Monthly Archives: January 2013

I am on the horns of a dilemma. My Dell Studio XPS  machine – which will be 4 years old in May – is suffering from applications not playing well with the Operating System. Some of this is the result of installing and un-installing a multitude of applications over the past few years and a contributing factor is having forgotten applications still hanging around long after I stopped using them. That is, of course, if I ever did use them in the first place. Even the best PC clean-up utility available will still fail to get everything. Believe me, I’ve tried a number of them over the years.

[stextbox id=”Information” float=”true” align=”right” width=”300″ mright=”10″]Nuking is a technical term used by trained professionals to describe the process of wiping the hard disk and re-installing the Operating System.[/stextbox]A PC which has been around a while can definitely benefit from nuking the system and starting over.  One of the advantages of doing this  is that you have the opportunity to inventory your software applications, determine which ones you don’t like/need/want and vow not to re-install them on the pristine copy of the OS you’ll have after you’re through. This, of course, gives you the freedom to install new software applications that  you don’t like/need/want.

I am on the cusp of wiping the slate clean and starting over and my dilemma is that of deciding which OS to install once the hard drive has been sanitised. I have my choice of installing:

  1. Windows 7 – I currently use this OS
  2. Windows 8 – I’ve got this on my test machine and have found it not to be quite as bad as anticipated
  3. Linux – I have Ubuntu dual-booting on my test machine and Mint running as a virtual machine on the Dell Studio XPS

So which one should it be? On one hand, Win7 works for me. On the other hand, I hate to get Win 7 all set-up, configured & applications  installed only to have to do it all over again in 12 to 18 months time because of Win 8.

I could just go ahead & install Win 8 since there are work-arounds for most of the major interface complaints but there are still a few “why in the hell did they do that?” items – like scroll bars -that I am somewhat loathe do deal with on a daily basis. Hopefully, someone will cobble a work-around for those.

[stextbox id=”Information” float=”true” align=”right” width=”300″ mright=”10″]Dr. Data tried this approach on his test machine and – after hours of trying to make things work the way that they ought to – wound up Nuking the system and starting from scratch.[/stextbox]Before you say “Why not save time and trouble by upgrading Win 7 to Win8 and thus avoid having to re-install the world?”, I should mention that such an upgrade also migrates the bad settings, misconfigured applications and other gunk  from Win 7 to Win 8, often with less than desirable results. So much for the ease of migration between Windows Operating Systems.

[stextbox id=”Information” float=”true” width=”150″]WINE stands for “WINE Is Not an Emulator”. [/stextbox]Finally, I could do exactly what I’ve wanted to do for many moons and make the move to Linux. The problem is that I’ve got plenty of $$$ invested in Windows applications for which there is not a Linux version. Even when there is a version of, say,  XYZ available for Linux, I would most likely have to buy the Linux version as if I was buying the software for the very first time. Linux does have WINES which allows one to run things like MS Outlook in an X environment but it does not get along well with the Windows software. It’s dollars to doughnuts that Dr. Data has a bunch of applications that fit into this category.

Where will all this end up? It’s hard to say right now but sooner or later, Win 7 on the Studio XPS is going to get to the point where Dr. Data’s hand will be forced in one direction or another.

On January 26th, my brother invited me to attend a Burns Night  celebration in Winchester, VA. Jim is a classmate – Hopewell High School, 1976 – of one of the many people involved with putting on this event and he figured that this would make an ideal birthday present for his aging, decrepit bother. It has been over 4 years since I attended/participated in one of these things so I was game from the get-go.

The photos in the album below were taken with my iPhone 4S. I didn’t want the hassle of lugging my SLR or even my Sony pocket-sized camera -my sporran is only so big – so I thought I’d give the iPhone a go. I have seen some brilliant work done off an iPhone but it does require a steady hand and the decided tendency of the photograph’s subjects  to remain stationary. This was somewhat difficult for Dr. Data as he had 3 drams of The Balvenie 12-year old in him so the results were somewhat less than spectacular.

I decided to post this 12 photo album to get a feel for the WordPress plug-in that runs the show so sit back and enjoy.

