Monthly Archives: November 2012

If you came here looking for a TechnoRant©, you’ll have to come back tomorrow. Today’s post is about books and authors and freebies.

  • Gazebo Books – publishers of Robert W. Cabell’s All The Mermaids In The Sea – has graciously offered me 12 copies as well as 12 copies of A Mermaid Christmas – The Magical Adventures of Princess Miranda, Volume One to be used as give-aways. So, in co-operation with some fellow fans, we will be running “The 12 Mer-days of Christmas” on both The Merblog and on Goodreads.com. We’ll be giving away one copy of Mr. Cabell’s books each day. As of this moment, we’re planning to start the give-away on the Merblog  on December 1st and the one for Goodreads.com within a few days after December 1st.
  • Robert W. Cabell is not going to be alone in these give-aways; Emm Cole – author of Merminia – will be giving away a copy of her book on The Merblog . . . AND . . . I will be giving away a copy of Merminia here on The Parsons’ Rant as well. Fans of scales and tails are going to have a very Mer-ry Chistmas!
  • Marcus Rowe – author of Mermaid Memoirs – will be joining us for a 20 Questions interview in the next few weeks. Mr. Rowe is releasing a sequel this month.
  • Whilst we are on the subject of new releases, Robert W. Cabell is a very productive writer. His All The Mermaids In The Seawill serve as the foundation for three different series based on characters from the book:
    • The Magical Adventures of Princess Miranda Series will lunch this month with “A Mermaid Christmas” and is geared towards 9 years to 15 year olds.
    • The “Pearl a Modern Day Mermaid” series  will launch in May, 2012 and has a target audience of 12 to 18 year-olds.
    • The Aquatic Adventures of Alex and Alexandria – (the twins born at the end of “All The Mermaids”) – will come out in July and is for ages 4 to 8.
    • The Mermaid King of Krakatau will be released next Fall and “The Pearls Of Wisdom – Spirit of the Waves” will be released in summer of 2014.
  • Finally, Mr. Cabell will be joining us for a 20 Questions interview in the coming weeks.

There are some other books in the works but I’m going to save those for later. Stay tuned for details of the give-aways!

I’m having another go at learning Visual Basic not that I’ve had any problems with it in the past. It’s just that every time I get ready to try my hand, my employer has said “Never Mind” and everything on the subject that I’ve managed to stuff into my wee sma’ brain escapes. My current part-time gig uses VB & ASP.NET extensively so I’ve signed up for a course and am getting ready to do it one more time.

Anyway, I’m reading a book called Learning Visual Basic . NET and I can tell that the author is somewhat younger than I am. I found the following footnote:

Remember, the Y2K problem was caused by programmers who couldn’t imagine needing to reference a year later than 1999.

A fine example of youth and inexperience that is. The Y2K problem really began in the early days of computing when memory was tight. The machine I worked on after graduating from Wesleyan had only 16 K of memory. There was a mainframe on site that had an incredible 256 K of memory! In the early days of computing, machines had a very limited amount of memory so the coding for an application had to be tight and every byte of storage had to be conserved. Why waste a byte for “1984” when “84” would work just as well. The Y2K mess was due to the fact that there was no remediation of data and applications when hardware began sporting larger amounts of memory, well before the turn of the century.

I saw the problem coming back in 1981. The general assumption was that these older applications would be superseded with ones using more modern programming techniques as time went by and thus the problem would simply go away. Trouble is, it didn’t. While it became standard to use “1984” instead of  “84” in an application, a lot of the old data – and the systems that depended on it was still using the old method for designating a year. Add to that the fact that significant amounts of code were still in use a quarter century after it was first written and you have Y2K. Q.E.D.

The year 2000 dawned and there was – overall – very little disruption due to the world’s odometer ticking over. There followed a hue and cry from the general public that the whole Y2K problem had been overblown and was essentially a case of crying “Wolf”. Rest assured that the problem and threat was very real. Things went smoothly because a bunch of software engineers – including yours truly – spent a lot of time remediating both code and data to ensure that disruptions would be kept to a bare minimum.

And now you know the rest of the story.

by Mayda Schaefer

Awaiting Destiny is a cute story whose target audience appears to be ‘Tweens but also provides a fun read for YA’s who need a respite from the day-to-day effort of appearing to be “grown up”. For those readers who are – ahem! – somewhat older than the target audience, Awaiting Destiny can serve as a brief but very pleasant vacation from being an adult.

