Tag Archives: computer

Have Kindle, Will Travel


I travel a lot, not just for work but also for pleasure. Until recently I lived in China eight months of the year so didn’t have access to my book collection. It was also difficult to pick up new reading material. The ‘classics’ (Shakespeare, Bronte, etc) are widely available in the major cities but beyond that, pickings are very slim indeed. Many times in the past I have found myself in that awful (for me) position of… having nothing to read. At which time I resorted to reading anything which had English writing on it. It can be very unfulfilling to read your own luggage labels over and over again!

To avoid such an eventuality I took more books with me than I needed. Still, space and weight restrictions meant I was limited to a handful of paperbacks and a few magazines. This invariably led to a heated internal discussion every autumn about what to take, and what to leave behind. I usually wanted to take things I hadn’t read before, but in doing so you run the risk of ending up with a dud or two.

Books, even paperbacks, are heavy, and take up a lot of space in your luggage. They can also cause other problems. Last year my suitcase was flagged in Shanghai Pu Dong airport, and a stoney-security officer wanted to know why I was carrying so many books. A question to which I could only respond, “Er… I like reading?”

Looking slightly confused, the Chinese security officer carefully leafed through each book in my suitcase. I don’t know exactly what he was looking for. He also found some Cheddar cheese in my luggage, which he took issue with not knowing what it was, and a switchblade knife, which he had no problem with whatsoever.

Books, no. Cheese, definitely not. Concealed knife? Absolutely fine!

Slowly, the solution became obvious. Buy a Kindle. I had been reading ebooks on my laptop for a long time, and had long been impressed by the availability, accessibility and cost-effectiveness of them. The problem with reading off a laptop was practicality and convenience. You can’t read your laptop on the toilet! Well, you can, I guess. But where would you balance it when you are washing your hands? The floor of a Chinese toilet is no place to put an expensive piece of electronic hardware.

So, I recently took the plunge and invested in a Kindle. Then followed a little transferring of files, some internet searches, a spot of downloading (legally, of course!) and within a couple of hours, I was holding virtually my entire book collection in the palm of one hand. Yes, we all prefer actual books, but the truth of the matter is, they are not always practical. And after a while they get smelly.

Kindles are the future.


The Worst Month Ever

“When is life was ruined, his family killed, his farm destroyed, Job knelt down on the ground and yelled up to the heavens, “Why God? Why me?”

And the thundering voice of God answered, “There’s just something about you that pisses me off…”

(From Storm of the Century, original screenplay by Stephen King)

I’m not one to complain. I am usually pretty successful at convincing myself that however bad things get, there’s always someone worse off. But honestly, July 2012 was a bitch. My family wasn’t killed and my farm wasn’t destroyed, but I definitely think I pissed God off.

My run of bad luck started back in China, where I work most of the year.

Firstly, after spending a sleepless night at Shanghai Hongqiao airport, at 6am the next morning I transferred to Pudong International airport on the other side of the city. On arrival I tried to check in for my 9am flight, only to be informed that the flight was overbooked and I had been shunted onto a later flight. I didn’t mind too much. I only had to wait another 3 hours and was paid compensation. Then, after a 10-hour flight I arrived at Heathrow airport and went to get a National Express coach to Cardiff. It was late. As were all the coaches. My 7pm coach finally arrived at around 8.30.

Again, not such a big deal. You expect these things when you travel regularly. But by now circumstances were beginning to mount up, and I began mentally checking my Karma account. Little did I know, things were about to slip into a higher gear…

I have had my Toshiba laptop for just over a year – long enough for the 12-month warranty to expire – and never had a problem with it. Until, of course, the warranty expired. Then I turned it on one morning to find that there was no file association. I had no idea what to do, so I took it to a repair shop where it was held captive for two days before the owner presented me with a large bill. Problem solved, or so I thought.

I live for my laptop. Don’t mess with my laptop. When I am away it is my TV, my stereo, my communication device, and my work station. At approximately the same time the warranty on my laptop expired, so did my virus protection. For a matter of hours, my baby had no protection and was open to attack.

Obviously, she was attacked.

Some cyber turd hacked into my hotmail and Microsoft responded by blocking my email account indefinitely. Cue several long-winded calls to the Customer Care department and another hefty bill, this time for a software engineer, before my computer was declared ‘safe.’

Next, I travelled to London to see Bruce Springsteen at Hard rock Calling. But the gig was cut short when over-zealous council jobsworths pulled out the power cord as punishment for exceeding a curfew by 15 minutes (see earlier post).

The following weekend, I was mugged by three teenagers who stole my phone and money and left me bleeding by the side of the road. I spent a night in casualty and the next several days giving witness statements to the police. The police took my favourite jeans, and my new trainers, for DNA testing. I still haven’t had my clothes back, nor the items that were stolen, and though the police have suspects they are yet to arrest anyone.

Finally, I recently posted a bad review of a book I purchased on Amazon I don’t usually write bad reviews, but this was a bad book!

Somebody (I suspect the author of the book I reviewed) responded to my criticism by writing shocking, fake, 1-star reviews of all my published work for the same site, under several aliases.

To their credit, Amazon investigated and removed the offending reviews for breaching user guidelines, but while they were investigating, the reviews were there for all to see for several days. I can only imagine how it impacted on sales.

They say what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, but after this soul-destroying run, I am left pondering… whatever next?

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