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Friday, April 29, 2016

Obama's list of great American creations

An inspiring Facebook message from President Obama
If you swiped through my music collection, you'd find some Bruce, some Stevie, some Al Green. If you opened my iPad, you'd find the word puzzle games I love to play. If you looked at my bookshelf, you'd find Marilynne Robinson novels and Toni Morrison classics.

And I bet if we compared collections, a lot of you have similar favorites - all hallmarks of American culture and creativity. The thing is, so do people all over the world. American music fills cafés in Europe; American apps pepper smartphones across Asia, and American authors inspire readers from South America to South Africa to the South Pacific.

When I was at the Hannover Messe global trade fair in Germany this week, I tested out some of the latest innovations from America's best entrepreneurs. It reminded me why American ingenuity leads the world. After all, our country itself was once a creative idea conceived by independent-minded people. Today, the work of our creative and innovative industries supports more than 27 million jobs here at home and account for more than 60 percent of the goods we export to other countries. That's worth protecting from counterfeiters and thieves - and we are.

When someone in a foreign country sells ripped-off copies of an American artist's music, a writer's film, or even your favorite athlete's jersey, we all lose. But strong intellectual property protections make sure no one can undercut our economy or take advantage of America's great creators - which is why we put those protections in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement covering nearly 40 percent of the global economy.

With these protections in place, American innovators are free to create that unique brand of American culture that has shaped the heart and soul of this imaginative country for centuries.

When I got back from Hannover Messe, I took some time to jot down a few of my favorite works - proud examples of what Americans can create, and what we have to protect. Join me by sharing your favorites:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Great Amazon Page Count Mystery

The Great Amazon Page Count Mystery

How Amazon pays authors for work included in Kindle Unlimited (KU) made headlines across the inter-webs recently. Ann Christy’s post “KU Scammers on KU – What’s Going On” even made it on to the homepage of Hacker News. The discussion raises many interesting questions about what reading data Amazon collects and how Amazon uses reader analytics.

First, a little background: Amazon introduced KU, its all-you-can-eat ebook offering, almost two years ago, not long after Oyster launched its much lauded, but now defunct, ebook subscription service. Authors were initially compensated by Amazon based on the number of ebooks downloaded, but that system was being abused by some clever folks who realized that short books, such as novellas, would earn the same amount of money as full-length novels, and that splitting a full-length book into multiple books would optimized payouts.

Readers did not like this practice, so Amazon changed its policy and introduced “pay by page” in June of last year.

However, enterprising souls once again quickly discovered another loophole, as the way in which Amazon measures pages read for KU is not what one might think. Amazon uses the “last page sync” signal, which is a feature of Amazon’s Whispersync, to determine how far somebody reads. This data point can in fact be easily manipulated to a scammer’s advantage.

For example, one could place a link early in the book promising a $100 Amazon gift voucher, but that link could take the reader to the last page of the book. If the book has 10,000 pages, Amazon would now think that the reader has actually read 10,000 pages even if the “reading” took place in a matter of seconds.

Obviously that can’t be true, but Amazon’s algorithms don’t check that. Computer code is not imbued with “common sense.

As far as I am concerned, they don't even pay.  I have never received a cent for the page counts on my report page.  If you want to read more of this interesting article, go to Digital Book World

“Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined.”

Dear Authors,

As you may know, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 is World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, a day celebrating the important role that creativity and artistic expression play in our cultural and economic life. This year’s theme is “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined.”

We have been informed that President Obama will issue a formal Presidential Message celebrating our artists, our creative and innovative industries, and the importance of intellectual property in sustaining them. To further highlight the importance of the creative and innovative communities, the President is scheduled to fill out this list and share it with the world via social media on World IP Day.

The White House would like to see U.S. authors join the President by filling out the list and sharing it online using the social media platform of your choice. Fill it out by hand, take a picture, and upload it, or provide your list via video. The goal is for the globe to hear from our artists and creators on World IP Day and, with President Obama, to create a chorus of support and celebration of our artists, creators, and innovators. Authors are asked to use the hashtag #AmericaCreates to join the President in this celebration tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wellcome 2016 shortlist

The Wellcome Book Prize 2016 shortlist

£7.99 (rrp £9.99)
The Outrun
£11.99 (rrp £14.99)
£8.80 (rrp £11)

It's All in Your Head
£7.19 (rrp £8.99)
Signs for Lost Children
£10.39 (rrp £12.99)
The Last Act of Love
£11.99 (rrp £14.99)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Want to model an amazing costume?

The fantastic, amazing, iconic Wellington event, World of Wearable Art, is getting geared up for 2016.

And, they need models.

Being involved in the WOW® Awards is exciting, challenging and rewarding – an achievement that you can be proud of. You will make new friends, extend your creative skills and have loads of fun along the way!

Have a question about auditioning for WOW? Learn everything you need to know about auditions below.

