It’s November 30th – St. Andrew’s Day. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and kicks off the holiday shopping season in the run-up to Christmas.
It is also the first day of the Annual Haggis Hunt sponsored by the Scotsman, an Edinburgh newspaper. If you’ve never hunted haggis, here’s how it goes. The Haggis is hunting season runs from St. Andrews Day until Burns Night in January. To join the hunt, simply go to the Official Haggis Hunt Website where you will find all sorts of lore about this wee tasty beasty as well as recipes for properly preparing the rascal. You will also find a set of 10 webcams. It’s your job to check these cameras on a regular basis if you hope to espy a haggis. (This is their season for migrating, mating or something like that so the haggi – the plural of haggis – should be out in force!) If you are indeed lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of the elusive buggers, simply follow the instructions for reporting your find. Who knows – you just might win something!
A kilt is not required to hunt haggis but a flask of a certain amber liquid – to keep yourself warm, of course, and repel any lingering midgies – is highly recommended.
by Robert W. Cabell [xyz_lbx_custom_shortcode id=2]
Earlier this year, Robert W. Cabell charmed mermaid lovers everywhere with his epic story of the true Little Mermaid. While readers may have been sorry to see that story end, [intlink id=”5328″ type=”page”]All The Mermaids In The Sea[/intlink] will serve as the launch-pad for more than one series of mermaid-themed novels aimed at various age-groups and reading levels.
Mr. Cabell will be writing for the children four to 8 years old when he releases The Aquatic Adventures of Alex and Alexandria in July of 2013. A series aimed at Young Adult readers – Perl, a Modern Day Mermaid – will be launched in the Spring of 2013 with Attack Of The Atomic Vampire Lamprey Eels. Other books planned include titles such as The Mermaid King of Krakatau in the Autumn of 2013 and The Pearls Of Wisdom – Spirit of the Waves due in the Summer of 2014. Obviously, Robert Cabell is quite the prolific writer.
It is the debut of his series for nine to fifteen year old readers – The Magical Adventures of Princess Miranda – that is the focus of this review of a book released just in time for the holidays: A Mermaid Christmas. Volume One is an extension of characters and events found in All The Mermaids . . . Meranda, the Princess of the seas, is portrayed at the tender age of 100. Also returning is her mother, Helmi, the ninth Daughter of Poseidon and her husband, King Valdemar of Denmark, as well as non-divine characters such as Shifter, a Nassau Grouper. Poseidon even has a cameo role near the end of the story.
What do mermaids and the fall of Atlantis have to do with Santa and his magical flying reindeer? Everything!
As the story opens, the last war between human-kind is over and the surviving populations of elves and dwarves have removed to the more remote bits of Iceland. While it has always been a tradition of elves to make toys and sweets to be given to their children during the festival of the Winter Solstice, things are different now. Many of the youngest elves were orphaned by the war and will go without toys this year unless someone intervenes. That someone is Lord Klaus, a senior elf, who enlists the help of King Alberich of the dwarves to ensure that no young elf goes without a toy at the Winter Solstice. Their efforts are a rousing success and the two leaders enjoy themselves so much that they plan to do this every year.
It was an annual tradition of Lord Klaus and King Alberich to pay a visit to Queen Helmi and her husband at the close of to the Winter Solstice Festival and this year was no exception. It was their custom also to bring a gift to the young – by mermaid standards – Miranda and on this occasion, they brought the greatest gift of all.
. . . in honour of your first century, you shall be offered, not given – for it is not something you can hold or possess – the rarest gift of all. . . It is the gift of friendship.
This was no mere toy or trinket; This was an Aquahorn. Imagine, if you will, a rather large, transparent sea-horse with a narwhal’s horn and a mane made of gold tendrils. It is the first of its kind to be born in ten thousand years and on the same day that Queen Helmi was delivered of Miranda. Her name was Ametrine.
