While reading “The Great Gatsby” one of the characters makes reference to money spent. The book is set in the jazz age of flappers and the well-heeled, say 1927 or so. Before the crash that sent many of these rich men and women tumbling from buildings. So the reference was how much a character ate after being hungry and expressed in dollars. 1927 dollars. Different than 2013 dollars. So I found a site: http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm which you can calculate the power of the dollar from one time region to another. This points out the unique trap an author can get themselves in when they pin facts down in their fictional narrative.
They updated the OS for the Nook HD and Nook HD+ a few weeks ago and boy, what a difference does it make! These devices are no longer jailed to the Barnes & Noble's experience with their nascent App Store, but instead they are open to the entire Google Play infrastructure.
I've had an on-again/off-again love affair with the Nook series of eBook readers. I started with the Simple Touch and that lasted until the devices page turning buttons started going “hard of hearing” and I stopped using the device to read books when paging through became a maybe-yes/maybe-no proposition. I upgraded to the Nook HD, which is the smaller model that they offer and the HD+ is the iPad size model. The Nook has a bunch of really great features going for it, like having a place to insert a MicroSD card so getting a device with a big amount of internal memory is really quite meaningless, the bargain-basement model is good enough as the material that eats up the most space can be easily stored on the MicroSD card.
The challenge to really loving the Nook wasn't about the device itself, the device itself is built very well, almost Apple well, it's reliable and is smartly designed. The challenge I have always had with my Nook was the eBook reader software that B&N ships with their stock Nook devices. Please do not misunderstand, the app itself is exceptionally good if you are a general user, someone unlike me who is perfectly fine with the certainly competent eBook reader app. I however was not fine with the app. It came down to being ever so slightly irritated at certain little niggling issues that while I was using the device would wear me down. It's like having a very small pebble stuck in your shoe – you can walk without a problem, you don't limp at all, but you know there is a rock in there and over a long period of time it just irritates you and makes everything just a little less “right”. This stock app lacked some features which I really wanted. The primary feature was having the ability to configure the reader to use the font I prefer to have my eBooks rendered as. I have fonts I really find easy to read, those are OpenSans from Google and Helvetica Neue from Adobe. This was the little pebble in my shoe.
Then B&N let go of their Nook devices and upgraded them all to full Android devices that could use the Google Play Store as well as the B&N App Store. That night, after downloading the update and starting my Nook HD with this brave new world running on it I discovered just how incredible my Nook HD could be, freed. I found, bought, and installed a new eBook reader called Moon+ Reader Pro. The cost of the app wasn't too bad, at $4.99, it had a free version which gave you a taste of much of it's great features and once I saw just how perfect a match this eBook reader was for me I decided that I could spend the money on the full-blown app. This one app makes my Nook HD awesome as an eBook reader, and here is why:
Custom Fonts (!) – This was exactly what I wanted all along! It turns out that Helvetica Neue has a labyrinthine licensing model so I gave up on that font but instead switched over to my other favorite, Google's OpenSans. This font is freely available and it wasn't hard at all to find it as a “TrueType Font”, aka a TTF Font version. I copied the TTF Font file to my Dropbox and used another great Nook HD/Google Play app called File Manager HD to copy the file out of my Dropbox and create a folder for it in my Nook HD's file system called “Fonts” and copy the TTF Font file there. In Moon+ it was a cakewalk to navigate to my new Fonts folder, find OpenSans and that was it. Every eBook now is rendered in OpenSans, the way I really really like it to be.
Adjustable screen brightness with a swipe and font size adjustment by swipe – This actually wasn't something I thought I would really need until I found myself using it a lot. It's quite handy to skip out on having to adjust settings when trying to find the right font size and brightness to suit your reading preferences.
BookPlay – It's a feature of Moon+ where you can play a book, it slowly (with an adjustable speed) advances the lines of an eBook smoothly while your eyes fixate at the center of the screen and you don't have to paginate at all. The book automatically, slowly, smoothly advances along like a scroll attached to an adjustable winding player. I don't really know what the feature is called, but I call it BookPlay, and it's nice when I don't want to tappa-tappa to advance eBook pages on my Nook HD. The speed of advancement can also be set to a swipe adjustment, which I find to be really quite handy and super-clever.
Many canned custom themes and theme colors – You can configure the Moon+ app to switch display themes with all the settings saved per theme or turn off everything but color changing so the theme selection system does double-duty as a screen color picker. Sometimes I like reading black text on white backgrounds. Sometimes yellow text on a textured blue background and sometimes dark blue text on a black background. Each color theme is useful for different reading conditions. It's nice to be able to set my Nook HD to it's brightest highest contrast black-on-white for reading outside or on the bus on my way to work, then to the yellow/blue one for leisurely reading at home and then the dark blue on black to read in bed without staring at what amounts to a flashlight in the shape of a tablet.