Destiny Mariner is a thirteen-year-old girl living with her father, Jacob Mariner, aboard his double-masted sailboat, Seadancer, in the Enchanted Cove Marina. Dad owns the marina in addition to working as a boat mechanic and her mother, Shelleen,  . . . well . . . she has been MIA for all of Destiny’s life. One could say that she vanished under mysterious circumstances but her father has no idea about any circumstances at all. All he does know is that newly born Destiny was delivered to the deck of the Seadancer shortly after Shelleen disappeared.

Destiny has grown over the preceding 13 year into a true tomboy. She constantly wears her lucky baseball cap, constantly avoids wearing dresses and the only diamond she wants to see has to do with America’s pass-time. Her favourite foods leave something to be desired – at least to human tastes – as her favourite treat seems to be sardines and ice-cream . . . eaten together.

If the reader has not guessed by now, Destiny’s choice of 2 cans of tuna with a side of diced clams for breakfast has much to do with her mother Shelleen – that’s Princess Shelleen to you – being a mermaid. The story opens with a Mermail-man delivering a package to Destiny in the wee small hours of the night. Destiny doesn’t see the package until after her father has left for a week-long business trip leaving her in charge of the boat. She is thirteen years old after all. The package contains a necklace and a note which instructs her to instructs her to proceed posthaste to Longitude 49; Latitude 129 with the utmost secrecy in order to learn the truth about her mother.

The chance to learn something  – anything – about her mother causes Destiny to throw caution to the winds and get underway in the boat’s dingy. While she is a conscientious sailor and dutifully goes through the pre-departure checklist, she forgets to check the weather advisory and leaves her life jacket on the deck of the Seadancer. The wind kicks up, the seas get rough, the dingy is torn to flinders and Destiny promptly drowns. Well . . . not really; it’s hard to drown a mermaid and Destiny awakes well below the surface, able to breathe salt water and trapped in the remains of the dingy. She is freed from this predicament by a passing merboy named Kincade who informs her that she is not only a mermaid but a princess as well. There is only one problem. Destiny can’t seem to get her mermaid mojo working well enough to swap her legs for a proper tail. (Don’t you just hate it when that happens?)

Kincade hails a manta ray – the only way to travel – and both the merboy and the not-so-much mermaid are off to see the wizard. In this case however, the Emerald City is named Mertopia and the wizard is actually her grandfather, the king.

Awaiting Destiny is one of those stories that is just plain fun. This reviewer always gets a kick out of learning what mer-analogues to life on the surface that the author has created. There are analogues a-plenty in this story but this reviewer is not going to spoil things by revealing what they are. He’s also not going spoil things by revealing the ending. All he will reveal is that the final scenes in Awaiting Destiny are quite touching.

Ms Schaefer has done a wonderful job of world-building in this story and it is a well written story at that. There are only two glaring errors that this reviewer feels he must point out:

  1. There is no such thing as longitude 129. Longitude is denoted as anything from +90 to -90 degrees.
  2. She refers to the flowing fin portion of a mer-tail as flutes when the proper term is flukes. (This reviewer is going to put his BS in Biology to some use after all!)

Don’t let these very minor slip-ups put you off. It is well worth your time to read Awaiting Destiny and Ms Schaefer’s skills as a story-teller are quite good. In fine, it is a fun and funny novel suitable for just about everyone. While the story arc of Awaiting Destiny lends itself to a stand-alone novel, there is plenty of room for one or two sequels and this reviewer hopes that Ms Schaffer will give this prospect due consideration.

My Rating:

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Kindle

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Read a sample of Awaiting Destiny

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You may – or may not – remember my announcement earlier this year that I planned to be an “early adopter” of Windows 8 – at least as far as my test machine goes. I finally found a bit of time two weeks ago, fired up the # 2 PC and set about upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8.

The first thing that happens when you arrive at the Windows 8 Upgrade Site is that Microsoft downloads a widget to check your system for compatibility issues:

  • Do you even have Windows 7 to begin with
  • Is your machine capable of running Windows 8
  • Do you have any software applications on your machine that won’t work with the new OS

That bit of folderol seemed to take forever took forever but the widget finally announced that my machine was good to go. I handed over my credit card information and initiated the download of the upgrade package. Once that was done, the widget started work on the upgrade itself. Now here’s where the fun begins.