Our first audition will be held on:
Sunday the 8th of May 2016
Toi Whakaari, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown, Wellington.
Registrations Open at 10.00am
Auditions are at 12.00pm
N.B.: All models must register first

Trump's fantasy friend

From the New York Review of Books

Trump’s Putin Fantasy

Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Syracuse, New York, April 16, 2016; Vladimir Putin at a meeting with journalists, Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2016
Carlo Allegri/Reuters; Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Few foreign leaders seem enthusiastic about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. But there is one who should be pleased: Vladimir Putin. Or so Trump seems to think. Most prominent Republicans criticize President Obama for reacting too feebly to Russian domestic oppression, the Russian invasion of southern and southeastern Ukraine, and Russia’s growing threat to NATO in Eastern Europe. Trump, on the other hand, has praised Putin’s “strong” leadership at home, called NATO “obsolete and expensive,” and made a point of describing his friendship with Putin—though it seems to be entirely imaginary.

From the beginning of his candidacy last summer, Trump has repeatedly claimed that he would “get along very well with Vladimir Putin.” Last fall, after he was interviewed on the same segment of 60 Minutes as Putin, he warmly referred to the experience of being “stablemates” as “going well.” This was strikingly at odds with reality, since Trump was in the US and Putin in Russia during the interviews, and the two men did not in fact meet...

Picture above:  Donald Trump in Syracuse, New York, April 16, 2016; Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2016

Read the rest of this fascinating article

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rare TITANIC poster found in attic

From the Daily Mail

A rare poster advertising the Titanic has been found on the back of a painting hidden behind a false wall by a couple renovating their home.

The lithographic print is one of three adverts produced in 1911 for the White Star Line promoting trips on the Titanic and sister ship the Olympic.

The posters were withdrawn after the Titanic sank in April 1912 with a loss of 1,522 lives – so there are few examples left.

The unnamed couple demolished a wall in the house they bought in Wales and found a landscape painting in the cavity. When they took it from the frame they found the 23in by 32in poster beneath it.

The lithographic print (pictured)  is one of three adverts produced in 1911 for the White Star Line promoting trips on the Titanic and sister ship the Olympic. It was found on the back of a painting hidden behind a false wall
The lithographic print (pictured)  is one of three adverts produced in 1911 for the White Star Line promoting trips on the Titanic and sister ship the Olympic. It was found on the back of a painting hidden behind a false wall

The colourful advert, produced by the renowned marine artist Montague Birrell Black, depicts the hulking Titanic looming into view with a number of small sailboats in the foreground looking tiny in comparison.

The print, worth £3,000, will be sold at auction house Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, on April 23. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sailing the seas again

From The Economist

We are sailing

Wind power makes another comeback

Full spin ahead

OLD technologies can return with a twist, just as airships keep threatening to and windmills and electric cars have already. Fitting ships with sails to assist with propulsion, thus saving fuel and reducing emissions, is an idea that has been around for decades. It has now gained renewed interest with a search by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), a British public–private partnership that promotes low-carbon uses, for suppliers and a shipowner prepared to undertake a trial of wind-driven rotors on a large cargo vessel. The plan is to gather operating data on whether rotor sails are a worthwhile investment. Depending on the routes, suitably equipped vessels could reduce fuel consumption by 5-12%. As some 90% of the world’s trade travels by sea, such savings would soon add up.

The type of sail the ETI is interested in is the Flettner rotor. These were demonstrated by Anton Flettner, a German aerospace engineer, in the 1920s. When placed on a ship the giant rotating cylinders extract energy from the wind using the Magnus effect, a force acting on a spinning body in an airstream to create a pressure difference on either side—the same effect that causes a spinning ball to curve through the air. This force can be used to help push the ship along.
Rotor sails are most suitable for ships that sail below 15 knots (28kph) on trade routes where the apparent wind (that experienced by an observer in motion) is blowing sideways across the vessel, reckons the ETI. For a rotor sail the higher the ratio of wind speed to ship speed the better. In general, the rotors produce more thrust the windier it is and the slower the ship steams.
In 1924 Flettner installed two 18.3-metre rotating metal cylinders on a converted sailing ship, the Buckau (pictured), which crossed the North Sea and the Atlantic. Other ship owners have flirted with the technology. In 2010, Enercon, a German windpower specialist, launched E-ship1 with four 2-metre rotor sails to assist its diesel engines. In 2014, Norsepower, a Finnish firm, fitted an 18-metre rotor sail to Estraden, a ferry which operates between the Netherlands and Britain. A second rotor was fitted to the ship in 2015. Norsepower reckons they produce a 6% fuel saving on average.

This is not a lot to show for more than 90 years of tinkering with the technology. But the arrival of new lightweight composite materials that enable the rotors to spin at higher speeds, together with advanced computer controls that can use sophisticated wind sensors and satellite tracking to constantly adjust the setting of the rotors, holds out greater promise of a return to sail, of a sort.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Rubbish Truck guy

A touching post on Facebook that has gone viral

 Dad's open letter thanks 'rubbish truck guy' who makes his son's day every Tuesday.

A father in a small North Island town has raised smiles around the country with a simple Facebook post thanking a "rubbish truck guy."

The post said thank you to the rubbish collector who routinely waves at Aaron Brown's two-year-old son in the Waikato town of Tuakau.