Formats? Every format! – I have a few books in the B&N Store that I “bought” because they were “Free Friday eBook deals” that I took B&N up on when the opportunity struck. For those books I will gladly go back to the B&N canned eBook reading software and that's fine for those books. In general however I prefer to obtain my eBooks in the ePub file format. To that end, I have all my ePub books loaded on my MicroSD card, so they don't take up space on my Nook HD. Moon+ has a great bookshelf organizing metaphor and installing books that are stored on my MicroSD is a cakewalk. I love having all of my eBooks available and here's something that I've always been a little grumped about when it comes to the canned B&N eBook reader app, and that is, you have to get your books from B&N to have them in the B&N “Locker” so that you can make use of the “magic bookmarks” so you can pick up your eBooks on any device and read and when you stop that new place where you stopped is synchronized across all your B&N connected Nook apps and devices. This is really quite nice, especially when you have multiple devices or one of your devices has an exhausted battery but you don't want to stop reading your eBooks. There is no way to import your own ePub files into this B&N “Locker” system so you're shit out of luck. Moon+ returns this feature and makes it more generalized, open, and way more convenient. You can set up your “magic bookmark” sync with your Dropbox account! That's the way to do it! Have individual ePub files on Dropbox or on a device and use Dropbox to store the tokens needed to make the “magic bookmark” feature work without having to rely on the closed garden that B&N provides! This is so cake and eat it too, and I love crowing about that sort of thing when I discover it.
Reading Statistics – Moon+ also watches you read as you use the app and records your reading speed, how quickly you read books, and it also includes per-chapter ETA so you know generally speaking how long you have left in the chapter you are currently reading and a per-book ETA to let you know how much longer the book will last if your reading rate is constant. If you slow down or speed up, these values change and you can display them on a very thin status bar that is always visible at the bottom of your eBook screen. This little status bar can also display your battery level in your Nook, so you know how much juice you have left before you have to plug your Nook back in and charge it up. It's wonderful, for example, while reading “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” to know that the chapter you are currently reading has only 15 minutes left in it. That is quite a nice feature.
Access to Project Gutenberg – Moon+ makes it easy to connect itself to the largest collection of publicly accessible eBooks in the world. Project Gutenberg scans public domain books, lots of classics really, into ePub format and makes them freely available online. Moon+ has a interface to Project Gutenberg so the entire archive is just a few taps away and you can download your eBook right to your Nook and start enjoying reading, without having to pay one red cent.
All in all, for $4.99 Moon+ is a steal and makes the Nook HD a wonderful eBook reader. Moon+ has single-appedly eliminated any desire I had for the iPad Mini. That Moon+ only exists in the Android marketplace (Google Play) makes this one app the central pillar that tilts the playing field in favor of B&N and Android when it comes to tablets and reading eBooks. The iBook app for the Apple infrastructure is still quite good, as much as the B&N canned eBook app is for the Nooks themselves, but Moon+ blows it's competitors out of the water.
Attending a panel from a company called iVerse about Digital Comics. Lots of talk about price points, acknowledging the 800 pound silverback in the room, Apple, and talking about digital libraries. Social networking is still the red-headed stepchild, phrases like “… Twitter, whatever.” which I find *hilarious*.
What I find really interesting is when these digital comics will become so mainstream that they feel comfortable moving forward with a Netflix model where you pay a monthly fee and can access as much as you like.
Now we’ve entered the dimly lit world of licensing versus ownership, flooding, fire, or company collapse. How can you secure your digital goods if you lose access one way or another? Thinking about this topic with some of the things I’ve experienced in my professional life you would just need a source-escrow agreement so when the company fails, the content you purchased is made available to you in an open format. This doesn’t exist now, but it could.
I’ve attended a few church services in my days, I go mostly at others requests or because it’s important to go to be kind to others – like funerals and such. Every time I go, it always appears to be a catholic service that I end up attending. As a pagan in a candy-flavored protestant shell the catholic services are hilarious. Mostly I equate catholics with aerobics. Get up, sit down, back up, back down, now kneel! kneel! kneel! Back up! Back down! Quick quick! It’s good for my joints.
I do pay attention to the sermons and to a lot of the crufty stuffings that surround these rituals. The church has a kind of fantastic structure – it’s like ossification. What at one point was very flexible has over time accumulated the calcium of dogma and habit and hardened into an almost mindless progression. It’s structured so durably to argue that if you go frequently, you probably have a church-going reflex established in your nervous system. You hear a certain turn of phrasing and bam, you’re standing upright. That sort of thing.