The upgrade widget told me that to continue the process, my PC would have to reboot. Nothing unusual about that request so I let the widget have its way with my machine. Following the reboot, the widget announced that it was resuming the upgrade. So far, so good. After a bit of thumb-twiddling on my part, the widget suddenly announced that my test PC was incapable of running Windows 8 and went to EOJ. Did the widget change its mind somewhere along the way?

Rebooting my PC did not result in the widget restarting the upgrade. To do that, I had to go back to square one where I downloaded the widget in the first place. Once again, it told me that my PC was good to go and then asked for my credit card information . . . again. Obviously, I was not going to pay twice to upgrade the same copy of Windows 7 so I fished around in the downloads folder and found the ISO image for the upgrade. I burned the ISO on to a DVD and tried to restart the upgrade process. I was duly informed that I was trying to upgrade a 32-bit system with a 64-bit upgrade DVD and that I should use the 32-bit DVD instead. Trouble is, there is no 32-bit DVD!

After stewing over this for a week and checking with WindowsBBS.com – a great resource, by the way – I was advised to buy a copy of the Upgrade DVD from Microsoft and use that to run the upgrade; exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place. At this point, my upgrade to Windows 8 – all done purely in the interest of science – is now costing me $56.00.

Microsoft has informed me that the DVD is on its way to me. I’ll keep you apprised of future developments in this saga.

by Christine DePetrillo, Heather Rigney, Rachel E. Moniz, and Joseph Mazzenga

There’s an old saying – actually, there are a lot of old sayings – that goes “Good Things Come in Twos”. In the case of Dive: A Quartet of Merfolk Tales, the saying should be revised to read “Good Things Come in Fours”. Each of these tales is suitable for older YA’s as well as adults in search of an enjoyable read on the topic of Merfolk.

Christene DePetrillo leads off the quartet with DEEPER, a merman meets girl kind of story. Crystal Bawle – yes, that’s her real name – is a thity-year-old insomniac; she can’t seem to get a decent night’s sleep no matter what she tries. And, she seems to have tried just about everything: medication, meditation, exercise. Nothing works. And it’s all because of the same dream that has continued to play every night, like an obnoxious commercial, since she became a teenager. It’s a dream of being out in the ocean, surrounded by water, subsequently struck by lightning and then pulled down into the watery depths.

Crystal is working the front desk at the Breezes Resort in Bermuda, trying to stay awake, begging for sleep – real honest-to-goodness sleep. The resort is hosting a Marine Wellness Conference – no, it has nothing to do with health-care for Leather Necks – and one of the speakers arrives to check-in. Usually,  guests – male guests, anyway – are attracted to her perky partner,  Rionne, but Dr. Ray Taimen seems to be more interested in Crystal and she certainly finds him to be quite attractive. It’s only natural; he’s a merman from an undersea kingdom who has been out of water a bit too long.

Whilst we are on the subject of mermen, Rachel Moniz entertains the reader with UNFATHOMABLE, another tale where merman meets girl and in this instance, they subsequently rescue each other.  Theresa and her boyfriend, Daniel, are out on his powerboat for a day’s excursion off of Jamestown, Rhode Island. Daniel is drunk – again – and in his enthusiasm to race a guy on a jet-ski, Theresa’s on-again/off-again boyfriend  fails to see the tip of the rocks that lay just below the surface. The result is a shattered boat, a drowned Daniel  and Theresa left clinging to the shattered remains of the boat.

Her prospects aren’t looking very good at the moment. The Cost Guard choppers have repeatedly overlooked her, it’s dark now and the symptoms of hypothermia are starting to appear. Something brushes up against her legs in the water and Theresa is sure that it’s time to roll the credits as she becomes dinner for a Great White shark. The funny thing is that sharks don’t have hands and that’s what she feels moving up her legs. OK, it’s not a shark but it does look like hypothermia is going to take her first and it’s still time to roll the credits.

