Thursday, May 31, 2012

Interview on Love Hate Poetry!

I always feel like a celebrity when someone chooses to interview me and this time is no exception. That someone would care what I have to say about random (usually book-related) topics is always fun.

The interview covers a few taboo subjects (well, religion), so I apologise in advance to those that are easily offended

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thank goodness for Apple

I'm not one to go about expounding the virtues of Apple or their products ... although I do like their engineering. The reason that I am giving them a standing ovation is for their retina display technology. What is retina display, do you ask? Well, put simply, it's a very high pixel density screen. This might not sound like much to you but means everything to me. The iPhone 4 manages to cram a 960x640 resolution in 3.5" of screen. The new iPad continues this tradition with a resolution of 2048x1536 in a 9.7" screen.

old vs new
On the PC side, we are on bread and water. There has been a rash (some would say an influx of STD's) of laptops that are sold with 'high definition' displays, although I'm not sure how they come up with HD when a 15" screen usually involves a resolution of only 1366x768. My first PC twenty-two years ago was 1024x768. If we were to project the resolution on the iPhone to a 15" screen, you would have a resolution nine times higher (or seven times for the new iPad). With murmurings that the new Macbooks will be utilising retina display screens, the pressure on the PC industry to follow suit will be palpable and I will welcome this 'revolution' with open arms.

I am a developer by trade and when the only way to see a complete page is by being forced to scale a document to 60% of its actual size (while hiding the space-hogging ribbon on office) is annoying to say the least. Considering I had a higher resolution screen about fourteen years ago on my desktop is a joke (1920x1080, followed by 2048x1536 about twelve years ago).

So, in conclusion, I am not heralding Apple for being innovative but rather applauding them for being willing to point out the hilarity of today's modern age.

UPDATE: It seems that the new macbooks have a resolution of 2880x1800. All I can say is YES!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Worshipping false idols

Ah facebook. After all the hub-bub surrounding the company (apparently) being worth hundreds of billions of dollars, it is heartening to see that the stock investors are not as unrealistic in their assessment. After floating at $42 dollars a share, it is now sitting at just over $30, with a one-day drop of 9%. I'm the first to question the 'value' in facebook and, despite using it, don't see where their revenue stream is sourced. I've yet to see/know of one of my friends ever clicking on a link or purchasing a virtual whatever on one of their integrated games. Sure, it's polished but I just don't believe there's that much to it.

The only place that there is any actual value is in collecting data about its users. This is their value ... and is probably worth maybe 5-10 billion dollars for that. My profile's value is apparently around a few cents although my profile is probably not indicative of the average user. The only way that the company is worth 100+ billion is if every person's profile is worth over $200 which I find a little hard to swallow.

GM apparently agrees with me, because they've dropped their 40 million (!) advertising campaign with FB because they saw little-to-no return. I would personally have fired the person that decided to push that much in a market where the users don't focus on adverts ... but I guess I don't have a few million dollars sitting around gathering dust. They can always get a few more billion pushed their way from the US Government if things turn sour once again.

Whether the emperor's new clothes will remain transparent is anyone's guess but I'd rather keep my cotton duds. A realistic value would be around $15 and unless facebook brings a new compelling revenue model, that's where it should and will remain. Update: for my 5-10 billion dollar value to be true, apparently the stock price would have to be around $5. Interesting ...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Too smart for my own good?

I am the first to admit that I'm not that smart although I am intelligent enough to recognise the games that marketeers play when it comes to twisting your emotional state towards their product. I am horrified by ads like this which on the surface seem so 'nice.' Until you realise it's just a ploy to associate happiness with their product.

Case in point:

This video makes my skin crawl. It sickens me that this ploy could possibly work and, for a lot of people, it will. So the basic premise of the ad is, Hey! Coke is giving away 'free' high-fructose corn syrup with type-two diabetes plus (reactionarily-applied) ritalin for the 'unprovoked' ADD-in-a-bottle for you and your unsuspecting 'friends' (+ bouquets if you're a pretty girl). Obviously their sales quotas are flagging in the 18-25 market, so they're (drug) pushing their product a little harder until their targets are reached.