The sermons however still give a hint of that old flexibility. But even still, much of the sermons I hear orbit the same dull white dwarf star. They seem stuck, constantly beating on a dead horse – the dead horse of sin. It’s something that’s remarkable and fills me with uncomfortable awkward feelings. It’s a preoccupation that has been hashed so much that it’s way beyond cliché. What if the sermon wasn’t about sin but about everything else. Everything but being evil and bad and worthy of only gods punishment. How about a sermon on grace. On tolerance. On feeding a starving person because being a good person feels good. How about if we give satan, hell, sin, and judgement a vacation?
I’ve noticed this and it concerns me, but I keep my mouth shut because the last thing anyone wants when soaking in their dogma is some chatterbox asking awkward questions. There is a problem here though, and it touches on such bombastically goofy concepts like original sin. We are born corrupt and evil, sinful, right from the get-go. Infant sinners. How can anyone win? There is no win condition! There is just this dreadful plodding through life. There is no chance to lose anything because you’re doomed from the start. The catholics and the christians in general would now reflexively vomit up Jesus Christ as their big-red-mystery-button. He died to deliver us all from evil and sin and blah blah blah. I doubt the entire crucifixion story as a inaccurate batch of hokum. Yeah, he got nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be if we all just got along, but then he died – then they put him away and then he was resurrected and went off in a blaze of glory. That seems too convenient and tidy to me. It’s too neat, too tied up and packaged with the delightful brown-paper wrapper of hope. Dead as a doornail, laid out, prayed over by a handful of believers and then poof! Back to life!
Even medically that seems silly. What’s more accurate? How about if he was in shock from blood loss, maybe in a coma? To someone 2000 years ago, with the medical skills of a sea sponge someone who didn’t move and looked all pale and tragic was obviously dead. He popped back to life, it was his miracle. His last miracle in fact. So, worship this fellow who utterly failed to stay dead. Or, he recovered from shock, recovered from his coma, got up in the middle of the night, and wandered off. I bet he wandered off, claimed he was someone else, and led an entire full life and died of old age with someone he loved, and here’s something that really will freak out christians – he might just as well have had kids. Daddy Christ. Why not? What’s more plausible? That a man dies and then pops back to life and is God on Earth or rather recovers from shock and a coma, wakes up, wanders off, has more of his life story play out and dies of old age?
Now now, don’t upset the christians. They don’t like this sort of talk. What do they like? They like pain. They like doom. They like agony. Talk talk talk all about sin and death and doom and hate and God being disgusted with us and how we should be ashamed for our sentience. What a head trip. And yes, Adam eating the Apple from the Tree of Knowledge and being cast out of the Garden of Eden. If that isn’t a thinly veiled allegory for developing enough awareness to become sentient I don’t know what is. So what’s the point? Stay stupid. Stay asleep. Be ashamed of your sentience. Really, do your level best to bury the fact that you are a vital thinking knowing being and remain in your half-asleep permanent walking slumber. Eat, breed, worship, die. In the end, feel like a wretch for living your life and being told that you won’t ever be worthy – except that if you accept some stranger (yay for Jesus!) into your life, you’ve got that Golden Ticket to Willy Wonkas great chocolate factory in the sky. Talk about endless constant reinforcement. Your only hope is the fellow selling hope by the seashore, he’s Jesus, and he’s everywhere. Except you know, when you are living your life, you act like a beast because that’s what is expected of you. Be mean, brutish, hateful and spiteful. You might as well since you’re a sinner. If there is no talk about being good, no talk about maybe being honestly worthy of God’s love, no freedom from the endless oppression of original sin which is dumped on you at Chruch every Sunday, and the really warped part? You feel guilty for not going! What a knotted pair of knickers this is. You go to be reminded just how awful you truly are, and if you don’t go, you feel guilty for not going – to hear what an awful person you were born as!
Imagine what Church could be like without all this heavy baggage. No hocus pocus, no fairy tales, just a weekly reminder that we are born good, born pure, born innocent. That we should celebrate our sentience and that we should champion enlightenment and seek ascension. That we have an innate ability to transcend wretchedness and awfulness – we can be good people, we can be good to each other, we. can. be. good.
Then before you know it, if you aren’t paying too close attention to how things are unfolding you look up and see that you’ve become a buddhist, or even worse, a jain.
I think the world could use less christianity, less Jesus, less of this oppressive spiritual baggage and more of what comes naturally from within each of us. We don’t have to be awful.