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Today is the day I’ve been dreading for 3 or 4 weeks; today I have to give two weeks notice to my present employer that I’m leaving to accept another job. For those of you – which is probably most of you – who do not know, I’ve been employed for the past 3 months as a part-time programmer. I’s been 2 or 3 days a week at a bit above minimum wage; not enough to make a living off of it but enough to pay one or two nagging bills. In exchange, I’ve had the opportunity to write code – my first love – again.

I’ve been offered a position at UVA for the next 10 months as a contractor. There is some possibility that the contract will be extended but I am not going to hold my breath. This is, however, an opportunity to whittle down the debt that builds up when you’ve been out of work for three of the past four years.

The sweet sorrow comes from the fact that I’ve enjoyed working for this small firm. The business runs on a shoe-string and there is no guarantee that this part-time position will still be there 5 months from now. All the same, this position came along when I really needed some work and the people there have been good to me. All things considered, I’m going to miss them.

Today was my annual eye exam and I am still recovering from the part I hate most: dilation. Over all, very little change in my prescription and no sign of any of the eye problems that afflict older folks & diabetics. (Huzzah!) Just the same old near-sightedness and astigmatism.

Since I spend a hell-of-a-lot of time in front of a PC monitor, the eye doctor suggested that I get a pair of glasses that have the prescription adjusted for this kind of work. It sounded like a good idea to me and so I started the paperwork to get a new pair of glasses. The hardest part is, as always, choosing the frames. I’ve had wire-rim frames since I graduated from college so I decided to get horn-rimmed frames so I could easily tell them apart. After wading through all the possibilities, I settled on two different frames.

One is a tortoise-shell with thicker arms. The inside of the arms & rims are this funky shade of sea-green. The price is quite reasonable and I won’t have to sell one of the moggies to afford a new pair of glasses.

The other is a black plastic rim with more narrow arms. These frames are a fair bit lighter in weight than the the first ones. The price is . . . well . . . an arm and a leg and it looks like both of the cats will have to go on the auction block.

Guess which set of frames I like!

So, here for your enjoyment are pictures of me in both sets. The ones I like are on the right.

The ones I like

The funky ones.

The funky ones.

The ones I like.

Beyond the Sea

Beyond the Sea

 by Emily Goodwin

No doubt, it has become a maxim amongst those who follow my reviews of Mer-fiction that if I write a review, I am going to naturally say that it’s a great book. In reality, I only write reviews for books that I believe are really good/great/fantastic. Therefore, in the lines below, is my review of a Young Adult bit of Mer-fiction that I found to be really good and enjoyed immensely. As an added bonus, there is the cover art at the left. It is one of the very few depictions of a mermaid – or merman – perched on a rock that is reasonably close enough to the water’s surface that the mer-person can climb on to it without much of a struggle. Think of it; the usual illustration of  a mermaid – or merman – depicts them ensconced upon a rock that is at least five or six feet above the water. While this may be done to simply show off the artist’s lovely depiction of a mer-tail, the whole scene beggars belief. Since the mer-person is “en-tailed”, just how do they get up there? Levitate?

But enough talk about art; let’s talk about the story itself. It is natural for the new girl in school to feel like a fish out of water but in Melia’s case it is literally true. Melia is a M – the Celtic equivalent of a mermaid. Actually, Melia is only a Merrow on her father’s side; her mother is a Oceanid or water nymph. In the world that Ms Goodwin has created for us, Merrows are tied to the sea. In other words, they can’t simply swap their fins for a pair of legs and go for a stroll on the beach. Oceanids, however, can live on land as well as in the sea and since she is the product of a mixed marriage, Melia can come and go as she pleases.

Right now, Melia is spending most of her time on dry land since the murder of her sister by parties unknown. Her step-father is human and is also extremely well off. Her mother spends most of her time at his side in New York City. Melia has tried living there but the water quality is wretched  and who can blame her for wanting to stay on the left coast. There she sits; the sole occupant of a grand house overlooking the sea with only the cook cum body-guard for company. Her only friends are a nerdy girl named Jamie Foster – who is able to see into the spirit world – and Peter Anderson – football player and overall handsome dude – who, having recently ditched his girl due to a question of infidelity, is a free agent; or at least until he becomes involved with Melia.

Peter took Melia’s hands in his. The Friday morning sun sparkled in her eyes. She looked fantastic again today in another short dress. If she didn’t look so good in dresses (and if they weren’t as short as they were) Peter would think it odd that she always wore them. He liked that she rarely wore make up and her hair was almost always down.

