Monthly Archives: March 2013

Kindle Fire HD

Dear Amazon,

Let me put one thing on the table now: I am no Luddite; I own an ereader – in fact two, the Sony PRS-T1 and PRS-650; I love my ereader(s). As a reader, they are fabulous; as a teacher, wonderfully useful; as a (would be) traveller, indispensable. I own nearly 5,500 ebooks and carry 1,200 with me everywhere. My ereader lets me carry, highlight and search Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, Austen as well as allowing me to indulge my (not so secret) guilty pleasure of fantasy. As a teacher, there are students with ereaders who now read whereas they did not before.

I do not dislike ereaders.

I do not dislike your Kindles (although I do prefer my Sony).

I do object to the fact that ereaders lead to a rise in Fifty Shades of Gray and its successors (every book that has followed has the same pattern: take a colour, a number and a word that rhymes with Gray. Seventy Days Yellow. Sixteen Vermillion Plays. A Stray Hundred Aquamarines). That, however, is an objection to the book rather than the technology that allowed it to be read anonymously by suburban housewives.

But – and, Amazon, this is a big but – I do not get the Kindle Fire.

Ok, it is a smart looking piece of kit. That, I’ll grant you. It is smart enough to have fired up my step-son to request one for his birthday. He got it yesterday.

But here’s my problem: why are you selling as an ereader a device which discourages reading? I do not understand. Apps, games, Facebook, LoveFilm are already cluttering his homepage. There is a book lurking in there. Somewhere.

Just one but – in fairness to the lad – he’s had it less than 24 hours.

But consider the time spent on various features: a couple of hours just sorting it out, working through settings; a couple of hours on a film; several hours on an unpleasantly loud police game; and maybe twenty minutes on the book. I wonder if you have installed a statistics feature to breakdown time spent on each app.

Now my attitude is this. I want a book (e or otherwise) to read. I want that reading time undiluted and unfiltered and undistracted. Hunger and tiredness can be annoying enough distractions. Why put Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Facebook into a book?

And shall we consider the other impact if these apps – these distrapptions from reading? My ereader was last charged two weeks ago and I have finished two books on it in that time and there is no discernible reduction in battery life. I could go on a month long safari and still be able to read every night without worrying about chargers. According to step-son, your Kindle Fire can manage 11 hours. I can read 11 hours in one day! It means he will be tethered to one spot because, if reading, he will need to be charging.

Now, I have no huge objection to children being tethered in general. But I do object to reading being tethered to – of all things – a plug. I read in strange and random places: on the loo, on trains, whilst walking around my school on duty, those odd five minutes here and there. I don’t wish to be unable to do that because I won’t have enough battery life.

And the battery-guzzling backlight can’t be good for eyes: this morning, in a darkened teenager’s room, the backlight washed the entire space with a uniform, bright light. I have dimmer torches! Despite warnings about the backlight, teenagers both fail to listen and take the path of least effort, thereby not bothering to dim it. Retinas will be burned out! Laser eye surgery will be needed!

So, this is my point: unlike your other Kindles, the Kindle Fire is not an ereader. It’s not.

It is a tablet.

A tablet that can contain books.

Therefore, it should be judged alongside other tablets. Is it as fast, as powerful, as capacious of memory, with access to as voluminous an app store as the iPad? I have no idea: I don’t have one. I suspect not. I suspect that this is why you chose to market it as a Kindle Fire rather than a Tablet Fire.

But, to sum up, I am here calling for all true readers of books to adopt the facial expression of scornful disdain, to don the waistcoat of disapproval and to plagiarise television catchphrases at will to express their opprobrium of the Kindle Fire.

Ce n’est pas un livre!

20130330-085827.jpg

habemas papam

I disagreed and argued with BBC News last night.

Mrs P was either unimpressed with my arguing with the television or disinterested by the content of my argument.

However, Pope Francis I was elected last night. As has been customary since (probably) the twelfth century, the announcement is made that

habemas papam

In full, it reads

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum:
Habemus Papam;
Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum [praenomen] Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem [nomen],
Qui sibi nomen imposuit [Papal Name].

Now, this is how the BBC translated the first line:

There is a Pope.