It goes without saying that Miranda and Ametrine become very fast friends and the remainder of the story deals with that friendship and their adventures together. The greatest adventure of them all is their excursion through time and space to the lost city of Atlantis in the hour of its ruin. Their quest is to retrieve some orichalcum – the gold of the gods – which had magical properties including giving creatures and things the ability to fly.
It is the policy of this reviewer to not include spoilers or give away the ending of a story in his reviews. If you want to know the details of A Mermaid Christmas, you’ll just have to read the book for yourself.
Robert Cabell has demonstrated through this story that he is more than capable of crafting tales for readers both young and old. A Mermaid Christmas is quite a cute story and a welcome addition to the lore that has grown up around the holiday. Perhaps one of the nicest things about this story – as well as All The Mermaids . . . is his interweaving of Greek mythology with more recent ideas about religion. In our effort to make sure that no child is left behind, the classical stories of Greece, Rome and the Norse gods have been given short shrift. It may well be that A Mermaid Christmas along with All The Mermaids . . . is the first real exposure to those tales aside from what is to be found in comic books, etc. If that is the case, then these books are a young person’s invitation to learn.
As mentioned earlier in this review, A Mermaid Christmas is written for readers in the nine to fifteen year-old range. While young people at the upper end may find that the story is better suited for readers younger than they, it is nonetheless a nice “farewell” book to read as childhood recedes in the rear-view mirror. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the story – and Mr Cabell’s style of writing – is quite read-able and of suitable content. Indeed, parents of seven and eight year-olds may wish to read this book – in installments, of course – as a bed-time story.
This reviewer highly recommends A Mermaid Christmas as a holiday treat for youngsters as well as their parents. Mr. Cabell writes with an engaging simplicity that is not insulting to age-conscious readers who count each quarter and half year on their way to the ripe old age of fourteen or fifteen. Enjoy the holidays by enjoying A Mermaid Christmas.
In the interest of full disclosure, the author was provided with a review copy of A Mermaid Christmas by the publisher, Gazebo Books. No mermaids were harmed during the review process.
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Read a sample of A Mermaid Christmas
At last, some numbers are starting to emerge from Redmond, WA. To date the only sales figures Microsoft has released were about the 4 million upgrade licences sold within the first three days after Windows 8 became available. During her talk at the Credit Suisse Annual Tech Conference held on Tuesday, the Chief Marketing & Financial Officer for Windows – Tami Reller – stated that 40 million licences for Windows 8 had been sold in the past month. By way of comparison, Microsoft sold 60 million Windows 7 licences in the two months after the launch of that OS.
Does this mean that Windows 8 is on track to out perform its immediate predecessor? A wee bit of analysis is in order here. First and foremost, computer manufacturers are not like you and me. While we as individuals may purchase one or two upgrade licences for our machines, the manufacturers buy their licences in bulk; hundreds of thousands if not millions of copies of Windows x – along with crapware and adware – which are sprayed on to desktops, laptops and now tablets as they roll off the assembly lines and are pushed out the door.
The second item to note is that tablets are the hot thing at the moment and will be for some time to come. Manufacturers who have not been able to offer a Windows-based tablet before are now adding them to their lineups and to do that, a Windows 8 licence is required. It is obvious that the anticipated tablet stampede is driving the purported sales figures. The manufacturers are banking on the hope that tablets will be a big seller over the holiday season and thereafter.
You may have noted the use of the phrase “purported sales figures” in the paragraph above. Microsoft has been known to use creative accounting to come up with sales figures for new software and operating systems. If you add this, that and the other thing together, yes the numbers will come out around 17, 40 or 60 million. What Microsoft has yet to reveal is just what exactly this, that and the other thing are. After all, a sale is a sale.
The real test will come with how many of those 40 million licences are actually implemented. In other words, the OS is used for an extended period of time and the machine is not downgraded to Windows 7. Windows tablets have no downgrade options available but many could be transmogrified as Android devices.
It is natural for companies to juggle the numbers in order to look good to investors and potential buyers of their products. Microsoft is no exception. It will be some time, however before we get a complete picture of just what 40 million really means.