His wife Elaine shared her husband's message to a community page, the Franklin Grapevine, where it quickly attracted thousands of likes and hundreds of shares in a day.

This is how it runs:

"We don't know your story and you don't know ours.

"I never took any notice of you over the years and like everyone else just expect our wheelie bins to be picked every Tuesday morning and left again in a tidy row for us to put away.

"Two years ago it all changed.

"All of a sudden it was a highlight for us. Every Tuesday morning we hear your big truck coming and the excitement begins. Even before he could walk or talk our son would stop what he was doing and make his way to the front door.

"I would take him out side and he would look on in amazement as you expertly guided your truck around the cul de sac and picked up each bin with what has become known as your crocodile arm.
"Now you could just carry on oblivious to a man and his son in the driveway but no.

"What you do is take a small moment of your time and wave and say out the window hi boy! With the biggest smile. It took Alex about a year but then the day he waved back you were so happy and it made Alex laugh.

"Now every Tuesday morning, Alex runs to the door and leads me out so he can watch and wave at you and as always, you wave back with a huge smile.

"This morning you even out did yourself. I take Alex to daycare every morning and some mornings are harder than others. Today he didn't want to get out of the car when we got there. Then he heard your truck. He instantly wanted out so he could see you. As you drove past you recognised us. You didn't have to, but you did. Again a huge smile and wave.

"Alex waved back and was so excited to go into daycare and tell everyone about you.

"So I thank you Tuakau rubbish truck guy. You might think it's nothing but it makes Alex so happy!!"

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Indie bestsellers April

From GalleyCat comes the latest top titles from Amazon and Smashwords.

And Romance Wins Again

Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of April 13, 2016

1. His Princess (A Royal Romance) by Abigail Graham: “The Crown Prince took me prisoner. You read that right. Crown Prince. Castle, throne, the whole nine yards. The monarch of a totalitarian regime has locked me up in his fortress, and he demands that I marry him… and provide him with an heir!”

2. Go Long by Joanna Blake: Belinda Carmichael is uptight, prissy and the hottest girl I’ve ever seen. She’s also the head coach’s precious baby girl. And she’s entirely off limits. The trouble is, I didn’t know who she was when I met her. And she had no idea I was her daddy’s newest star player. It was her job to show me around campus, and I showed her a lot more than that. But we fumbled the ball – she never told a soul who got her pregnant.”

3. Stuck-Up Suit by Vi Keeland: “It started out like any other morning on the train. Until I became mesmerized by the guy sitting across the aisle. He was barking at someone on his phone like he ruled the world. Who did the stuck-up suit think he was…God?”

4. Still Here: A Secret Baby Romance by Laura Bell Peters and Kaylee Song: “When Wyatt Graves offers my family fifty-thousand dollars extra to buy a plot of land I can’t say no, even after I hear the catch. Ten dates, no strings, nothing physical, no promises. Sounds easy, right?”

5.  Billion Dollar Bad Boy by Nora Flite: “The package in my mail had no name, no address.
Just some sexy lingerie, and a letter telling me that I was claimed. That I already belonged to him.”

6. Cotton: Satan’s Fury MC by L. Wilder: “Becoming President of the Satan’s Fury MC was a bittersweet moment for Cotton. When his Uncle Saul died, he passed the gavel down to him, and while Cotton took his death hard, he immediately assumed the role with pride. He considered leading his brothers an honor, and the MC quickly became his main focus…”

7. Mr. and Mrs. by Alexa Riley: “Welcome to Alexa Riley Promises. This series is dedicated to old romances. It’s tropes galore, with all of our usual over-the-top alphas and sweet cheesy goodness. These short books will focus on traditional and classic tropes while sticking to the Alexa Riley code: no cheating and always with an HEA. That’s our Promise to you.”

8. Slow and Steady by Kendall Ryan: “When Greyson tosses $20 on the stage of a strip club, the last thing he expects to see are the haunted green eyes staring back at him. Finley should be home raising her infant daughter and baking cookies, not tucking singles into her G-string and giving lap dances.”

9. Full Fathom Five by Bart Davis: “The Soviet nuclear submarine Kirov has been stolen by Central American rebels to prevent a CIA invasion. As nuclear weapons aim toward the U.S. from the ocean depths, sparks begin to fly between Moscow and Washington.”

10. A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest: “On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake. A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood.”

If you are of a more serious mind, the Smsahwords list looks more promising.

Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of April 13, 2016

1. Strong Brains, Sharp Minds: The Definitive Guide to the MINDRAMP Method For Brain Health & Mental Development 

2. Cognitive Activity Design: Designing Creative Activities and Art-Based Projects That Promote Brain Health and Flourishing 

3. GOA. Confession of the Psychedelic Oyster 

4. Naturally Flawless: A holistic approach to clear skin 

5. Устрица раскрылась. 

6. Scrum Narrative and PSM Exam Guide 

7. Negotiating for Success: Essential Strategies and Skills 

8. A Guidebook to Inks,Paints And Functional Inks 

9. Yoga Class Plans 

10. Chaos Of A Demon War – Book Three of The Nexus Of Kellaran Trilogy – Metric Edition