Jamie was enlisted by Melia to divine the culprit in her sister’s murder. While Melia reveals her true self to Jamie early in the story, it won’t be until much, much later that Peter will find out and only after the two of them have become seriously involved. Jamie is quite accepting of what Melia is. Peter is a different story.

Melia is a child of the Pacific Ocean and not everything appears to be quite well there. Sightings of strange creatures become the norm. Melia tries to pay a visit to the mer-folk back home and discovers that not only has their undersea settlement has been abandoned but it appears that everyone has left in a hurry. Melia tries to keep a lid on all of this so as not to alarm Jamie and keep Peter thinking that she is a slightly odd but quite attractive person. This is her first real relationship and she so does not want it to end. That becomes harder and harder as strange creatures appear on the shore and on land. Melia does her best to protect those she cares about but her best may not be enough.

Emily Goodwin has done an outstanding job of weaving various aquatic mythologies together in order to build the world that Melia – and, increasingly, Jamie and Peter – inhabits. Melia lives at the interface between the world of humans and the world of her birth  and the conflict she feels between wanting to go “home” and wanting to be with her human friends is quite palpable. Of the three main characters, Peter is the most normal. No paranormal powers or fins for him. Yet he becomes quite real because of the burden he bears; the unwanted child of religious parents who somehow see him as a reminder of and punishment for their pre-marital dalliance. Peter is marginalised as his parents focus their attention on his younger brother and sister and while Peter’s parents may feel that they are doing what is best for their oldest son, they are, in reality, pushing him further and further away.

In that way, Peter and Melia share a common condition. Both are outcasts from the worlds of their birth. Peter wants to escape his world by going off to college but he increasingly feels the tug of his life with Melia slowing his steps. Melia would love to be able to re-enter the sea and leave the alien world of life on land behind but the pull of those she loves  above the waves keeps her where she is. It is this unconscious sense of commonality, as well as their love for each other, that binds them together.

If there is one theme that stands out in this story, it is that of loving someone for whom they are and not what they are. Humans are not exactly the favourites of the denizens of the deep but Melia most certainly loves the ones she has come to know closely. Peter’s acceptance of Melia for what she is  turns out to be a bit rough at first but Peter comes to realise that she is the person he loves and – above all else – wants to protect and be with. This mutual love and acceptance can be contrasted with the relationship between Peter and his parents. They fail to love him for who he is – their first-born child – and only see him as what he is; the reason that they had to marry.

Jamie is accepted and cared for by two of the most attractive people at school, not simply because of her paranormal abilities but because she is a brave and loyal person rather than just some nerdy kid. It is because of the acceptance and encouragement coming from both Melia and Peter that Jamie starts to come out of her shell and claim her place in the world as a person of value and worthiness. It is through Ms Goodwin’s careful crafting that Beyond the Sea goes well beyond the province of simply being a Young Adult paranormal tale and becomes a story with a deeper meaning.

“It’s a shame,” Peter whispered, sitting on the bed.

“What is?” Melia asked as she sat on his lap.

“That no one on land will know how truly brave and amazing you are.”

“You know. That’s enough for me.”

While this is not the first Young Adult novel that Emily Goodwin has authored, she can be justly proud of her accomplishments in conceiving the story, bringing the characters to life and gifting the reader an exciting plot with a deeper meaning below its surface. In its own way, Beyond the Sea is as memorable as its namesake song by Bobby Darin. This story stays with the reader long after the last sentence is read.

The second book in the Beyond the Sea series, Red Skies at Night, is due for release later in 2013. If the quality of the first book is any indication, the second book will be a “must read” for fans of this particular genre.

My Rating:   Emily Goodwin’s blog may be found at  www.emily-goodwin.blogspot.com

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Paperback Kindle

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Read a sample of Beyond the Sea

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M.W. Rowe

M.W. Rowe

Welcome to the second in our series of 20 Question interviews with authors of Young Adult Fiction here on The Parsons’ Rant. We have at least three other authors lined up to follow today’s guest. If you know of an author of Young Adult Fiction who has written or is planning to write a book or a series in the “Merfolk” sub-genre, please let me know.

