Category Archives: Uncategorized

Covid-19 – a young patient

I just started watching the WHO video on the declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic. The screenshot below is taken from that video. It’s something all young males should see:

A young Italian Covid-19 patient on a ventilator

Look at his chest. This is not the chest of an old man. It is the chest of a young man who was probably fit and healthy. Yet there he is, hooked up to a ventilator, his lungs full of fluid, unable to breathe on his own.

The old bullshit about how you’ve got nothing to worry about is not true.

Change your behaviour NOW.

The life you save may well be your own.

Meeks

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ebooks – for memoirs, cookbooks, picture books, etc

I haven’t written any how-to’s on how to create an ebook because I assumed there were countless how-to’s out there already. I was both right and wrong; there are lots of people providing helpful information about text-based ebooks such as novels, but there are not that many devoted to graphics heavy ebooks.

This distinction was brought home to me when one of my blogging friends needed help with a picture book. He was trying to create an ebook with both pictures and carefully formatted text.

It can be done, but the digital technology we have at the moment is limited when it comes to integrating text and graphics.

Before I start on possible solutions, and/or workarounds, I want to explain what those limitations are, and why they cause problems with graphics heavy ebooks.

Things ordinary ebooks can do

Ordinary ebooks are great with text but just barely okay with pictures. That’s because they’re not really ‘books’ at all. They’re more like rolls of toilet paper with words projected onto them.  The story literally unrolls in an ebook.

This has significant advantages. For starters, as ereaders don’t care about the size or number of words shown on their screens, the reader can make those words as big, or small, as they please…for the whole ‘book’. I use this feature all the time because my eyesight ain’t what it used to be.

Things ordinary ebooks can’t do

Unfortunately, the very flexibility of ebooks can create problems when it comes to adding pictures to the text. Pictures don’t ‘flow’ the way text does, so getting them to fit the screen requires that they be sized for the screen.

But which screen? There are dozens of different digital devices from smartphones to dedicated ereaders to tablets of various sizes. Making an image to fit one screen almost guarantees that it won’t quite fit another.

Another problem with pictures is that not all digital devices are in colour. Dedicated ereaders, such as ordinary Kindles and Paperwhites, only do grayscale.

To display a picture in colour, the digital device has to be some kind of tablet [like the Kindle Fire] or a mobile phone. So again, which device should you optimise for?

And finally, because of their ability to ‘flow’ the text, ebooks don’t do precise formatting. Unfortunately, graphics heavy books like memoirs, cookbooks, picture books etc, look best when the formatting is controlled and the pictures are in colour.

To work around this fundamental problem with ebook design, Amazon created a number of specialist programs:

  • Kindle Kid’s Book Creator
  • Kindle Comic Creator
  • Kindle Create

I took a quick peek at Kindle Kids, and I couldn’t quite work out what it was doing [the manual approach]. I suspect it’s a lot easier if you use the PDF option and simply pour everything into the app in one go.

Kindle Create

Of the three, Kindle Create is the one I find most useful. In its current iteration, it is actually two programs in one:

  • The first allows you to ‘format’ Word .doc and .docx files into text-based ebooks like novels. There is help for creating a Table of Contents as well as Front and Back matter pages, and you can add pictures although the image manipulation is basic to say the least.
  • The second is the old Textbook Creator app. which turns a PDF document into an ebook.

Kindle Create for text based ebooks

This version of Kindle Create allows you to include all the standard elements of a book as well as pictures, but all you can do with pictures is adjust the size, and sometimes the location. That’s it. You can make the image small, medium, large, or full, but you can only adjust the placement of small or medium images. Large and full images seem to be placed automatically and can’t be changed.

One nice thing is that Kindle Create automatically wraps the text around the image as shown below:

But again, only if the image is small or medium.

This does not constitute ‘total control’ over the way text and images display, but it’s not bad. More importantly, when I did a preview of the page, it seemed to display quite well on tablet, phone and Kindle devices.

Something I was not expecting was that the colour image was automatically changed to grayscale on a Kindle device:

Given that this option works with standard .doc or .docx documents, I was pleasantly surprised by how it put everything ‘together’.

The old Textbook Creator

For the sake of clarity, I’m going to call the second option of Kindle Create by its old name – Textbook Creator.

Textbook Creator doesn’t try to integrate text and pictures at all. It creates an ebook out of a sequence of pictures.

If you’re nodding your head and saying, “Ah, she’s talking about PDFs”, you’d be right.

