Library “Art Gallery”

Shadows on the Snow
Shadows on the Snow

I brought a couple of my photos in to be part of the opening exhibit of photos from the Senior’s College classes…one of mine, shown above, is to be included. Last weekend I was part of a group Swarna, the librarian, shanghaied to set policy for this, her’ latest publicity venture for the Montague (PEI) library. She now has a set of chains hanging down on an open wall intended to hold pictures… paintings or photographs. Each exhibit is to be up for 6 weeks and the space is available on a first-come-first-served basis by signup. Being the sort of person she is, there will be “grand openings” every 6 weeks with refreshments… anything you spent at the library book sale supports local programs!

In the discussion of policies, I was surprised to discover how much my experiences with the Artisans on Main…discussed in blogs from last summer… gave me a clear picture of what I did NOT want for this activity.

  • There should be NO jury passing judgement if the art is good enough to be shown.
  • There should be no favoring more polished or professional work over beginners work or even work by children…whoever signs up first gets the space.
  • There should only be help in hanging and arranging an exhibit if the contributor specifically requests it. Otherwise mounting and arranging the exhibit should be entirely the responsibility of the artist (or their mother or father).

I suppose I am still smarting under the exclusivity and judgmental attitude that gradually grew up within the Artisans, but I want this library project to be free form any taint of such restrictiveness. For what its worth, I hope to sign up for a spot soon next week!

e-Picture formatting

I was talking, with a friend who does web-site layouts, about the huge variety of platforms now requiring attention for an application. No longer can you just size any pictures to read well on a 600 x 800 monitor…no you have to consider HD aspect-ratio display formats, high resolution displays, and now iPads and other tablets, smart phones, and various e-readers…high and low resolution…big and small…portrait or landscape orientation.

I recently ‘bought’ a (temporarily) free book on Kindle, Lexi Fairheart and the Forbidden Door, to see how a picture-oriented children’s book worked on a eReader…a Kindle Paperwhite in this case. I had understood that they didn’t work well on that platform. Reading it on the Kindle app on my laptop, the pictures were in color and looked very good,  but on the eReader, while they were sized OK, the conversion to black& white made them so dark it was impossible to see any detail…I would suppose a change in the brightness of the pictures with an eye to the conversion might have helped. [Also, the same problem I had with fonts on my own eBook plagued this eBook…the choice of font styles was totally overridden although the size could be altered.]

When I now start to configure pictures for eReaders I face the challenge of what resolution to use, what aspect ratio, and how light or dark to make them. Kindle suggests 500 x 700 pixels for interior pictures and something like 1800 x 2500 pixels for covers, but they caution that you should preview all files on the various target devices to make sure you can accept the result. That is well and good but what it dramatically shows for picture/drawing/graph-oriented books, the  highly fragmented viewing market really demands that I prepare different files for each target device. Whatever the capabilities of the operating systems on the devices, they do not intelligently optimize all the various files that they display.

How wonderful it would be if there were a defined standard which, in a single file, would play well across all platforms–probably that is presently impossible…it would require the capabilities of a photo editor program in each device as well as a computer with the graphical layout savvy of a professional designer.

New (to me) camera


computer screen at 2' with background 6' behind at F1.2
computer screen at 2′ with background 6′ behind at F1.2

After losing perhaps a dozen auctions I succeeded in acquiring a Nikon D200 digital camera body on eBay, which I was able to pick up in person in Muncie, IN (USA) on the way to visit family in Lafayette.. The particular unit was relatively heavily used with about 90,000 shots taken…rated by Nikon for about 200,000. 

Why did I want an “old” camera? It turns out that the first few Nikon digital models were designed to still work with the older manual lenses, and I had a whole set of nice ones from my film camera days…f55 1:1.2…f135 1:2.8…f19 1:3.8…f28-200 1:3.9-5.6…f500 1:1:8. Most of those lenses are easily duplicated in magnification by almost any cheap digital camera today, but the large apertures…up to 1:1.2…and the wide angle…f19…are the things that are not readily obtained on fixed-lens cameras. In particular the 1.2 allows me to take a picture of a person in front of a busy background by blurring out the background and keeping the subject in sharp focus. Most digital cameras have such sensitive sensors that they don’t need large apertures to gather enough light at hand-held shutter speeds. So the depth of field stays large…sharp focus from 6′ to infinity! The casual user WANTS that sharp-all-over effect so it is no problem for the manufacturer to use cheaper smaller aperture lenses.