Today’s guest is British author, M.W. Rowe who released the first book in his Mermaid Memoirs series in June of 2012. Whilst this  interview was in the works, Mr. Rowe released the 2nd book, Queen of the Ocean at the very end of December, 2012, and is presently in our Review Queue. He is also the author of three other novels, Alphawing, Dreaming Nightmares and Fallen From Grace.

Our interview with M.W. Rowe consists of 23 Questions and Answers so let’s get to it.

Small Q Mermaid Memoirs is not your first book. How did you get started as an author?
Small A I initially started writing when I was thirteen years old and I actually still have a copy of the book that I wrote, although it was not very good and will probably never be released.I got back into it about two years ago when I had the idea for my first novel, Fallen From Grace. After that I could not stop writing and now have five published books.
 Small Q What would you say the target audience is for  Mermaid Memoirs?
 Small A Mermaid Memoirs is definitely aimed at a young adult audience although it is accessible to anybody. A lot of the issues dealt with in Mermaid Memoirs are applicable to young adults for example bullying but it is not unrelateable to those slightly older.
 Small Q  There’s been a surge in Urban fantasy novels in recent years and a wave of these stories deal with Mer-folk. Any thoughts about this?
 Small A  I think that a lot of this has to do with the now popular Kindle publishing platform and because of this, a lot of urban fantasy novels that were previously being rejected by mainstream publishers are now able to get out into the world and have their voice. Just because a book does not fall into a certain popular genre does not mean that it should not be published.
 Small Q  Your books are self-published. What has that experience been like?
 Small A It is exciting but a lot of hard work. I like that I am in total control of what goes on with my books but it does mean relentless work on websites and such things when I
could otherwise be spending my time writing. I do recommend it to anybody that I can though as it gives people a chance to have their work read.
 Small Q  What led you to write Mermaid Memoirs?
 Small A I initially got the idea for Mermaid Memoirs when I was swimming, I know, cheesy or what. It just struck me as I was striving to swim a mile one morning that the recent upsurge in vampire and werewolf books could possibly be leaving a large hole in the readers fantasy market that relates to mermaids. I felt like it was something that was not widely published and I do like to do things that are not entirely the norm.
 Small Q  How did you conceive the basic plot?
 Small A  My basic plotting of any novel is always the same. It involves post it notes all over a large piece of wall space. It starts out with one post it note with my initial idea on, in this case it was “Macy- born on land?” After that, every time that a question or an answer comes into my head it gets put on a post it note and placed on the wall somewhere. This process can take anywhere up to a month to complete as I try to get every single idea out of my head and onto a post it note. Then I spend an afternoon trying to come up with some sort of order for these notes to follow. That is my process.The idea itself came from the thought of dealing with some major issue and I seen bullying in young adults as a way to do this.
 Small Q  Let’s talk about the characters. Were there any particular literary characters or people who influenced your development of the main characters?
 Small A  No, not at all. Every single one of my characters is thought of from scratch. There may be small personality traits or habits in there that I stole from something I see or read but there is no main influence there.
 Small Q  Sara and Jude are Macey’s parents and at the beginning of the story not everything seems to be quite right with them. Is that a fair assertaion?
 Small A  Yes, I believe that is fair to say. I wanted Macy to become the factor that drove the two apart but I did not want her to be the cause of their problems. She had to deal with the fact that her mother did not want her and that was a big enough issue to tackle without making it entirely her fault.
 Small Q  Why do you think that Jude is so keen to keep Macy and Sara is so keen to give her up?
 Small A  Jude is the doting dad in this instance and Macy is definitely a daddy’s girl. Sara, on the other hand, is a proud woman who is slightly embarrassed of the child that she has created. She wants to keep her dignity but cannot do that with Macy as her daughter.
 Small Q  What can you tell us about Macy’s character?
 Small A Macy is kind-hearted and loving, she hates to be alone and she becomes attached to people easily. She forms bonds quickly and these bonds are hard to break, this is how she and Makeo come to be so close even right in the beginning, the same also holds true for her and Anya’s friendship.
