Looks like I might need a new title for this blog – we’re moving house.
“Turn left at the bridge” is actually part of the directions for finding our current abode; from the end of next month, it’s going to be something like “Keep straight on, we’re the first house on the left.” Which is a tad too long for a blog title, I think. So I’ll keep the present title.
We’re not moving far, just a few miles. I hope we don’t have to do it again for a few more years – I’m stressed out already!
Update on the audiobooks: The Kindle cable I ordered finally arrived yesterday, a full week after I’d ordered it. When I went to the audible.co.uk site to find out how to download my book, I had a distinct Homer Simpsom moment – I’d been so determined to download onto my Kindle that I’d completely missed the several places informing me that I could download books onto my Ipod!
So that’s what I did. It was still a fiddle-faddle to set up, downloading the requisite software, telling it to download my book, then telling it to copy the file into the Itunes library. But 45 minutes later I had it and spent most of last night listening to the first part. It was as good as I had expected, with James MacPherson displaying a wide range of voices and accents, making it easy to distinguish characters. I think I may very well be buying more audiobooks.
Onto other matters: I’ll be changing the blog in the next few months. It’s been on WordPress ever since I started blogging properly, in January 2004; although I’m still happy with WP, the software is now getting big and complex for just a simple blog. So I’ll be moving it to the Ghost platform. It’s been developed by a team led by John O’Nolan, who I’ve been following on FB, Twitter and other sites for years. He’s been a WordPress developer as well as working on a number of highly successful commercial sites. I’m confident that he knows his stuff, which is why I stuck a tenner into his Ghost Kickstarter project. For that, I’ll get a copy of the Ghost software as soon as it’s released. It will be able to import WP blogs, so you’ll still be able to enjoy my archives of wit and wisdom.
So I’m having some eye trouble at the mo – I’m constantly getting dry eyes, so that I have to limit my time reading and at the computer; I’ve already got through three tubes of carbomer gel in the last week.
So I thought I’d explore the possibility of text-to-speech (TTS) stuff, so that I can at least keep myself entertained through my ears – even watching TV is a strain. First stop was my Kindle Fire; deep in the settings, I discovered an option for turning on TTS software for TTS-enabled books. I was delighted, as I have several e-books half-read or waiting to be read. But, o dear, when I tried it out….
The software is technically very slick – it was quite hard to immediately tell that the pleasant-sounding American woman speaker wasn’t human. A mere minute or two of listening, however, and it was obviously mechanical. The speech rhythm was arbitrary and didn’t correspond to the text rhythm – there was the same length of pause between paragraphs, sentences and words, and no longer pauses for taking a breath; the tonal range was narrow, with no emphasis or inflection placed where it was obviously needed; the American pronunciation was jarring. That last was especially irritating as the text I was testing it on contained several instances of “apparatus” and the drawn-out middle syllable was making my teeth ache; it was fortunate that there was no mention of “aluminum” as well, as listening to “the appa-RAHH-tus was made of ah-LOO-min-um” would have had me breaking something. It was also fortunate that I was testing it on a rather dry history book (dealing, in that chapter, with “state apparatus”); I don’t want to even think about how Amazon’s robot would read out a British thriller novel.
So I looked at what was available in human-read books; voice actors are passionate about doing justice to an author’s writing. Going to audible.co.uk, I made a pleasant discovery – an extremely wide range of books, together with a no-strings offer of a free audiobook on signing up for a free months trial. An offer too good to turn down! So I signed up and went to download my free book. It was Ian Rankin’s Standing In Another Man’s Grave; having got it out of the library and then finding myself unable to read it, I was looking forward to spending several evenings listening to Detective Michael Jardine’s smooth Scottish tones narrating it.
But, of course, there was a snag. Since Amazon owns Audible.co.uk, I was expecting that I could download their audiobook straight onto my Amazon-owned Kindle, as I’d done with my ebooks. Amazingly, though, it appears I can only get an audiobook onto a Kindle by downloading it onto a PC and transferring it via a USB cable. Now, my Kindle had of course come with such a cable – but never having had to use it, I’d thrust it away somewhere and forgotten it. And could I find it again? Hah!
So here I am, waiting for a new cable to arrive and wishing desperately that my eyes would just sort themselves out.
So this morning, for breakfast, I decided on a change from my usual rather boring porridge and yogurt.
So here it is – scrambled eggs, a banana, and thick-sliced toast with yeast spread; there’s also a glass of apple juice that I forget to get in the shot. Pretty much all the nutritional requirements are there; I shouldn’t really be eating eggs, but I accidentally bought too many of them last week and I hate wasting food. There’s not much Vit C in evidence; but then, I’m a pretty weird sort of vegetarian. I loathe most fruit (except bananas) and I’m not especially fond of most vegetables (except for potatoes). But my diet’s been pretty much unchanged for nearly forty years, so it works for me.
“Whatever works for you” is pretty good guidance in life, I’ve found.
I got on the bus and went to Dumfries. The car is very poorly and will have to be replaced soon, hence the bus trip, to get some shopping.
Having done the stuff I needed to, I found myself with an hour to while away until the return journey. It was a long way from breakfast and I was getting hungry, so I bought a sandwich from the Spar – something cheap in one of those plastic triangular wrappings. The sun was out, so I plonked my rear end on a bench overlooking the river and prepared to eat.
However, the sandwich packet refused to co-operate – there was no tag to pull on, my nails couldn’t get through the plastic and my teeth are now too few and too blunt to get through anything much tougher than the cheese sandwich nestled enticingly within. I was considering rooting through my bag for something sharp and pointy (I normally carry a pencil or three) when a couple of smart-looking men came along, clutching leaflets and thick little books and dressed like Men in Black minus the shades.
So, missionaries for sure. Christians? Possibly, though they’re usually older and scruffier. Mormons? Maybe – Mormons always dress conservative and a little old-fashioned. Scientologists? Perhaps – the younger one looked the spit of Tom Cruise.
Spotting me, they launched into their spiel: “Would you be excited to learn that there is a prophet on Earth who is speaking the Word of God??”
“Not really. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised – there’s a lot of them about nowadays. I go on the internet a lot, you know. There’s plenty of them out there, on the web.”
“Ummm…” You could hear their brains working – quick, what’s the script for this? Then: “Ah! Would like our card? It has a website address on it!”
“No thanks. Look if you guys want to be useful, one of you could open this sandwich packet for me. I’m really hungry.”
They looked at each other. Another short pause for brains to shuffle frantically through scripts. The older MiB nodded silently at Tom Cruise, who took the sandwich packet and spent a good thirty seconds manfully ripping it open.
I bestowed a genuine smile of gratitude on him as I took the packet back (I really was hungry). “Thank you!” I beamed, “You’ve just done a good deed. Now go away do do more good deeds!”
And I settled down to eating and waved them off.
I generally try to be nice to missionaries. Being nasty to them only makes them feel that they’re persecuted; for them, feeling persecuted means that they’re in the right. In the past, I’ve argued with them, but that’s usually a waste of energy; the ones who are picked for evangelism are chosen for their unwavering belief in their religion. But it’s often fun to mess with their heads a little and go wildly off-script.