So, now I hope to begin producing more pictures with selective focus.


Second E-book published

2nd E-bookAfter editing through the original material on God, Sin, and Salvation, the second of six E-books is up on Amazon Kindle. The process was easier than the first time, with a grasp of the need to erase all font names and font sizes in points…change to ems. The final fix was to clear up the footnote reference numbers to be the same font and size in the text, which showed how much duplicate ‘junk’ WORD keeps in the file when it converts to html. The final product is behaving well on the Paperwhite preview and I hope to have a look at it on the actual reader soon. 

I upgraded the Kindle Previewer with no noticeable change in performance…I assume Kindlegen has not changed much. I have run across some advice on how to utilize the free-download to better effect by notifying several sites that list free downloads. I have held off for fear the 5-day-maximum free period (per 90 days) would expire before anyone found it. So far my first book downloads have totaled 5! ): 

Called my bluff!

I recently received a grant from the Southern Kings Arts Council partially underwriting the printing of my sailing book. Unfortunately not much has been happening on the sailing front…the boat sits in the yard covered in perhaps 12″ of snow, which puts a damper on projects. But the grant did inspire me to get out the chapter drafts and fill in the activities of 2012…they called my bluff!

There was relatively little sailing done in 2012…my “crew” had mutinied and all the sailing was single-handed. It was a good time to make sure I had the autopilot technique down and that I could work out a sequence for sail raising and lowering.

The trailer was a major focus, since its rebuild the year before set it slightly too narrow, crushing parts of the outer hulls when the boat was pulled. I had to repair those spots as well as adding in new sensors for depth and boat speed to go with a new fish-finder. Also I got to break in a new GPS/chart-plotter…particularly useful for entering unknown harbors.

For several years I have been saying I will not release my book until I have a big accomplishment to report. More and more I think that must be an around-the-island trip. PEI should be easily circumnavigated in 10 days, assuming the wind cooperates. Since my (former) crew would be within easy reach of my cell phone and since any part of the Island can be reached by car in under 4 hours, she can serve as my emergency land support. I can use the time taking lots of pictures and should have a lengthy report ready for the book by the end of the trip.

Since there is a slight underwriting, and since Lightning Source now has a low-cost color option, I expect I will insert all the pictures into the book in color. Just thinking about it re-inspires me!

Kindle Paperwhite–first view

Waiting for me in Indiana was a plain black box holding my first Kindle reader—the Paperwhite. I decided to leapfrog over the basic $69 Kindle reader because the new one has internal lighting. It also turns out it is navigated by a touch screen…only one button that turns it on and off. Having viewed the Revisiting Scripture E-book files on the previewer on my computer, I had a good idea of how the text might look, but the previewer was so erratic or fussy I wasn’t sure what the real thing would do. In the end it seems OK, but I think I had an older E-book file than the one online…several things were improved in the intense week of html fixing, and the final online version had the TOC (table of contents) with indents to differentiate outline levels while the one I viewed on the reader was with all the entries at the left edge. I have also discovered that adding some book marks in the WORD file will show up as GOTO items which could make it possible to hop around without having to jump back to the TOC all the time. Oh, by the way, there still seem to be a few typos…I hope to fix them in a few weeks after I finish the second volume.

The reader hardware itself seems fine, although a bit heavier than a paperback of similar size…of course it is far lighter if set next to the stack of some 1000 paperbacks it could hold! The lighting feature seems just fine…brightness can be varied almost continuously and the slight variation at the bottom seems negligible. 

It seems that the efforts to use this reader as an iPad-like web tool are destined for failure…the web content I have seen that has heavy picture/graphical content is not configured for the low resolution and size of the reader, so any diagrams come out tiny and illegible. I now understand how the publishing of E-books with pictures requires careful sizing and selection of images…not impossible ..not even difficult…but not a direct conversion from a print version.

I now know why electrical plug strips and other devices include USB-like connections for charging. The Kindle charges only through the tiny USB connector, via the supplied cable, but I discovered my laptop does not supply USB power when off, hibernating, or asleep, so it has to be left on for hours to charge the reader. I discover that it is possible to load content into the reader via the USB port…handy since the WiFi connection is not of clear use for such activity except bringing material down from the Amazon cloud storage. I have to research whether you can upload to the cloud any material that is not officially obtained through Amazon.