 Small Q Another theme appears to be that of unconditional love. Jude has been in Macy’s corner since the beginning and soldiers on after her mother leaves. Any thoughts on this?
 Small A Just that Jude is the father who will do anything to care for his daughter, he knows that it is hard work looking after her with this so-called disability but he will not give up on her. She is his daughter and he will stand by her.
 Small Q Makeo is an unsung hero through all of this isn’t he? He stands by Macy from the time she enters school on land until she goes to live with the merfolk and even beyond that.
 Small A Makeo shares a lot of his traits with Jude. They are both proud and loyal men who will stand up for what is right in a world filled with wrong. They both believe that Macy should not be treated differently and they both stand up for her. He continues to be a little bit of background hero through into the second book.
 Small Q  Macy’s new home seems to be a sub-aquatic version of your average English village. Was that intentional?
 Small A A little, I did not want the mermaids to seem too technologically advanced and the only way to go about showing this was through their location. I used an idyllic English village as the setting to demonstrate the mermaids sense of community and closeness.
 Small Q  Here’s another example of rejection. Although Macy is obviously a mermaid, the merfolk treat her as an outsider; something alien to them. Why do you think things turn out this way?
 Small A Macy was not treated right on the land because she was different from all of the other human children. This continues into the ocean when the merfolk also see her as something different to them, Macy finds it difficult to be accepted anywhere as no matter where she goes she feels like she does not belong.
 Small Q  A third theme in the story is that of bullying. Macy is bullied by her fellow students on land and subsequently by the villagers in her new home. Is it fair to say that the merfolk are just as bad if not worse than humans with regard to this?
 Small A I would say that they are just as bad, Macy was not accepted by them because of the differences that she posed. She was not welcomed anywhere and it just goes to show that for every bad person on the land there is also a bad mermaid or merman.
 Small Q Let’s talk about Anya who becomes Macy’s only friend below the surface. What should the reader know about her?
 Small A  Anya is a lot deeper than she is first made out to be when she is the instigator of the bullying when Macy first arrives. She soon becomes the closest thing to a friend that Macy has in the ocean and she becomes her rock. Macy and Anya will be inseparable for the rest of their lives and will always be there for each other.
 Small Q  Jeal – Anya’s sister – seems to have had an agenda all her own from the beginning. Can you tell us about that and where Jeal lands herself by the end of the story?
 Small A  Jeal is a wicked young mermaid who plays on others’ weaknesses and always has her own agenda. However I am not going to give too much away about her as Mermaid Memoirs 2 goes into the story of Jeal a lot more.
 Small Q  I’ve mentioned three underlying themes in your story. Are there any others?
 Small A  No. You’ve covered them all.
 Small Q  How has Mermaid Memoirs been received?
 Small A Mermaid Memoirs has been received exceptionally well. It is my bestselling novel to date and has also ranked in the Amazon bestselling charts on several occasions. I get a lot of feedback about the ending of the book but the tension at the end of the book just sets up perfectly for book number 2.
 Small Q  Will we ever learn how Macey came to be born on land instead of the sea?
 Small A  Yes, but you have to watch out for book three on this one. Family is a recurring theme throughout the trilogy and it will become more apparent where this may lead in book two.
 Small Q Now that Book 2, Queen of the Ocean, has been released, can you give us a few hints as to where the story goes.
 Small A  The story centres around Jeal mainly and the fact that she wants to unite all of the mer-folk communities under the ocean together. She wants it to be one community rather than thousands of small communities. Macy is dead against the idea in the beginning but it does not take long before it is obvious that Jeal is not as sly as she appears to be.
 Small Q Does Macy’s mother ever return or is she gone for good?
 Small A I have no plans to bring her mother back at any point, however, I am always open to it if the need occurs.
 Small Q  Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
 Small A  Just that Mermaid Memoirs 2: Queen of the Ocean is due for release on the 23rd December 2012 and will be available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mermaid-Memoirs-Queen-Ocean-ebook/dp/B00APP1V94 in the UK and at http://www.amazon.com/Mermaid-Memoirs-Queen-Ocean-ebook/dp/B00APP1V94 in the US.Also that if anybody has any questions about any of my books feel free to email me at admin@mwrowe.com