It all seems quite insidious. And it is.  But only if you think about it.

Interview with Suzanne Lilly

Today I welcome Suzanne Lilly to my corner of the internet. Her debut novel Shades of the Future is planned for release on July 15th and, to mark the impending occasion, I shall ask a few questions and hopefully learn a little about my fellow author's approach to story telling.

1/ Tell me a little about yourself
I’m a 5th grade teacher of 10 and 11 year-old children during the day and an author at night. I love the water, hiking, movies, cooking, traveling, and just hanging out with friends and family. Summer is my favorite season of the year, because I lay by the pool like a lizard, soaking up the books I don’t get to read during the school year.

2/ What motivates you to write?
I write because I have so many stories inside me bursting to come out. I blame this on my 5th grade teacher who had a weekly assignment of writing a story using all of our spelling words. I would write two or three stories, decide which I liked best, and read it to the class. That’s when I realized how much I enjoyed writing. Now I can write and get paid for it. Life doesn’t get better than that.

3/ Which of your novels are you proudest of?
I’ve published short stories and non-fiction articles. Shades of the Future is my debut novel and its release date is the week of July 15, 2012. It’s about a girl with a running scholarship to Ohio State University who finds a pair of sunglasses that allow her to see the future. What she sees isn’t always sunny and bright, and she finds herself fighting to avoid the future she sees but wants to avoid. My next book, Untellable, releases in February of 2013, about a young woman trying to start a new life after her mother’s death. She has secrets about her death that she wants to keep hidden at all costs.

4/ Pixar's Up has proven that you can have a successful children's movie where the hero is not necessarily young. Does the definition, or reader's expectation, of YA still need to evolve?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Interview with Pavarti Tyler

I would like to welcome Pavarti Tyler to my corner of the internet. Her third novel is called "Shadow on the Wall". As the twitter summary goes: Recai Osman: Muslim, philosopher, billionaire and Superhero?

Amazon: Shadow on the Wall - (ebook) $4.95

"Controversial and daring, Shadow on the Wall details the transformation of Recai Osman from complicated man to Superhero. Forced to witness the cruelty of the Morality Police in his home city of Elih, Turkey, Recai is called upon by the power of the desert to be the vehicle of change. Does he have the strength to answer Allah's call or will his dark past and self doubt stand in his way?

Pulling on his faith in Allah, the friendship of a Jewish father-figure and a deeply held belief that his people deserve better, Recai Osman must become The SandStorm."

To celebrate the release of her third novel on May 1st, Pavarti has been gracious enough to answer a few questions that I had about her novel:
  1. Tell me a little about yourself
    I'm an accountant/bookkeeper by day and an author by... well all the other times.  I have two children, two terrible dogs and an amazing husband who keeps me as sane as I probably can be.  I love to live in the world of make-believe where the impossible can come alive.  I hope I bring that to my life as well as my writing.
  2. What is the meaning behind the novel's title: 'Shadow on the Wall'?
    Well that would just give away everything wouldn't it?  You'll have to read and see.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The theory of relativity

I am older. One year older to be exact, which makes this the thirty-fourth year I've existed on this planet ... and I don't believe in acting my age. What does 'acting your age' mean anyway? Does it mean having kids and settling down while working on a beer paunch? I'll take a pass on that if it does. As long as my body is ready and willing, I have no intention of moving towards that definition of old.

To mark my birthday, my weekend was filled with a flurry of activities. It started with going to a cowboy saloon where there was line dancing and a mechanical bull that I was determined to break in. I did break in something, alright, coming off second best with a few friction burns, bruises, torn callouses on my hands and ripped jeans. The bull had beaten me but I think I did gain some respect for my dogged persistence (some would say foolhardiness). Strangely enough, I felt alright the next day and followed that up with Kayaking, beach tennis and clubbing at boulevard3. It was probably one of the coolest clubs I've been to. Good sound system, good production and great dancers. It was also a little trippy (surprise, surprise), with a guy on stilts flipping this little Asian girl around the stage while he wore a black bandanna across his face bandito-style. This was followed up with some contortionist krunk/krump dancers that did weird things with their shoulder blades and were generally wiggity wiggity whack (to use a 90'sism). It was really cool and the music was a good blend of RnB, house and pop. And so, to summarise: I had a good weekend and, as long as this is what getting older involves, bring on the next year.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The art of blurb