One measurement of the success of an operating system is how quickly it is adopted by the user community. If adoption goes like gangbusters then it will most likely be a roaring success. On the other hand, if the pace of adoption is slower – or even glacial – then its success is doubtful and it may even be possible that the operating system is unnecessary or will only serve a certain niche market.
So how does Windows 8 fare? Is it something of a success? The answer appears to be: “Not so much”. Unfortunately, figures don’t lie and at this point, Windows 8 is looking like an “also ran”. After three weeks on the market, the share claimed by Windows 8 is an astounding 1.19 %. If this were a NASCAR race. the crew chief would pull the car off the track and take it back to the garage. Even Vista has a larger market share and Linux is not quite the underdog it was earlier.
After one week on the market, Windows 7 had a 2.15 percent share and now claims the largest slice of the pie with 45.5 %. Windows 8 does have some good points in that it runs just as fast as its predecessor, Windows 7 and is, overall, a more stable platform; it shows the blue screen of death – BSOD – much less Windows 7 or XP. For the record, Dr. Data has yet to see the BSOD on either his main machine or on the test box. But will these factors matter in the long run?
It seems that Windows 8 is crippled by the turkey of an interface that was formally known as Metro. Usability experts – the folks who scientifically prove stuff that the rest of us already know – cite the confusion occurring from Windows 8 trying to use a start screen geared to tablets and a desktop geared towards PC’s. This schizophrenia was pointed out by Dr. Data over this past summer as more and more geeks got their hands on the consumer preview of what is quickly proving to be an interface failure of epic proportions.
Windows 8 has been referred to as a “disaster of design” and a sure candidate for being “Auf’d” on Project Runway. Companies like Stardock Corporation have been turning out add-ons to bypass this or that and restore features that Redmond dumped in the interest of looking more cool and hip. As good a job as Stardock does with add-ons, they really should not be necessary. Instead of providing additional features, these tools are actually retro-fitting Windows 8 so that it will be more useable from a base state.
The central question is: “Where does Microsoft go from here?” Does it admit defeat and correct things with the first Service Pack or will Redmond try to tough it out hoping that consumers will come around? The hand-writing may well be on the wall now. The Desktop/Laptop market is shaky at the moment because tablets are the big thing. Many good tablets have either failed or own only a minuscule market share because they are simply not an iPad. There is still a good ways to go for Windows 8 though it may very well earn the dubious title as the only operating system that is loved less than Vista.
The president of Microsoft’s Windows division has already been shown the door. Whether that was a scheduled change or retribution for a looming debacle is debatable. Dr. Data is of the opinion that some design engineers in Redmond, WA may wish to dust off their resumes.
According to Wikipaedia, dogfooding, or Eating your own dog food, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company (usually, a software company) uses its own product to demonstrate the quality and capabilities of the product. What foes that have to do with Windows 8? Well, an article on ZDNet tells us just what the experience of using Windows 8 for months – day in and day out – is like.
Many of us . . . well, Some of us . . . OK, A few of us – including Dr. Data – installed Windows 8 in a Virtual Machine or on a test PC in the run-up to last month’s launch of Windows 8. At ZDNet, six columnists installed Windows 8 months ago and used it on a daily basis. So what was that like?
Well, half of them ended up preferring Windows 7 so that should give you some idea right off the bat. Some of them tweaked Windows 8 in various ways. With regard to the loss of the Start Menu, only one columnist did not miss it and three of them installed Start 8. Half of them are using the interface formerly known as Metro while the other half go straight to the traditional Windows desk top. Most likely, they are the ones who installed Stardock Corp’s Start8 add-on. The story goes on to discuss preferences for other aspects of using Windows 8.