Mr. Rowe, it has been a pleasure having you join us here on The Parsons’ Rant and feel free to come back when Book 3 is about to be released. You’ve given every one something to look forward to. I do want to mention, though, that Amazon will not permit readers in the US to buy e-books from their UK website, Amazon.co.uk. Instead, US  readers will have to  purchase both e-books via the Amazon.com site. I’m not sure if it works the same way in reverse, though.

Be sure to have a look at [intlink id=”4619″ type=”page”]our review of Mermaid Memoirs[/intlink]. Queen of the Ocean will be reviewed as soon as time permits.

Back in September of 2012, I discussed online bait & switch with software downloads and how unwanted add-on’s – such as memory and cycle sucking toolbars – can find their way on to your system without your knowing it. I’ve coined a new term for this sort of stuff: Sneakware. In other words, crapware that sneaks its way on to your system when you’re trying to install a legitimate product.

I’ve observed a fine example of this in the wild and thought I’d show you what to watch out for. I’ve also run across an article that backs up what I’ve been saying even though they don’t call it “sneakware”. I’ll endeavour to keep all this brief and to the point.

For a number of years, I’ve used an add-on called File Menu Tools by a Spanish development house known as Lopesoft. It has come in quite handy for folks like Dr. Data who do a lot of different things with individual files and I’ve recommended it as a “must-have” more than once. The other day, it was time to install the latest version and I discovered – much to my dismay – that the developer has succumbed to the siren call of sneakware.

There’s a heck of a lot of free stuff on the web and developers will often seek to augment their income of donations by grateful users by including add-on’s with their installation package. Legitimate – and sometimes not so legitimate – entities will pay developers a certain amount to simply include this entity’s product in the developer’s installation package and then will pay the developer a specified amount of  money for each actual installation of the entity’s product. Usually, both payments are a trivial amount but if your software is downloaded & installed 3 million times, this trivial amount can really start to add up.

In the case of Lopesoft, here’s what I saw:

Lopesoft1 In this first screen-shot, the user is asked to install the Babylon Toolbar which supposedly gives you access to freebies, discounts, etc. You’ll notice that not only is the option to install the toolbar checked & greyed-out, but so are the options for making Babylon the default search engine and making Babylon search you homepage. Your eye is drawn to the usual mumbo-jumbo of the licence agreement and clicking “Agree” has become motor memory. You have no doubt learned over time that clicking the “Decline” button will cancel the installation of the whole thing and thus you are led to believe  that you have to click “Agree” here in order to get the software you originally wanted.

The simple answer is “No, you can “Decline and still get the original product but how many users will see through all this? Also notice that the “Agree” button has focus so all you have to do is press the “Enter” key. To “Decline”, you’ll need to move your mouse to that button & click it.

Lopesoft2 This is the next window that will be shown to you whether you “Accept” or “Decline”. Here, the verbage mentions Chrome, Google, etc. It also throws in “Amazon”. Add in the mumbo-jumbo and the average user will think they have to agree in order to get the software to work with Google, Chrome & Amazon.

As before, the “Agree” button has focus. Declining takes an extra effort.

There you have a perfect example of how the user thinks they’re getting a useful utility and are really getting a lot more than they asked for. Do this five or six times and you’ll wonder why your system isn’t as fast as it was.

While the mechanics and payment schemes may vary, this article from ZDNET explains it all very nicely. The price of a clean machine is eternal vigilance.

Here it is, the middle of January, and it seems like we were watch the Tournament of Roses parade just the other day. At this rate, it’ll be time for shorts and flip-flops before you know it. So while we’re waiting for time to fly even faster, here’s a small collection of technology news items:

At the Consumer Electronics Show in ‘Vegas, Microsoft showed off the second offering in its’ line of tablets; the Surface Pro. Two different reporters developed two differing opinions of the new device:

  • In the affirmative, Jon Phillips of PC World has an overall positive impression of the Pro. He does conclude, however, that the $900 – $1,200 price point is going to be a drag on adoption and sales in a segment of the computing marketplace where the hardware is already overpriced. Read the article on PC World.
  • Sebastian Anthony from Extreme Tech does find some things to like about the Surface Pro but at the end of the day, the device is neither fish nor fowl. Read Sebastian’s article on Extreme Tech.

Jon and Sebastian do agree on one thing; the Surface RT was a waste of time.

Those of you who read our wee collection of Apple news last week may remember the item about Cupertino making a less expensive iPhone. Well, according to Apple’s VP of world-wide domination marketing, Phil Schiller, there are no plans to do any such thing any time soon.

. . . despite the popularity of cheap smartphones, this will never be the future of Apple’s products.

That’s the way to do it, Phil. Keep the iPhone out of the hands of the peons who don’t deserve them anyway. There’s more to this story and you can read it for yourself on PC World.