No.

No!

“Habemas Papam” translates as “We have a Pope”.

We have a Pope. We. First person plural subjective personal pronoun.

We.

Encompassing both the cardinals (old, archaic, venerable) and the congregation (youthful, vibrant, excited and owning an inordinate number of iPads!)

How much more effective is that than just the objective and factual and inaccurate “There is a Pope”?! Sorry BBC, but please. It’s important!

I also wondered about the name he’s adopted: Pope Francis. It suggests a sensitivity to the poor and animals, echoing St Francis of Assisi. And also – as the first non-European Pope for 1,300 years – the deliberate choice of a name derived from France and Frenchman could be an attempt to reconcile the first and third world churches….

Or. He might just like the name.

Pope

Congratulations to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, elected as the new Pope Francis today.

Click here too!

20130313-195051.jpg

He doesn’t look the funniest guy in the world, does he?

It’s taken about the same time to elect a new pope, vicar of Rome and bridge between God and humanity as my boss is taking to decide whether to give me my own job!

Second interview on Monday!

My Brain, update

I’ve been on my new meds – Keppra – for twelve days now at 250 mg twice a day on top of 200 mg of tegretol retard twice daily.

This is the first night I’ve not slumped unconscious at about 7:30 once I’ve got home. In fact, somewhat the opposite: Mrs P has become slightly concerned that I have become slightly manic!

She thinks that I’m perky, dilated pupils and restlessness moving from one activity to another… Not necessarily finishing the first task or tasks before moving on elsewhere!

As I’ve been on carbamazepine since I was 17, I’m not sure whether what is coming across as manic is not actually me which carbamazepine has been suppressing for the last 22 years!

Although does appear to be a possible side effect: check it out here

Seven Types of Reader

Apparently there are only seven plots in the entire world… and also seven types of readers! A certain sense of symmetry there!

Click here to read the original article – from quite a while ago – but these are my thoughts.

1. The Book Thief

Okay. Hands up. It’s a fair cop. This is me. I have on my book shelf a number of books that originated elsewhere. My old school library. Friends. Work book swap shelves.

I am in fair company. Apparently there is a description of a hobbit in The Lord Of The Rings who

was a great borrower of books and worse than usual at returning them.

The name of this kleptomaniac hobbit would have escaped me without the search function of my ebook: he is Huge Bracegirdle. Google was no help as it is bloated with filmic rather than literary hobbits. But – returning to the point – this book-pilfering hobbit who occupies about three lines in the book is apparently intended to be a self-portrait of J. R. R. Tolkien himself.

20130309-130332.jpg

And it’s not my fault! The books, the stories sing to me! They want to stay!

My favourite stolen book isWuthering Heights which I stole from school when I was 17, as I was reading it for A-level. I’d like to say it’s full of surprisingly insightful annotation… Alas it’s more chock full of cringe inducingly juvenile annotation, doodles, notes to whoever may have been sitting next to me. And I do believe one or two phalluses (phalli?). Teenage humour hasn’t changed much in the intervening twenty years! And Wuthering Heights is still my favourite book!

2. The Dog Earer

Yes. Me again.

There are few books I have without broken spines, scuffed edges and turned-down corners. I’m not overly worried about the book. The fabric of the book. See the state of my Wuthering Heights mentioned above. Some of my books even have shopping lists in them. When I’m famous these will become jolly sought after.

I have considered this before, why I don’t mind my books being dog-eared whilst, simultaneously I love my books.

I think, firstly, that I don’t love books at all: I love the stories, the narratives, the characters, not the books. This is, in part, why I have no objection to my ebook: I don’t mind if that narrative and those characters come digitally or on paper, so long as I have them.

Secondly, and this is a gripe I have with the ebook, the tattier the book, the better read, better loved the narrative. That pristine book on the bookshelf may as well be in a cellophane wrapping. A toy in played with. A marriage unconsummated. A child unloved.

3. The Serendipity Screamer

Odd phrase that reeks of the writer shoehorning in an alliteration.

The Sharer would be a far more acceptable Anglo-Saxon alternative.