From this, Dr. Data can deliver his own conclusion. You may remember him reporting on a survey which revealed:
- 52% of the respondents in a poll had never even heard of Windows 8
- 61% had absolutely no interest in buying a tablet, etc with Windows 8 pre-installed
- 69% did not think that Windows 8 was an improvement over previous versions
When he looks at Microsoft and Windows 8 together, Dr. Data hears in the back of his mind the singular sound of a B-17 bomber losing an engine somewhere over Germany. In other words, it’s going to be a long trip home and the crew may have to bail out over the Channel. When half of an admittedly small sampling of long-term users – and these are folks who are really into technology – are twiddling Windows 8 in order to make it work like Windows 7, that cannot be good news. Indeed, Windows 8 is starting to look like Vista Redux.
The above conclusion has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Dr. Data’s upgrade to Windows 8 was a spectacular failure and Microsoft has yet to deliver the upgrade DVD he ordered in an attempt to salvage at least some of his $39.00 investment. He is now out a total of $55.00 and he is not amused.
- Dogfooding Windows 8
- [intlink id=”5560″ type=”post”]Digest: Nov 5, 2012 – Windows 8 & The Surface RT[/intlink]
For ages, – or at least it seems that long – the pundits have loudly proclaimed that “The Desktop Is Dead”. As part of their – almost – incessant declamations, they have pointed to sales figures for laptops which have been higher but have hardly been a reason to issue a death notice for desktops. Now, all that is about to change, for in January – or thereabouts – they shalt cry: “The desktop and the laptop are dead”. The reason for the latest obituary will be the 4th quarter sales figures for tablets. For the 1st time, shipments of tablets are expected to overtake shipments of laptops.
The reasons for this surge are smaller tablets like the Nexus 7 and the iPad mini. It’s a matter of size and cost. The sweet spot seems to be around $199 for a 7″ form-factor tablet. The device becomes more affordable and portable at that point. To be sure, 10″ tablets are still going strong but 7 inches seems to be the Everyman device.
Of course, Apple does have to be a bit “different”. The iPad mini is larger than 7 inches and costs considerably more than $199 but Cupertino knows its customer base and what the traffic will bear.
One thing is certain, sales are booming no matter if it’s Apple, Google, Amazon or one of the number of other manufacturers. Fox example, Asus – which manufactures the Nexus 7 for Google – has indicated that they are selling about one million units per month and that is not anything to sneer at, folks.
At some point, market saturation will be reached and sales will therefore slow down as they did for desktops, but for now, it’s full steam ahead.
My Windows 8 upgrade is still on hold. If you’ve missed my previous posts, I tried upgrading via the download gizmo which at first said that I was good to go w/ Win 8 and the install process ended when it said that my PC was not compatible. I ordered a DVD but it has yet to arrive and we’re heading out the back-end of November.
Apparently, I’m not the only one with compatibility issues. A story on CNN’s MONEY site tells a rather sad tale of the frustrations one guy is experiencing trying to upgrade his relatively new Lenovo Z580 laptop. Read the story and you’ll see that he’s not the only one with this sort of frustration. Many of the users experiencing problems migrating to Windows 8 report that their systems have completely crashed because of the upgrade. Dr. Data has not been so unlucky but still . . .
Users report that their apps consistently crash under Windows 8 while others report that some of their essential device and software drivers aren’t compatible between Windows 7 and Windows 8. This means that parts of their system aren’t working now even though they once did under Windows 7. One can imagine that this sort of thing might happen with home-brew systems that have been cobbled together with odd parts or off-brand machines from less than well-known manufacturers. No, these complaints are coming from users with new – or almost so – PCs from mainstream manufacturers/vendors.
It seems that there are some parts of some PCs have no Windows 8 drivers available. In other cases, Microsoft did not pick up Windows 8 drivers from many of those manufacturers that did indeed make them available. If you can remember back to the dark days of Vista, the same thing happened with drivers in that situation. History is repeating itself. What can you expect of an OS that a majority of users have not heard about and are not really interested in?
I TOLD YOU SO
Back in the summer, Dr. Data opined that Microsoft was headed for a Vista-like debacle with Windows 8 and that was just due to the interface formally known as Metro. Redmond was able to recover from Vista with Windows 7. Can Microsoft survive another round of falling flat on its face? Is this a golden opportunity for Linux?