The blurb, or selling point: there is a dark art to giving enough to entice a prospective reader while not laying out the whole story in the process. A lot of authors I see write too much or miss the point of what a blurb should be. To help my fellow authors I shall now divulge the rules I follow when writing a blurb:
  1. What is it about?
    Set the scene - who is the protagonist, what is the tone or gist of the story.
  2. Why should I read it?
    Give a hook as to why the reader cannot pass up the chance to read it.
  3. What makes it unique?
    What makes it unique from all the other vampire stories (say).
  4. Why should I read more?
    Provide some unanswered questions that would compel the reader to want to discover more.

The other point is it needs to be punchy and to the point. This is not a prologue so don't treat it like one.

To drum in the points, I'll blurbify a few well-known classics:

(1 & 3)His pants may be square and even though he lives at the bottom of the sea and his friend may be a star, his life is far from ordinary. (3)Even if his viscous and porous yellow body has no need for Krabby Patties, he follows his dream to be the world's best fry cook. (2)With the help of Squidward and Mr Krabs, they have been able to stop Plankton's desires to gain the secret of the Krabby Patty ... up until now. (4) Will he be able to thwart Plankton's nefarious plan and will he be able to save the beautiful surface-dweller named Sandy?
Aliens (the film):
(1)Ripley wakes with a dull ache - her head throbs; disoriented with the familiar after-effect of an extended hyper-sleep. (2) Her mind is still clouded with thoughts of the alien; one alien deadly enough to end her crew within 24 hours. (3) In the years it took for her escape pod to be rescued, colonists had been sent to LV-426 to begin terra-forming. The only problem is they have lost contact. With a hardened military troupe and Ripley on point as a 'subject-matter expert,' she will have to return to the planet where it all began.  (4) No matter the weaponry, she knows it won't make a difference against them but she has unfinished business: she needs to kill her nightmare.
I'll leave it there, but that should give a good basis for any blurb. Blurb and be well. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Gauging your depth

The predators were restless, my friends. They seethed and writhed with an unrestrained desire to devour the weakest amongst the throng that confronted them. I am, of course, talking about Karaoke.

I remembered so vividly cruising through It's Not Unusual - that was my song ... until I heard the strained broken notes feeding into the back of my head. What was that sound that tempered the dulcet and alluring tones of my (imagined) soft croonings? I realised far too late that this song does not work within my vocal range. I then proceeded to push through two strained minutes while I quietly died inside ... and the cheers that had preceded my singing turned into silence.

I realise now that Tom Jones is not my bag ... although, somehow, Bohemian Rhapsody is. Well, lesson learned. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fear and loathing

Ah, the wonders of Karaoke. Some people are terrible, others are average and very few are good. And yet it doesn't stop them singing, whatever their categorisation. I'm not sure which category I'm in (hopefully not the terrible one) but I do enjoy singing. I did my first public Karaoke a few days back and I enjoyed it. With a captive audience (they had to finish their beers), I tried my best to capture The Pixies, Nirvana, The Doors and The Eagles. I'm not sure whether I succeeded but I enjoyed it - I even got a fist bump for my efforts.

People in my group were (and still are) hesitant about singing in public - they hate it. I enjoy it. Maybe it's the fear of being ridiculed that compels them to keep their singing voices under lock and key. For me that's a reason to challenge the world to critique. I thrive on criticism - maybe because I'm a masochist, but the only way to improve is to be told your weaknesses. I do care if I subject others to my caterwauling but I do love singing; imagining me in the bands that I love and bringing something different to the original performance, whether intended or not.

I would recommend that everyone pushes their boundaries and hopefully discovers some new talents (or must-try-harder areas). To hell with anyone's opinion; just get up and live.