In any case, the good news is that my first E-book now works just fine on the Paperwhite reader!

‘Chewing the fat’

What a folksy expression, but it probably fits what my friend Chris and I are doing on a quiet Saturday. Standing in the garage looking out on the 3-4″ of new snow in the driveway we reminisce about boating experiences.

He describes several times when his fishing boat… recommissioned as a pleasure craft…broke free of its mooring and was reported either by the coast guard or neighbors on far shores or tied up at a nearby wharf. So I counter with stories where the wind lifted my mooring block and carried my sailboat over in front of the ferry slip.

I talk about carefully timing the annual trips to the water in the spring and home in the fall to miss the ferry traffic. He counters with stories of quietly pulling his 28000-pound boat through the center of town on quiet early Sunday mornings pulled by a light pickup truck!

I talk about asking if the weigh station would weigh my boat, only to find it would also have to be inspected to be sure the trailer was road legal (virtually impossible with its 15′ width) and he talks about the challenge of picking up a new trailer in Massachusetts…a state that has no process to issue transit permits.

Sometimes these conversations can be one-upmanship, but I think yesterday it was discovering how much we have in common. Perhaps we can do some things together. After all, I point out to him, my annual fuel costs are about $20 while he can sink $500 in diesel for a one-day trip! But as my wife points out, such boats are able to travel quite independent of wind direction!

Is the E-reader dying already?

Having just completed my first E-book, I was confused to encounter a post which implies I’m already too late. Before I insert some of that post, here are some thoughts about the article:

1. I have only seen the iPad from a distance and I’m not among those jumping on this latest technology. Devices that rely on touch keypads are not likely to replace physical keyboards for people like me who do lots of typing, and even if I add a wireless keyboard (I assume that is possible) I’d have to find a way to prop it up to read conveniently. But then I seem to be far behind the cutting edge of any technology…as proved by the antiquated cell phone we have.

2. A 27% drop in new device sales does not say to me they are being discarded… perhaps just that the rapid rise is slowing…there are many E-ink devices out there which find full use because they work best in bright light and don’t have color. “dropping like a stone” seems exaggerated.

3. When you read the fine print of the blog you discover that the appearance of apps to read the E-books on newer devices makes the E-book author’s market just a viable as ever. Before I ever owned an E-reader…which I actually pick up in about 2 weeks…I had downloaded a free Kindle reader for my PC.

So with those disclaimers, here are extracts from a post today by Josh Loposer: Continue reading Is the E-reader dying already?

What are your interests?

I need to know what  you, the reader of this blog, most want to know.

Reading material from Copyblogger, I had a moment of blinding clarity where I realized I have been talking about what interests me in the hopes it interests you. In so doing, at the moment I have wandered into the details of preparing E-books when you may be more interested in publishing, art, photography, or writing.

If you are reading this, I would be grateful if you would take a few moments and give me a comment or two.

In the area of publishing, I have a feeling for the difference between Lightning Source…whom I use for all of my books so far…and CreateSpace…which at least two authors I know have used. Here are the points I have found:

Create Space v. Lightning Source

1. They are both POD..print on demand…operations producing books at a higher per-unit cost than large-run offset printers.
2. They both seem to focus on paperback books, although hard cover options exist.
3. Printing and order fulfillment can be done by Amazon with no action on the author/publisher’s part.

4. LS charges a setup fee of $75 plus a proof fee of $30 or less; CreateSpace has no setup charges…I’m not sure about first-copy charges.
5. CreateSpace takes a 40% piece off the top of each retail sale plus the unit cost of printing the book. LS takes nothing but the cost of printing and shipping…wait, is there a $1.50 charge per order?
6. LS is NOT a publisher and has no programs for formatting or editing…they work with publishers who in turn work with authors, but anyone can become a publisher by filling out some forms at no cost. CS has an entire graded set of packages at increasing cost that go from simple layout help through fancy marketing packages…perhaps like some of the rip-offs of vanity presses, although I have not heard bad things of CreateSpace so far. The I-can-do-it-all-by-myself option exists but their marketing plays it down for obvious reasons.
7.While CS takes 40% off all sales, books submitted to amazon by LS are expected to offer the distributor a hefty discount…50% is typical, but I don’t know what happens if an author offers no discount…will they carry them and charge extra for shipping…I don’t know. In any case, sales through Amazon come out about the same.
8. The printing costs seem similar, although I have not done a size-by-size comparison.