 Click the tiny arrow next to your Wattpad name to display the drop down list as shown below:

 

Step 1

Step 1

From the drop down list, select the ‘My Profile’ option.

Step 2 The ‘My Profile’ page contains the About [you] as well as a list of stories you have published to Wattpad. In the screenshot below, you can see that I’ve only published one story [Innerscape].

Step 2

Step 2

To read [or link to] any of the stories you have published, click on the relevant link. For me, the link is for Innerscape.

You should now be looking at a sort of public page on which anyone can read your story.

Step 3 Click on the address bar for your story as shown in the screenshot below:

Step 3

Step 3

Once the URL of your story is highlighted in blue, simply copy and paste it into your tweet, FB post, blog post or other promotional site.

If you try to do any of this from within the ‘Works’ option [the obvious place to look for your story], the resultant URL will belong to your private Wattpad account and hence will not be accessible to other people – i.e. it won’t work!

I can see the programming logic behind all this but …a good interface would not hide such a common function in such a non-intuitive location. Or perhaps the Devs of Wattpad assume that anyone publishing material on Wattpad will not be interested in promoting their work anywhere else. -shrug- Or maybe they don’t want to clutter up the interface with all this unsightly and potentially technical stuff?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I believe most current user interfaces are hell bent on being innovative and different, and beggar the functionality. I’ve suffered through the latest, ongoing transformation of the WordPress.com interface, and it appears I shall have to suffer from the Wattpad one as well.

Perhaps I should be more diplomatic.

-thinks-

Nope. Poor design is poor design no matter what the intention of the developers may be.

-grump-

Meeks


But I like my horse and buggy!

meerkat pic smallI’ve never been a true techie geek, but I did pride myself on being one of the early adopters of personal computers back in the 1980’s. I used to shake my head in dismay at my peers who were bending over backwards to avoid computers. Could they not see computers were the way of the future?

Fast forward to 2015 and the new ‘tech’ is not computers, it’s not even mobile devices like tablets and phones, it’s the apps on those devices. And guess who doesn’t want to have anything to do with those apps? Yup, me.:(

Oh don’t get me wrong, I do have a smart phone, and I do have a tablet, and I use both, but only in small, timid ways. I did work out how to get music on my Kindle Fire, but I don’t listen to it because the speakers on my computer [at home] give me a far better sound experience.

Another thing I don’t use on my tablet is the ability to browse and buy – we don’t have wi-fi at home, and I have yet to work out how to access the so-called ‘hot spots’ outside the home. Instead I do just one thing on my tablet, I read.

My smartphone is even more unloved because I can’t afford to pay for the plans that allow you to download masses of data from the internet. Here in Australia, data is expensive, so basically my monthly download limit is reserved for my bushfire warning app.

[Note! Since upgrading the firmware on my phone from Ice Cream Sandwich to Jelly Bean, the EmergencyAus app works properly.]

I don’t check emails on my phone because all my data would be eaten up by the flood of spam I always get. I don’t ‘read’ on my phone because I’d need a magnifying glass to see what I was reading. I’m not interested in Facebook or Twitter so I’m not going to waste data on social media, and I don’t play ‘games’ because…

Hmm, the real reason I don’t play games is because I don’t really know how to do the whole ‘app’ thing. And that is the part that has me scared. Why am I not embracing this new technology the way the youngies are?

When I was a kid, we used to marvel at my friend’s grandmother – the old lady would always get properly dressed before sitting down in front of the TV. Why? Because she believed the people inside the TV could see her and she wanted to look her best!

Years later, I remember wondering why old people were always so negative about new things, and so unwilling to learn. Well now that I’m becoming one of those old people, I have the answer to my questions: we all learn on a need-to-know basis, and it’s all too easy to decide that we don’t need to know the latest craze sweeping the younger generations.

I know I’ve been guilty of that ‘I don’t need to know’ attitude, but after reading about Meerkat this morning, I’ve recognized the folly of my ways. Frankly, if I don’t embrace all this newfangled stuff, and soon, I’m going to become one of those little old ladies who talks fondly about the horse and buggy, and how much nicer life was ‘back then’.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. What’s that? You haven’t heard of Meerkat? Mwahahahaha! Google it and find out, or click on the cute picture. πŸ˜€


‘The Spark’ video trailer

I’m sitting at my desk, enjoying a morning of perfect autumn weather – clear, sunny but crisp, and with no [great] danger of bushfire. It’s probably a little early to declare that fire season is over for another year, but I really think it may be. πŸ™‚

To celebrate, I’m going to share a video trailer about fire of a different sort – building fire. The video trailer goes with the novel, The Spark, by John Kenny. I wrote a review about The Spark here [I loved it], so it should come as no surprise that I was very impressed with the book trailer as well.

Produced by Kat Brooks, the book trailer uses a software application called Animoto to create a short video clip comprising still images, text, animation, and of course, music.

I think the book trailer works very well and showcases what can be done with a good ‘eye’, some software and a bit of imagination. And now, without further ado, I give you :

Happy Monday

or don’t worry, only five more days to go. πŸ˜‰

Meeks


Discovering Autism, Discovering Neurodiversity – a review

Stephanie Allen Crist has been an online friend for a number of years, but it was only recently that I gained a deeper understanding of this very intelligent woman – through her new book ‘Discovering Autism, Discovering Neurodiversity’.

You see Stephanie, as well as being a marketing guru and a great blogger in her own right, also happens to be the mother of three wonderful boys, all of whom express autism to some degree.