One other thing from this past summer’s posts about the rapidly approaching technological cliff called Windows 8; Dr. Data hinted that those holding shares in Microsoft might want to consider unloading them. That is more and more sounding like sage advice now.
I’ve never been particularly fond of Thanksgiving. It seems to me to be one of those “made-up” holidays contrived by Hallmark or the Turkey Council. Oh sure, it wasn’t too bad when I was a kid; you got a couple of days off from school and there was a LOT of college football on TV, but . . . I’ll let it lie with “but”. Once public school was behind me, my enthusiasm waned.
During my college years, Thanksgiving turned into a pain in the rear. Everyone was thrown out of the dorms and told to go somewhere else . . . usually home. For me, that wasn’t too bad as home was just under two hours up the road. For those students who lived hundreds of miles away – like the girl who eventually became my wife – it wasn’t quite so easy. It was a odessy. Take my wife. She had to endure a six-hour plus bus trip just to get as far as Philly. Then, there was a two-hour car ride across the state to reach her home at the Jersey shore. Once Thanksgiving Day had come and gone, it would be time to think about heading back to school. No wonder she gave Thanksgiving a miss during her college years and stayed close to Rocky Mt.
Thanksgiving is this insane American tradition where people drive – or fly – hundreds of miles to have a meal consisting of things they wouldn’t eat otherwise with folks they don’t really like. Then, they turn around and drive/fly hundreds of miles to get back home in time for Black Friday. Countless family feuds have been born on Thanksgiving and – probably – countless divorce proceedings as well.
And what do you do – besides watch Aunt Marge and Cousin Mildred bicker – for entertainment on that day? Well, the wall-to-wall college games of yore have gone elsewhere, For a while, the only game you could watch was the Detroit Lions losing to anyone and everyone. There are now a couple of Pro games on and maybe a college match-up. Friday is the day for college sports but you can’t watch them because you’re too busy standing in line at Mega-mart and making a silent vow to never speak to your cousin Ralph again. Ever! Think of all the fun you could have had raking up the leaves in your yard for the 100th time.
What about the food? Well, an occasional turkey sandwich is OK but you’ll probably be sick of it in a few weeks time because Grandma gave you all the leftovers rather than let her brother’s family have it. And let’s not forget Aunt Ethyl – no one can quite figure out just whose sister she really is – and her “famous” pumpkin/mincemeat pie that tastes vaguely like 10W-30. Uncle George swears by her cooking and then spends the latter part of the afternoon in the bathroom. Believe me, you do NOT want to go anywhere near that place afterwards for at least 6 hours.
Thank you, no. I’d much rather spend my time at home with the cats. A pie for dinner sounds lovely but the pizza joins are all closed on Thanksgiving. Maybe Chinese.
Dr. Data plans to drive 90 minutes to his ancestral home in Hopewell, VA and have a late afternoon meal with his brother. He will do all of the cooking and his brother will do the dishes.
by Elisabeth Niederhut
Cassie has been making her parents’ lives miserable. It all started when they had the sheer audacity – on her 17th birthday, no less – to announce that they were leaving Denver, Colorado and moving to some god-forsaken-town in California called Blackwater Bay. Cassie’s parents have been making her life miserable. First, there was the announcement that she’d be saying good-be to the only place she’d ever known – friends, boyfriend, the right clique at school – and moving to that . . . that . . .place, and then they’d insisted on playing this horrible music in the car by bands from THEIR generation and to make matters worse, she’d been car-sick for a good part of the trip. They weren’t even “Mom” and “Dad” any more. They were George and Sarah. Basically, Cassie was exercising her craft finely honed to perfection in High School as she pushed and climbed her way into the popular groups of popular people – of being a B-I-T-C-H.