In light of that last item, this one is all the more interesting. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Apple has reduced its orders for iPhone parts because of lackluster demand. This reduction has resulted in orders for  iPhone 5 screens being halved and orders for other components have been reduced as well. The fact that demand for the iPhone 5 has been sluggish is certainly an eye-brow raiser.This is partially due to increased competition from Samsung – the biggest phone manufacturer in 2012 – and other phone manufacturers with devices based on Google’s Android operating system. Another possible reason is that releasing a new iPhone every time you turn around has taken its toll on consumers who have figured out that you don’t need the latest offering from Cupertino to be hip/productive. PC World has the full story.

Now that the Christmas decorations have been stowed away and all that remains of the season is an extra inch around the waist and credit card bills, it’s time to consider what to read in the coming months. If you’re a fan of Mer-Fiction, rest assured that there will be plenty of books to choose from. For starters, many of the authors reviewed and interviewed here on The Parsons’ Rant are hard at work on a sequel or two. Lets begin with a story that has already been released:

M.W. Rowe has released the second book in his Mermaid Memoirs series, Queen of the Ocean. The story extends beyond Macy who has become more comfortable with her true self. Jeal, the little sister of Macy’s best friend under the waves, Anya, seems to be suffering from some sort of mer-megalomania as she wants to take over the oceans and put the humans in their proper place. We have an interview with M.W. Rowe that was done before the end of last year and will – I promise – be released later this week. [intlink id=”4619″ type=”page”]Meanwhile, have a look at our review of the first book in this series.[/intlink]

Adrianna Stepiano is quite busy these days putting the finishing touches on the second book in her Memoir of a Mermaid series, When, At Last, She Could See. Adrianna is aiming for a release date of January 29, 2013 for the e-book version and she has promised this reviewer an advance copy. I’m clearing the decks so that I may focus my attention on reading this new book and cobbling a review in time for the release date. Have a look at our review of her first book in the series, [intlink id=”903″ type=”page”” target=”_blank”]When, At Last, He Found Me[/intlink] as well as [intlink id=”6219″ type=”post” target=”_blank”]When, At Last, She Could See[/intlink].

Paige Blue is hot on Adrianna’s heels with the second installment in her Amerin Chronicles series, LivEternal. The first book was a real page-turner that left this reviewer hungry for more. Finding Summerland is one of a – very – small group of Mer-fiction books that are told from a guy’s point of view. Here’s a sample of what to expect from LivEternal:

 . . . I was too far gone to consider looking back. Olivia crept in as I recalled all we’d been through, wondering if she would understand what was happening to me, or if I had become the anomaly. Regret crossed my mind as I thought about how close I’d come to sealing myself to her forever. I’d chosen to miss the opportunity. Now, I wondered if when I found her, she’d even want me. I thought I heard her voice calling out my name, but I didn’t trust it. I knew there was something lingering, probably some sick trick, or game my mind was playing on me. I fell deeper to sleep, relinquishing my control to rationalize, and discount the random thoughts swirling around inside. I was gone now. Left to the powers that be to play with as they chose. Fair game for the moment…

LivEternal is expected to release on Feb. 14th. Take a look at our review of Finding Summerland. Before we move on, you should know that Paige Bleu has a fan page on Facebook that is quite entertaining.

Fans of the Mer Tales series by Brenda Pandos will have a red-letter day on Feb. 28th as that is when Brenda Pandos will publish Everlost. This book, the third in the series, will continue the story of Ash and Fin and considering the surprises in the second installment, Evergreen, this reviewer can’t wait to learn what happens. If you’re late to the table for this series, use [intlink id=”120″ type=”page”]our review of Everblue[/intlink] and [intlink id=”951″ type=”page”]our review of Evergreen[/intlink] to catch yourself up.

Emm Cole, author of Merminia and the subject of [intlink id=”5412″ type=”page”]the first interview here on The Parsons\’ Rant[/intlink], is shooting for a release date in April or May for – the working title – Merminia: The Tide’s Reach. Emm says that

 as Ulric takes over Dencur, Selinne and Aramis set out to stop him from using the ring. A ten-year old boy named Walter gets swept up in their dangerous mission. Elves, witches, dragons, and unicorns are some of the mythical creatures that appear throughout the story. Selinne has a few scenes in mermaid form, but the majority of the book is set on land.