Now, this is only partially me: I like to share my experience of reading and discuss with others my books and blog about them.

But I don’t share the book! It’s my book. What if I want to read it again?! What if I want to check something? What if I get in an argument and need to prove my point (which would, obviously, be compellingly right!)?

I like the idea of people who leave their used books on the bus for someone else to pick up … but I couldn’t do that. And I’m not sure I’d pick one up: I’d worry about depriving the owner of their book; and of the owner coming back having just popped to the toilet rather than leaving it to be picked up; and of unknown germs… I worry that there are piles of books being burnt at the bus terminus having been left philanthropically and not picked up!

Maybe the only people who get these books are the bus drivers. Maybe bus drivers are the intellectual future of the human race without ever buying a book!

4. The Self-Conscious Reader

These people are ashamed of either the fact of reading or their choice of material.

Me?

Hell no!

I teach and do a duty at lunchtime which I take as my reading time. I amble about, reading as I go, talking to kids about the books – and occasionally barking at them to get out, get in, put food in the bin, pick up litter, put down that child. But I am a public reader.

Nor do I care what I am seen reading: genre fiction, classics, children’s books, comics, poetry, popular, cult or esoteric. Even Fifty Shades (which I gave up on after 100 pages: so incredibly dull and tedious and just bad!)

5. The Did-Not-Finisher

I see no shame in failing to finish a book.

There is – in my humble view – no such thing as a bad book, just books that aren’t right for you.

Have I not finished a book? Of course I have! Fifty Shades of Gray for one! There are so many fabulous books out there waiting to meet me, why would I spend any more time with Christian Gray than I had to?! Other unfinished books? Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon, House of Leaves by Danielewski – although that was more to do with wanting to find it in paper rather than electronically, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – I mean the title said it all!

6. The Underliner

Yup!

Me again!

I scrawl, highlight, underline. I annotate.

I bought a touchscreen Sony e-reader the PRS-650 which Mrs P upgraded for me to the PRS-T1 (which still sounds like an intellectual, reading terminator to me!) specifically so I could underline in it!

I can’t help it!

I was trained to do it at Cambridge University – they called it Practical Criticism there; the library tends to call it graffiti!

I teach my students to do it.

I find a pithy phrase; a muscular image; an evocative line and I’m reaching for the pen!

I’m an Underliner and I’m proud!

7. The Reader-Of-Things-You’ve-Never-Heard-Of

I don’t thing this applies to me! Mrs P’s insistent it does!

My reading tends to be driven by what is in Smiths or Waterstones. The Richard and Judy Book Club tends to put me off books! But all very popular and top ten.

The most abstruse and esoteric of my favourite reads probably comes from my University career: I do like a bit of post-Colonial literature, having done a dissertation on Wole Soyinka as part of my finals. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is sublime.

20130309-161317.jpg

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun was lovely.
And Athol Fugard’s Tsotsi!

Oh and Arundhati Roy’s God Of Small Things.

And I do read Chaucer for entertainment: it is joyful! And Gawain and The Grene Knight. But they’re not esoteric. They’re really not.

I do remember the first time I tried to discuss someone’s apparent interest in steampunk – which i adore! oh China Miéville! Oh Railsea! Perdido Street Station! and they looked as if I’d tried to proposition them in some way!

And Mikhail Bulgarkov and Andrey Kurkov. My Russian phase.

20130309-161207.jpg

The Book Lover’s Brain, an update

Okay, so following on from a simple query about my medication, I have been ECGed and EEGed and MRIed and the upshot of it all seems to be: try these new tablets!

I don’t actually have another appointment with my neurologist until Christmas Eve but I guess I’ll be summonsed again if the EEG and MRI show anything worrying. Like a lump or a small Irish leprechaun lurking inside my skull.

So, my new tablets are Keppra, small and blue and most definitely nothing at all like Viagra!

20130303-144353.jpg

Taking them in combination with Carbamazepine is proving interesting: a slight dissociation and sudden tiredness, literally knocking me out at about seven o’clock in the evening the last couple of nights. And some serious headaches pretty constantly.

Still, I’m hoping that once I knock off the Tegretol and take only the Keppra it’ll be easier.