Whilst we are on the subject of sharks, Joseph Mazzenga surprises the reader with BLOODY DEPTHS. Maren and her partner Teddy are oceanographers tagging sharks in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa on a twenty-foot skiff. Maren loves what she’s doing but chumming the waters on this day brings a different kind of shark – Pirates. These are not the  Captain Hook/Jack Sparrow type; they are the modern version that have infested the waters east of Africa in recent years. The predators dispose of Teddy straight away and with Seal Team 6 nowhere in sight, Maren is thrown overboard.

A common plot-line in mer-fiction is for the central character – usually female – to be rescued by merfolk and subsequently become like her saviors and take up residence beneath the waves. That is exactly what happens here with a radically different twist. Maren does not become the typical scales-below-the waist kind of mermaid and neither are those who rescue her. To reveal any more in this review would spoil the surprise.

These three stories are all good in their own way but this reviewer has saved the best for last. Heather Rigney – who also did the cover-art for this collection – serves up a spine-tingling thriller in MERMAIDS ARE NOT NICE. This is not a story about your typical perky blond mermaid going bad; the mermaid is bad to begin with and not particularly attractive, either. In Pawtuxtet Rhode Island, Evie McFagen is a mom with a drinking problem as well as the local funeral director. Even though she and her husband live above the funeral home, this is not a New England version of Six Feet Under. Instead of a redhead, Evie is a short, overweight dishwater blonde with a pronounced shortage of friends.

Evie tries to do at least one thing right by taking her eighteen-month-old daughter , Savannah, to the playground where she can play with rocks and mulch while mommy observes the other mothers – the ones who look down their collective noses at her. Watching who comes through the gate is a popular pass-time and if it’s male and reasonably good-looking, the other mothers will throw themselves in to something of a feeding frenzy. On this particular day, it is a woman with long brown hair, gray eyes and the build of a super model. In other words, she is everything the other mothers are not. There’ something not quite right about her; something that’s down right creepy like the heavy fog that rolls in after her. Things will get even creepier as the story progresses.

If the reader is looking for a reason to buy Dive, this reviewer has to say that MERMAIDS ARE NOT NICE is the best reason of all. Ms Rigney does an excellent job of setting the scene for this story that can only be called a thriller in the best sense of the word. This does not mean that the other authors are less able than she; each one tells their story in an engaging way with few – if any – flaws. However, Heather Rigney knocks the ball out of the park with her contribution and leaves this reviewer grasping for authors and styles to compare her with. Edgar Allan Poe is the only one that comes to mind. If she continues to bring her “A-Game” to future efforts, Heather has a promising literary future in front of her.

So, if you’re a fan of Mer-stories and you enjoy good writing – and there is plenty of that from each of the contributors – then make sure that you dive into Dive.

My Rating:

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Paperback Kindle

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Read a sample of DIVE; A Quatrtet of Merfolk Tales

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At Long Last!

On our first trip to Scotland, my wife & I wound up w/ a LOT of time to spare at Glasgow’s Queen Street Station. Since we had not slept a wink on the flight over, we were seriously looking for ways to keep our eyes open. Judi wandered into the W.H. Smith newsstand and came out with a copy of that day’s edition of The Scotsman and a detective novel. Judi had never heard of the author but it looked good so she bought it. The novel was Black and Blue by Ian Rankin and it was good! So good that we wound up taking turns reading it during our stay in the highlands. I had discovered that I was allergic to Heather – probably the reason my ancestors emigrated – reading that book made things a bit more bearable.

Thus began a 12 year love affair with Ian Rankin’s detective fiction and Detective Inspector John Rebus. We went as far as to order copies of his works from Amazon.co.uk so we could read them in the original and not have to deal with the Americanised versions sold on this side of the pond. (Bloody Yankers!) That’s not all, either; we have two marvelous moggies named “Rebus” and “Rankin”. This factoid has been communicated to Ian Rankin by a member of Edinburgh’s Really Terrible Orchestra but no indication has yet been received as to how Mr. Rankin felt about this singular honour.

Although Ian Rankin has written other detective/crime novels with other central characters, the “Rebus Series” ended with D.I. Rebus’ retirement in the 2007 novel, Exit Music. Needless to say, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter of discontent since John Rebus was put out to pasture. Ian Rankin had said on several occasions that he wasn’t through with D.I. Rebus and that Rebus wasn’t through with him. Five years have come and gone since Exit Music and Judi & I had come to think that John Rebus had finally consumed too many drams at the Oxford Bar.