We can be good.
If you were to judge your favorite book by its cover, would you still read it?
My favorite book is “What Dreams May Come” by Richard Matheson. The cover art for the book is muted and features a man standing before a doorway in the sky. The words, the art, it’s hard for me to answer this prompt because I’ve read this book and I know I love it. I think that it would engage me even if I had never read it before. It would be better to judge a book I haven’t read and then read it and see if the judgement of the cover matched the experience.
I will say that a book that I saw by the cover, which was George Nader’s Chrome did intrigue me and I judged the book by the cover, at least positively and after I read it I was rewarded with a great experience. So in that case, judging a book by it’s cover, even if it wasn’t my favorite worked out for the best.
There are book covers that, lets face it, are awful. If I had to judge the Wheel of TIme series by it’s cover art I would just yawn myself to sleep. I wouldn’t be interested in any of it because I’d think it was a time travel story told by steampunk amish. Thankfully I was exposed to the books before I got a look at the covers and found myself loving the series despite it’s rather lame cover art.
I hate that books sell by their shiny cover art and not as much by their merits. Perhaps that’s something that eBooks can address as those, like the ones gathered from Project Gutenberg lack cover art, letting the text stand on it’s own for good or ill.
I really would like Apple to come out with a iPad Mini with Retina display. I’m quite tired of this Nook HD. It’s not very user-friendly and definitely not me-friendly. I don’t want to take a hammer to the device but when I use it, I sort of do.
So I was online to a site that lets you browse various fan-written fiction stories and they have a feature where you can download epub files, so I did so and saved it to my Dropbox. Then I went into Dropbox app on my Nook HD and went to go look for it. The Wifi on the Nook HD is a flaky pile of junk so that took way longer than it should have. Once I found the file I wanted I downloaded it to my Nook because the only other way to get it in there is to pop the MicroSD card, root around for a universal adapter and then put it in that way. That’s annoying, I’d much rather just be able to tap and download, like I would with an iPad Mini.
I downloaded it from my Dropbox and it ended up somewhere in my Nook’s own storage, which I hate to use, I much prefer my MicroSD plugged into the Nook instead, but there is no way to tell it where you want it to store the files. So I had to find another app called OpenExplorer which has an awful interface but lets you move files around the Nook.
Then the Nook library was confused about where I put that file. Every time I went to go look for it and tap on what it found, I’d be sent to the Wifi activation screen, where I would turn it on (why?) and then nothing. Nothing more than that. When I went back to the search and tapped on my file, it told me “File is not present.” and that was that.
I’ve never been happy with the Nook HD user interface. I bought it because it was cheap and supported Barnes & Nobles but really I think I would have been better off getting an iPad Mini. I regret this Nook HD. It could be so much better if only the B&N User Interface wasn’t so fascist. That’s what it really is. B&N doesn’t trust anyone with anything so they make it impossible to use beyond the B&N Book Experience. I don’t want all my ebooks at B&N, I’ve got thousands of ePub files all on my own – could I upload them and locker them at B&N? Of course not. That’s what the MicroSD card is for. So what value does the B&N store have for me? Little.
So is there any way I could get ePubs from Project Guternberg? Nope. I have to find some other way to get them, like on my iPad and then use Dropbox and OpenExplorer to… it’s way too much work. I’m tired even thinking about it.
So, if and when Apple decides to sell a iPad Mini Retina I’ll put all my Nook stuff on eBay and save up for the iPad Mini Retina. At least iOS respects me and I don’t feel like a criminal trying to cajole Android to give an inch.
I still don’t know why people think Android is any good. Wretched system.
“What role does music play in your life?”
There is two kinds of music for me. The first kind is filler music. The clever hooks and poppy nothingness that I play all the time on my Spotify account while I’m at work. I keep it low and quiet and it helps to pass the time. The music is good, just because it’s meaningless doesn’t mean it’s not pleasant. It would do a disservice to declare who and what is “poppy nothingness” so I just won’t. If you think your art is deep and moving and transcendental then so do I. Whatever floats your boat. But…
There is another kind of music. The fundamental delight that it brings is beyond description. You just have to sit back and let it wash over you, changing you, as the tingles rage along your body when you hear the music that changes your life. I don’t know what thematic musical styles do it for me, but I know it when I feel it. If I’m listening to music and I feel that tingle – it doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does it’s unmistakable, then I know. I place all of this sort of music into a special playlist on Spotify and when I want to be agape with musical wonder I double-click on the playlist and shuffle. It doesn’t matter what track comes up first, they all do it for me, each and every time they play.