That last bit is something that she’d kinda like to change. She’s really not that kind of person and she does have this sense of foreboding that she’ll be at the bottom of the pecking order in Blackwater Bay. What goes around comes around and not only is she now the lowest of the low but she has to suffer the attentions of the Jackson High version of herself in Denver. Life is hell and it appears that she is finally getting her comeuppance. Her teachers are either odd-balls or ignore her completely. She’s the object of much pointing and whispering, she doesn’t feel the connection she once had with her old friends in Denver – there is little doubt that both sides will drift apart, sooner rather than later – and the final blow comes when she Skype’s her boyfriend for the first time from California. He summarily dumps her in record time.
There is a bit of light in this Stygian darkness, however. Cassie has made a couple of friends at school. Nerds. The kind of people she regularly trod upon back in Denver. And there’s another thing. Cassie loves the ocean. She felt its pull the moment she laid eyes on it. Her first impulse is to go swimming and, frankly, it’s hard to keep her out of the water. Perhaps Blackwater Bay isn’t so bad after all.
Cassie’s last name is Murdock; a braw Scots name from upper Strathspey in the central highlands. If Cassie were Scottish, she’d be finding some way to work the Macpherson tartan into her wardrobe. The trouble is, Cassie’s not Scottish. She’s adopted. Orphaned at birth, she has no idea of where she came from or who she was. All she knows is that her birth mother’s name was Helen. And then, . . . well . . .there’s this other thing. Cassie is not human. She’s a mermaid; a fact that she would have never know if she’d stayed in Denver all of her life. Cassie discovered that she had a tail after swimming in the sea a few times and her reaction progressed from shock, horror, grudging acceptance to “this mermaid stuff ain’t so bad after all”. The only drawback is that discovering that you’re a mermaid is definitely not a subject for a mother-daughter talk.
Cassie’s time underwater turns up two things:
- A carved stone tablet with some sort of foreign writing on it
- Two other mermaids. She’s not quite so alone under water now.
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Read a sample of
It’s been three weeks since Windows 8 launched and we should have some numbers coming in . . . except we don’t. Microsoft has been keeping mum about just how well – or otherwise – Windows 8 has been doing. There was a press release mentioning 4 million copies sold the first weekend after the launch but “sold” does not mean “installed”. Knowing how Redmond loves – like any company – to trumpet its sales figures, that press release is more of a piccolo right now.
Perhaps this may have something to do with an article in the Wall Street Journal today which reports that in October, companies showed the most drastic cuts in growth and investments in hardware/software since 2009. Yes, it might have something to do with the apparently disappointing sales except that the number of companies expected to be early adopters of Windows 8 was fairly small. This cutback may have had some impact on the numbers but Dr. Data believes that it was pretty darn small.
A significant number of the sales for any operating systems comes from pre-installations on new PCs/Laptops and the manufacturers are clearing out the Windows 7 machines first before pushing Windows 8 machines out the door. Microsoft may find some bit of comfort there but the early numbers and analysis indicate that there will not be much change over the next month and a half.
A lot of the initial sales of any operating system comes directly from consumers; the early adopters who want to have a go at the latest and greatest as soon as possible. Dr. Data has been following a thread on the Windows BBS forum that asks the simple question: “Do you plan to move to Windows 8”. So far, the response has been a resounding “NO”. Of course, a good many of the people who use websites like this are experienced Windows users; people who use Windows a lot and might thus be somewhat less inclined to make an early move because of sheer inertia. That leaves Mr. & Mrs. Average Consumer and they don’t seem to be very interested at the moment.
Meanwhile, the Windows 8 DVD that Dr. Data ordered from Redmond has yet to turn up in the Parsonage mail-box. Not very encouraging, is it? The only bright spot is a shimmering mirage of popularity with regard to the Windows Surface RT tablet. It is the most popular Windows 8 device with an 11% share of sales. That sounds great but one must keep in mind that the Surface tablet is a so-so sized fish in a rather small pond.
All of this leaves Dr. Data to conclude that with Thanksgiving just a few days away, there’s more than one turkey gobbling out there. Linux anyone?