To quote from one of my own how-to’s:

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. With PDF documents, each page is like a ‘snapshot’ of the original Word page. That’s why it’s called WSIWYG – what-you-see-is-what-you-get.

Basically, everything on the Word page becomes a composite ‘picture’ that cannot change. This is how you make sure that what appears on the screen of the digital device is exactly the same as what you originally created, including the positioning of both graphics and text.

It’s the difference between ‘some control’ and ‘total control’.

“But…PDFs can’t be edited.”

That would normally be true, if you were dealing with a PDF document as a whole. But Textbook Creator cuts the original PDF document into its component pages, and each one those pages can be swapped out, individually.

To make this a bit clearer, let’s say you have imported a 20 page PDF document into Textbook Creator. Then you discover that you made a small error on page 15.

Rather than redoing the whole, 20 page document, you can:

  • go back to the original,
  • make a change to page 15,
  • export page 15 as a new PDF document
  • swap the new page 15 for the old page 15 inside Textbook Creator, and voila!

Okay, I admit the process is convoluted, but it does make working with PDFs a little less frustrating.

So what is the downside of using Textbook Creator?

The text in the ebook created by Textbook Creator cannot be resized. You can pinch-and-zoom to see details at a larger size, but you cannot specify that the text in the entire ebook be at a certain size.

This means that the original document has to be designed in such a way that it will suit most readers and most ereaders.

In paperbacks, this is kind of standard, and expected, but not so in digital devices. Plus getting the document to fit can be rather tricky.

Getting the size right

As mentioned before, there are a lot of different ereaders out there, and screen sizes are not the same either. Designing a document to fit all of them is a case of picking something ‘average’ and basing the sizing on that.

But what do I mean by ‘sizing’?

The easiest way to explain is to show you. The following is a preview of this post, in Textbook creator:

Can you see how tiny the text below the image is?

All I did was export a standard Word file to PDF and then import that PDF into Textbook Creator. The font size of the Word document is 12.

Now have a look at this preview. Same document but with a font size of 28:

To get the document to display like that, I had to radically change how the Word document was setup. Basicallly, I simulated the Kindle Fire screen in Word so that I could place text and images to their best advantage.

The following screenshots show my page setup in Word 16.

1. Paper size

The dimensions circled in orange create a page size that exactly fits the screen of my Kindle Fire 6.

2. Margins

Again, those margins are designed to make reading the Kindle Fire 6 screen visually ‘comfortable’ without wasting too much space.

3. Layout

Note: there are no settings selected in Layout. You need clean, minimal formatting in the original Word document. This includes not using things we normally take for granted, such as manual ‘spacing’.

For best results, you should always create styles – for the effects you must have – and use only those styles in the formatting.

Why?

Because Word is an old program, and Microsoft never throws anything away, it simply buries it under new code. This means that there is a lot of…[expletive deleted]…junk in Word that lurks in the background and can seriously mess with other programs that attempt to read/use Word documents. So keeping the document ‘clean’ is important.

But wait…there’s more. Remember how I said I’d changed the font size to 28? The next screenshot is of the Normal Style I created just for Kindle Fire 6 documents:

I can’t tell you why translating text from Word to a small digital device shrinks the text. All I know is that it does, and we have to manually compensate for it.

The other thing you might want to notice is that the alignment is set to ‘Justified’. Not only does it make the text look more professional, it also saves space on the screen.

To change the Normal Style on your own version of Word, right click on the style [on the Ribbon] and select ‘Modify’ from the drop down list of options [see here for step-by-step details]. That will get you to the Modify Style dialog box shown above.

Once the Modify dialog box is open, change the font size and alignment and then click ‘Save’.

We should now have a document that is optimised for an ebook.

Once the Word document is as perfect as we can make it, save the document as a Word file, and then Export it as a PDF.

Your book is now ready to import into Textbook Creator.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the Textbook Creator software.

cheers
Meeks


Cobwebs and superglue

Fascinating post about the use of cobwebs as part of a natural healing treatment. I’ve known about some of the medicinal uses of honey since I was a kid [great for sore throats], and vinegar as a mild antiseptic, especially for cleaning, but I didn’t realise that cobwebs had a bonafide use as well!

As writers, these are gems of information we should all keep and pass on to others. 🙂

Jim Webster

spiders-web-sword-fantasy-wallpaper-preview

I remember, many years ago, watching the vet treat a cow which was tied in a stall in the building next to the milking parlour. Because it was easy to separate a cow from her mates there, after she’d been milked, this was the stall we used for cows the vet needed to see. It was light and easily pressure-hosed off so was always clean.