I used to think of music as the frilly doilies of life. Easily ignored and really compelling for doily collectors, for which I am not one. But over time, and since I discovered that some music brings the tingle, some music is more than others. I would say, much like books, going fishing for good music can lead you some truly excellent catches.
“This week’s Mind the Gap: How do you prefer to read, with an eReader like a Kindle or Nook, or with an old school paperback in hand?”
Ever since I laid my hands on my first tablet, which was my first generation iPad from Apple I’ve been a fan of digital reading. I’ve moved on as my preferences shifted. The iPad is still a great platform for comic books but not really so much for long-form reading of eBooks. I used to use a Nook Simple Touch but the side buttons started to fail and it lacked the backlight that I like to have at night when I read so I don’t have to upset Scott with stray lights so I can read. I’ve since switched to a Nook HD, using the money I got as a gift last Christmas. I have to admit that the Nook HD is a wonderful device for reading. I don’t really use the Nook service from B&N because I have all the books I want to read as not-online ePub files, and B&N doesn’t let you put your own files in their system so I load everything into the MicroSD card and then open the books from that memory device instead, all on the Nook HD. The key for me is the weight. The iPad is just too heavy to keep a hold of for an extended period of time. I thought I would be up for the iPad Mini, but my original idea that I could be fine using my iPad 3 with its Retina display and be okay with an iPad Mini which doesn’t have Retina turned out to be the stumbling block for me. The Nook HD has a Retina-like display and is only a few percent heavier than the iPad Mini.
I recently had a bit of irritation about books. I wanted to read “A Memory Of Light” by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson and TOR only released the book as a hardcover. I understand why they did that, but I didn’t like it. I want to read books on my Nook HD and I don’t appreciate being meaninglessly inconvenienced just to satisfy the publishers designs. So I just dealt with it and hauled around the giant block of wood until I was done reading it. I do not like big books like that, they are heavy, bulky, and their bindings always take a beating when I’m reading and I just don’t know why. I’m not mean to books, but almost invariably they will become frayed or damaged. None of that happens on my Nook HD. I can carry it easily anywhere I like, it keeps my place, I can use highlighting and set bookmarks and I don’t have to haul around a heavy chunk of wood to do it. I think what upsets me most about the last Wheel Of Time book is that it was such a meaningless bit of inconvenience. That book started out being on a word processor. It started life as a digital file, then it was printed and bound and sold. So, the wood came out first, but in reality they could have if they really wanted to just dress the file that went to the printer up as an ePub and sold that instead. But no, they insisted that the wood beat the eBook. I don’t think the eBook will even go on sale until April, while the wood has been out since January. It pays honor and respect to wood, but irritates the consumer. I vowed that after Wheel of Time I wouldn’t read another book that wasn’t available as an eBook edition. I don’t need pictures or any of the surrounding miscellany, just give me the text. I’ll set my own font and font size and margins and page backgrounds.
So, onwards and upwards with eBooks. It shouldn’t really concern B&N, as I do enjoy reading my Nook HD there and it’s at my local B&N where I would go to talk to people who know books about books. The only thing I wouldn’t do is buy wood from them any longer. I would still buy books though. eBooks. Sometimes people mention that libraries can do eBooks, but that’s a joke. Sure, a library might have eBook editions available for lending, but they only have two “files” to lend out and a waiting list that is months if not years long. So, for the libraries I can wait until they get around to making sense. eBook editions for lending might as well be infinite, it’s not like the files themselves take any actual resources at all – just organized electrons is all. So, much like books themselves, at first they are valuable and rare, but over time the eBook editions will be just as common as their woody counterparts and lending them out through libraries will end up being just as plentiful and easy. Or at least so we can hope. In the meantime I can buy what I want and have the benefit of not having to haul around a big heavy chunk of wood.
“A genie has granted your wish to build your perfect space for reading and writing. What’s it like?”
I’ve got the room, which is the library in the house I currently own. Right now this room is a makeshift guest bedroom with a library that has accumulated along the walls. There is a great design for a modular stackable bookshelf that really intrigues me and I imagine the library would feature this along the walls, improving on the current cheap particle-board bookcases that we currently use. I would also build these into the built-in closet in this room and take the doors off of it. In the center I would place an overstuffed leather chair with an ottoman for the legrests and behind it a floor lamp with multiple lights attached to a central body, much like this lamp. If the room was just a little bit larger I would also like a old-fashioned secretary desk to do writing and composition. I’ve written before about my affection for mixing up the traditional and the technological.
Truth to be told, if I got my hands on a Genie I’d likely not ask for these things, but instead relief from debt.