We have since discovered that this is not the case. Ian Rankin’s occasional newsletter announced this morning that Standing In Another Man’s Grave – a.k.a. Rebus Returns – is scheduled for release in a few days. (And there was much rejoicing!) Dr. Data now has one of Lady Judith’s Christmas gifts sorted and he assures you that Standing In Another Man’s Grave will be reviewed here on The Parsons’ Rant. When that happens is another matter as Lady Judith will hold on to the book with a death grip!

Well, it’s Monday again. No matter how hard we try, this things seems to come around about this time every week. So, to start your week, here are a few items of note for those interested in technology:

  • Windows 8 Ho-Hum –The holiday shopping season – which seems to have already kicked off, may change things but a survey conducted by the Associated Press and GfK revealed the following:
    • 52% of  the 1,200 US Adults polled in this survey have never heard of Windows 8
    • Adding insult to injury, 61% had no interest in buying a desktop/laptop with Windows 8
    • And for a coup de grace, only 35% thought that Windows 8 was an improvement over Windows 7
    • It was probably a substantial portion of that 35% who comprised  the 31% of respondents who were actually interested in Microsoft’s Surface tablet.
    • Read the full story on the PC Magazine website.
  • No Help From the Business Sector –While Windows in the workplace has been a mainstay of Microsoft’s revenue stream, it looks like organisations will be slow to hop on the Windows 8 bandwagon. In October, TechRepublic  asked its members to talk about their organisation’s deployment plans. This was a voluntary survey drawn from a pool of people who frequent a particular website so the results are most likely skewed to some degree. Nonetheless, the responses were eye-opening:
    • 49.9 % of organisations have no plans in place to deploy Windows 8 but may do so at some future date.
    • 23.8 % plan to skip Windows 8 entirely
    • 11 % will deploy Windows 8 but have not set a target date
    • 10.7 % plan to deploy Windows 8 sometime in the next 12 months
    • 4.6 % are waiting until Service Pack 1 to deploy Windows 8
    • Hardly a stampede to adopt Windows 8 early on. Read TechRepublic’s complete article.
  • Some Hope for Surface – Opra Winfrey likes the Surface RT tablet saying that it feels like a Mercedes-Benz to her. It is worth noting that Opra gushed over the iPad in 2010 by saying “Words cannot describe what I feel for this magnificent device . . .” Opra – who has her own network, BTW – has added the Surface to her list of favourite things that will be featured in a 2-hour TV special scheduled on for Nov. 18th at 8:00 PM. There is no record of how Opra felt about the Microsoft Zune. Read PC Magazine’s full story on Opra’s endorsement.

That’s it for this morning. Have a good day!

Before you think that I’ve lost my mind, allow me to explain.

This is the first day of the Celtic year and yesterday was the Celtic version of New Year’s Eve. The ancient Celts believed that at the close of the year, all the spirits of the departed would try to return to their mortal homes. Obviously, this could rather unsettling. It was bad enough that the deceased had departed this mortal life; but to have them come back?

In anticipation of these unwelcome visitors, the Celts would disguise themselves so uncle Angus or cousin Fiona would not be able to recognise their mortal relatives. The Celts would also try to frighten these unwelcome spirits away by doing things like carving a face into a turnip, hollowing it out and placing a lit candle inside. The sight of this glowing, menacing turnip was a sure-fire way to send uncle Angus and/or cousin Fiona packing.

When the Christians arrived on the scene, they co-opted the Celtic New Year’s day and renamed it “All Saints” or “All Hallows” Day. The day before was called “All Hallows Eve” or as it’s known today, “Halloween”. The scariness remained but the disguises became costumes and the carved turnips turned in to jack-o-lanterns. It became a day when the bairns – wee and not so wee – would don costumes and go from house to house where the owners would bribe these fearsome apparitions with candy so they would go away  and not play wicked tricks like haunting or turning  their privy over on its side.

And now you know the rest of the story. In the UK, there is some amount of grousing that Halloween and trick-or-treating is an unwelcome American import. This is rather unfair since it was their ancestors who started the whole thing in the first place.

Last night, we had four kids turn up st the front door of The Parsonage. This was cause for celebration as we have not had a single one for several years. As is his custom, Dr. Data wore his kilt and a good time was had by all.

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Dr. Data has PAD - Pipe Acquisition Disorder

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