The vet looked up at the ceiling. To be fair we’d been wary of pressure hosing that, if only because the roof was a fair age and we didn’t fancy taking the risk of loosening the slates. The vet surveyed the thick cobwebs with some enthusiasm. “Always handy to have some of them about if you have a bad cut to treat.”
It’s actually a very old technique. Wash the wound with honey and vinegar, than gently pat it dry with a clean cloth, put…

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loss (of everything) and sleep — Frank Prem Poetry

Frank Prem gives voice to the common man, the one so often forgotten after great tragedies disappear from the news cycle. This is a poem about what comes after the fire.

he said

 

well

I thought

I had enough

insurance

 

I’d covered the place

for more

than the cost

and I thought

for sure

that would be enough

 

but

it seems as though

it is never

quite as much

as you first thought

 

and

it seems as though

the costs

are always

more

 

the bank claimed

first

to get money back

for the mortgage

 

then

well

they change re-building rules

you know

 

just

to make things better […]

loss (of everything) and sleep — Frank Prem Poetry

Meeka’s Mind is 8!

Blogs are strange beasts. Sometimes they start with a bang and fade away to nothing, and sometimes they start with one, lonely voice and grow into a home.

Meeka’s Mind has been my home for the past eight years, and I’d like to thank everyone who’s ever popped in to say hello, or simply came looking for information and left a ‘like’. You guys are the reason this blog is still going strong.

You are the reason I still love blogging. All the very best for 2020!

-massive hugs-

Meeks


Fly like a bird…

Yves Rossy is the original jetman. It’s thanks to him that we saw jetmen flying in formation with the French air force:

Formation flying

You can watch the whole, incredible video clip here. Amazing, right? But back then he needed to get up in the sky before he could fly.

Now, he can take off all by himself:

I’m terrified of heights, but to fly like this…that would be heavenly.

Merry Christmas, my friends. Eat, drink, be merry and stay safe.

cheers

Meeks


Support Your Local Indie Author – Guest Post by Joel Bresler…

Hmm…you’d think I’d know the difference between ‘Press This’ and ‘Reblog’. Ah well, second time lucky!

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Indie Book Marketing 101’s first rule is: use social media to promote your books. Thus directed, indie authors excitedly create flashy websites, engaging Facebook pages, Instagramaccounts, etcetera, and are then faced with the dilemma of how to ask their friends, family and anybody else who happens to land on one to buy their books.

    For something that should be a pretty straightforward proposition, this can be embarrassingly awkward. The direct approach can come off as begging or, worse, like you’re trying to sell something. Youare trying to sell something, but you’re desperate not to sound like it. So, rather than come out and ask folks to buy your books, you, as an indie author, post book announcements, updates andcute graphics, which get lots of “likes” but no “buys”.

    Indie authors typically then seek…

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Support Your Local Indie Author – Guest Post by Joel Bresler…

The title says it all. Save an Indie today. 🙂


ATO – ‘Business Activity’

This is a quick update about one of the myTax questions that I mentioned in this post. It was one of the questions I ‘guessed’.

The question occurs in the section under PSI, or Personal Services Income, and asks for the:

‘Number of business activities’

Nowhere on the ATO website is there a definition of what ‘business activity’ actually means. Thanks to the very knowledgeable and patient lady I spoke to this morning, I can now tell you that for Sole Traders, the question refers to the number of people/companies you have worked for.

So, for example, if you work for ten different people/companies during the course of a financial year, the number of ‘business activities’ to report is…tah dah…10!

You’re welcome. 🙂

Meeks


Amazing Mr Fox

I’m hosting an un-christmas tomorrow so busy cleaning and cooking, but all work and no play is boring, right? So I did a quick jigsaw puzzle of a fox. Note the eyes:

Slit pupils

Those slit pupils sent me off on a search of the internet where I discovered that fox vision allows them to hunt at dawn and dusk…much like cats. But foxes are related to dogs and wolves. What gives?

The similarities between foxes and cats doesn’t end there. You can find a host of fascinating facts in the article below:

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/59739/14-fascinating-facts-about-foxes

One of those facts is illustrated in the following video:

Amazing Mr Fox!

Okay, well play time is over, got floors to mop… -sigh-… Enjoy your weekend. I’ll have food pics tomorrow 🙂

Cheers

Meeks


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