In ‘Discovering Autism’, Stephanie takes us on a journey, not just through her life, but through the reality of autism. Her story is both touching and uplifting because she does not see her sons as burdens. She does not wish they were ‘other’. She accepts them as people with needs different to her own, and different to each other. But each child is, first and foremost, an individual, and a person of worth.

I had the great good fortune of being a beta reader to this book, and I loved every word. It is not a ‘how-to’ live with autism, however it does contain a great deal of information in a very palatable form. Whether your child has autism or not, I think this is a book all parents should read.

You can find ‘Discovering Autism’ on Amazon or you can order it direct from Stephanie’s website :

http://stephanieallencrist.com/advocacy-store/

If you go to Stephanie’s website you will be given a choice of formats including epub, mobi, pdf or print.

And as a final word – ‘Discovering Autism’ will draw you in and make you keep reading because it is so real, and so very well written.

cheers

Meeks


List of book promotion sites

Apologies to all my non writer friends. Today’s post is to share info. about this very handy list, and save it somewhere safe for my own use.

Believe it or not, I’ve actually gone back to some of my own posts in order to check a how-to, or some other piece of information. Having it all here saves me trying [and failing] to remember where the hell I put it.

Now, to the list. It’s been created to allow Indie writers to find, use and keep track of promotional sites. In other words, collecting all your important information in one place. Again, saves on the memory doesn’t it?

I’ve only just discovered this list so I haven’t had a chance to try out the interactive part of it, but just having all this information in one place makes me happy. If I can actually track who I’ve sent what to, and when, then I’ll be ecstatic!

http://www.readersintheknow.com/list-of-book-promo-sites

If any of you use the interactive part of the list please let me know how well it worked [or didn’t].

On a more mundane note, the weather continues to stay most un-summer-like. I’m loving it, of course, because this is the most peace of mind I’ve had in January for years. Now I just have my fingers crossed for February. I’m supposed to start teaching again in February so I may get a little stressed out over leaving the house, and the Daughter, on hot days. Meh…I’d better not jinx myself!

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Meeks

 


Alan Turing and The Imitation Game

Alan Turing CumberbathSometimes things happen in clusters. Or perhaps it just feels that way because, having been alerted to the first ‘something’, we then notice similar somethings all over the place…

Okay, apologies for that rather metaphysical beginning, but I am seeing a rather interesting cluster at the moment, and it all began with the movie The Imitation Game.

The Daughter and I went to see The Imitation Game a couple of days ago as my birthday treat. Why? Because the movie is about Alan Turing, the father of modern computers, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch who’s so sexy and you all know how much I love computers… -cough-

Like many people, I knew of Turing, not because of Enigma, and the World War II code-breaking, but because of his test for computers. In essence, Turing’s idea was to get a judge to ‘converse’ blindly [using a keyboard and screen] with a human being and a computer. If the judge could not pick the difference between the human and the computer then the computer could be said to be ‘intelligent’.

Did a little bell just go off? Yes, well done – intelligent computers are the Holy Grail of AI research, so you can see why I’d be interested in Alan Turing. But the movie delivered a great deal more than just some dry recital of computer history.

For the Daughter and I, two things really stood out from the movie – that Turing was gay [I hadn’t known that] and that Joan Clarke, one of the other codebreakers, was just as brilliant as he was. Two brilliant people, arguably two of the most brilliant people of the 20th Century, and one was gay while the other was a woman. [And yes, I looked it up, Joan Clarke was a real woman]

Now, I’m a humanist rather than any other flavour of -ist, but right then and there, I would have waved my little flag if I had had one. Bloody hell – a gay man and a woman!

If I were gay I would compile a list of all the brilliant people in history who were gay, and right at the top I’d put Alan Turing’s name, along with that of Leonardo Da Vinci, so everyone could see what a massive contribution gay people have made to the world. Then I’d sit down and compile another list, but this one would be of women who have made a massive contribution to the world.

Why? Because human culture has for too long assumed that everything good ever created or discovered was done so by straight white men.

Hmm… and while I was at it I’d probably start combing through the history books of China and India and the rest of the non-white world for the people who created all the things we in the West don’t give them credit for. But that’s a rant for another day.

For now let me just say that the movie was excellent. Benedict Cumberbatch is an extraordinary actor who seems to excel in these slightly quirky roles, while Keira Knightly actually managed to come across as a slightly awkward, but very smart Joan Clarke. Definitely the kind of movie I’d see again.

Going back to the inequities of history, however, and the prominence of straight white men, my eye was caught this morning by –

“Why do discussions of creative genius so often happen about white male writers such as Jonathan Franzen? ”

http://www.science20.com/the_conversation/genius_white_middle_class_heterosexual_men_overrepresented-152212

The article is concerned with the lack of representation of women in literature rather than science, but great minds are great minds no matter what subject they explore.

A happy side-effect of discovering that article was that it led me to a site called Science 2.0. I’m not sure if the site itself is Australian, but the three articles I read were all written by Australian academics. I think the site is like a wordpress for geeks. πŸ™‚

I know two instances of anything do not a cluster make, but I suspect you out there will have other examples for us to share. It goes without saying that I’d be really happy if you did share in comments!

cheers

Meeks

Just had to add this artist named by Candy Korman – Artemisia Gentileschi 16th Century, Italy. This is her self portrait. But look at the angle!

Artemisia self portrait

 


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