The Tide’s Reach promises to be an interesting sequel. So until April or May gets here, you catch yourself up by reading [intlink id=”4956″ type=”page”]our review of Merminia[/intlink]

Also scheduled for that time-frame – May 1st to be exact – is Zoradia Cordova‘s The Savage Blue, the second book in her series and another example of a story in which the main character, Tristan, is male. According to Zoradia,

In the quest for the Sea Throne, Tristan has already watched one good friend die. Now he must lead the rest on a dangerous voyage to the infamous port of the Vanishing Cove in search of the trident that will make him king. . . .Tristan needs his friends’ support. But they each have their secrets, and a betrayal will force Tristan to choose between loyalty and ambition, friendship and love. In the race for a throne, all’s fair in the savage blue.

Zoradia is definitely one author we want to interview. [intlink id=”5863″ type=”page”]Read our review of The Vicious Deep[/intlink].

Finally, to round out this roundup of Mer-fiction sequels, Mayda Schaefer has targeted October of this year as the publication date for Chasing Destiny. Mayda’s forthcoming story

. . . begins 3 years later, with Kincade trying to fulfill his promise to meet Destiny on her 16th Birthday. Unfortunately, there are “other” menacing forces at play and Kincade ends up Shanghai’d, working on a ship, (using legs no less) with no recollection of whom he is or where he is going. Meanwhile, in Enchanted Cove, Shellen is making up for lost time, by trying to do “motherly” things, like packing peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches in Destiny’s lunch and paying for groceries with gold doubloons.

Awaiting Destiny is a sweet and touching story with an ample helping of humour. Needless to say, Chasing Destiny promises to make the end of Summer something to look forward to. See [intlink id=”5655″ type=”page”]our review of Chasing Destiny[/intlink].

So, there you have it; seven sequels guaranteed to make 2013 even more interesting. Drop by The Parsons’ Rant to read the reviews and interviews.

I’ve never been a huge Apple fan. They make some good stuff but price points keep me away. I do have an ancient iPod and an iPhone, however. I have the iPod simply because my former employer – who, like Lord Voldemort,  shall not be named – offered it as a gift for 20 years of thankless labour. I got the iPhone because it was less than $100.00 as an upgrade from my late and unlamented Blackberry. I probably should amend the bit about the iPhone because we became a two-iPhone family in the last days of 2012.

My wife had been using the same cell phone since 2003 and the technology was old even back then. We signed up for Nextel because of the push-to-talk feature. I could never get my wife to use push-to-talk in the nine or so years that we had the phones. (Heck, I can barely get her to turn the thing on!) In early Feb. of 2012, I gave up & moved over to the Sprint network. Well, the Nextel network is going bye-bye around the end of June so it was time to find her a new phone. Sprint was offering a $100 dollar upgrade for the iPhone 4S so we did as switcheroo and I got the newer iPhone & she took my old – but still perfectly good – iPhone 4. At this point, she still hasn’t gotten the hang of touch-screens and Siri is not speaking to me. (Was it something I said?)

The preceding has be a circumlocutory way of leading in to the three bits of Apple news I have for you today so let’s get down to business.

  • Apple is rumoured to be planning a cheaper iPhone. Since Cupertino has seemed to finally grasp the idea that ordinary folks don’t have the cash to splash out on their hardware, they are said to be considering a polycarbonate plastic rather than the standard aluminium case and possibly using parts from recycled iPhones. Since refurbished keyboards. headphones and mice are a so-so kind of experience, Dr. Data is not too keen on having to rely on recycled phone parts. Read the full story on ZDNet.
  • Apple + Internet = Mess or so says a former Apple Engineer who is a die-hard dyed-in-the-wool Apple fan. The ZDNet article by Charlie Osborne – no, she does not appear to be related to Ozzy even though she is British – goes on to list a plethora of Apple internet services that aren’t up to snuff. The aforementioned Apple engineer also indicates that Android is gaining a significant advantage over iOS. Read the full article on ZDNet.
  • Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you. The former CEO of Apple’s big Israel acquisition, Anobit, shares his experiences of Apple culture and how the company’s 1990s ‘near death experience’ still shapes it today. OK, I “borrowed” the article summary from ZDNet but nonetheless, the story is well worth your time. Read it on ZDNet.

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