Caught one quiet evening while passing through: Zurich HB (Hauptbahnhof / main railway station) in late January, 2015…
If you’ve already heard enough about this, or just don’t care to hear a couple pages’ worth of venting right now, please avert your eyes now. Thank you.
…I’ve had a soft spot for Apple products for a long time, to the point where versions of them have for years appeared in my Young Wizards series as “the preferred devices of the Powers that Be”. (So everything that follows this should be read as “more in sorrow than in anger”, though there’s certainly some anger, make no mistake.) I worked with Apple computers myself in the ancient day (while not owning them) and recommended them wholeheartedly to friends. So it sometimes surprises my readership to find that until recently I’d never myself owned anything Apple-ish but an iPod.
A couple/few months ago this changed when the first serious Apple computing device came into the household, in the form of an iPad. We haven’t had it for very long (I say “we”, but the hard truth is that Peter hasn’t had much of a chance to get his hands on it) but I’ve been enjoying gradually learning its ways, and it makes my work a lot easier. It is peerless for e-reading purposes (especially using BlueFire Reader) and there’s nothing like it for proofreading prose: errors just seem to jump out for the catching.
And one of the great satisfactions of using the iPad, quite early on, was hitting “Maps” and having the house come up instantly, for we’re out in the middle of nowhere. And the pleasure hasn’t just been about finding my own place, but other places, in close detail. For both the working writer and the busy traveler, the Maps icon was a gateway to the most functional of joys. You could find your way in a strange place: you could work out where the nearest post office or cab rank was: you could read a map in the streets of a foreign city without instantly making yourself look like a tourist ready to be relieved of his or her valuables. (Easiest on the iPhone, of course, but there are ways to use the Pad less obviously for this too. Deep purses have their uses, and you could be looking for anything in there.) You could sit in a restaurant over a meal and scout around for interesting places to check out afterwards. Or you could just sit home and do research about the things your characters needed to be doing and seeing in a place you’d never been, moving easily between map view and street view as required.
…But not any more. If you’re alert to computing issues at all, you’ll surely have heard the noise over the last couple of days as regards what’s happened to Maps in the iPhone and iPad. There are explanations all over the place (here, for example) as to why Apple chose to make the change and so forth.
I don’t think this is a minor issue. Accurate and dependable GPS-friendly mapping to handheld and portable devices has become one of the most important reasons to have such a device in the first place. Jeez, if even Sherlock bloody Holmes needs such a thing to save his bacon sometimes, it should be an indicator of how vital such usage is for the rest of us mere mortals.
And what does iOS6 for the iPad and iPhone do with so vital a commodity? It throws out the best online mapping available, that of Google, and goes with a homebrew mapping application.
Baby. Bathwater. Especially since the Apple Maps facility is so not ready for prime time yet.
Once upon a time I knew that if I had both amnesia and the iPad, then Maps on the iPad could get me home. (Best memory of this: using Maps on the iPad in conjunction with the wonderful DB (German Rail) app, (yes, there’s an Android version too, we both have it on our HTC phones) which was given a start point somewhere in the middle of Germany and told “Get me home!” All by itself it got us as far as Dun Laoghaire Ferry Port and then threw its figurative hands in the air and said “All right, not even we can do anything with Irish Rail if they won’t run a rail link to a main ferry port, and they’ve made their bus schedule inaccessible to us, so you’re on your own now.” But the Google Maps implementation in the Pad did the rest and found the best route back to the right spot on Unnamed Road Number 876,543. And all praise to Deutsche Bahn for whoever they got to build that app for them.) Anyway, once upon a time, the imagery was all clear, right down to a very close zoom, so close you could see not just our driveway but our backyard clothesline.
No chance of any more such happy homecomings, however. I don’t have a comparison shot of the previous view – I never thought I’d need it – but this is what our area looks like now:
The road in front of our house is gone. So are other minor roads in the area (and this is exactly the kind of help a traveler in these parts would seriously need). So is the house, as half the image (as you see) now renders it impossible to find due to poor quality. And what happened over to the left there? And why is the definition sharp again just half a mile away??
Now, yes, granted, this is rural Ireland, not exactly the most populated corner of the planet. But if you check the blog here, you’ll see that great cities have been affected the same way. The Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge has big problems. Freiburg in Breisgau, a vibrant and beautiful modern/medieval city in southwestern Germany, is now represented in places by postwar aerial imagery (take a look, you can see the bomb craters). Berlin has relocated itself to Antarctica. Something really strange has happened to the Schuylkill Expressway in Philly near the Art Museum (which doesn’t look too well either) right next to it. Gothenburg, Sweden, is missing. Closer to home, Dublin Zoo has somehow relocated itself into the south city center, right on top of a hotel where we routinely stay: I’m half concerned that the next time we check in I should bring a whip and a chair in case of lions. (Also, an area near Dundrum in County Dublin [now mostly famous for a high-end shopping center] has been labeled “Airfield” and the Irish Minister in Charge of Yelling at Apple has had to contact them to get it removed urgently before some iOS6-using pilot [of whom there are many] mistakes it for the military airport at Baldonnell and tries to land there. …Is it gone yet, BTW? I’m afraid to look.)
Apple. How did you let this application leave the house in such a state? What on Earth possessed you?!
Yes, I know about the bad blood between you and Google, about the Apple / Android divide, about your desire to put some distance between you. I understand that perfectly. But here, in this one spot, you should have just sucked it up and said All right, fine, we can cope with this until we have something not just better, but breathtakingly so.
…Too late now.
So many actions in life have unexpected results. Here’s my list of the local ones resulting from this whole business:
(a) I now bitterly regret ever having punched the Upgrade button. I will never regard an Apple OS upgrade the same way again. I should have been more suspicious to start with. Lesson learned.
(b) The minute there’s a Google Maps app in the App Store? I’ll be all over that like a cheap suit and I will never touch the native Maps icon again. I won’t even look at it. (Probably I won’t be allowed to delete it, which is a shame, because for a long time, every time I see it, I’m going to growl.)
(c) We will be buying a Samsung tablet at the earliest opportunity. Admittedly, we were already inclined this way for several reasons: (1) for ebook production, because nothing works to test an ebook version like the actual device it’s intended to run on: (b) Peter likes the Android OS better than he does Apple’s (“And now you see why,” says the annoyed voice from the next room): and (3) the constant and sleazy-looking litigation over whether or not the Samsung looks too much like an iPad has put a bad taste in both our mouths. But this has pushed me right over the edge. Apple, your implementation of Google Maps may not work any more, but I know someone whose implementation will. If my experience is anything to go by, you are driving your customers straight into the arms of your competition. And the ripples from this are going to spread: the longer it goes on and the louder the ruckus gets, the more potential Apple customers are going to say “Nuh uh, don’t want one of those.”
(sigh) Okay, done ranting. But I wish I knew how they were going to fix this, because a function of the iPad that was important and useful to me (and apparently to a whole lot of other people) has been reduced to a heap of smoking rubble. It would be lovely if Apple would amend iOS6 to allow a user to opt in to Google Maps (or out of the Apple mapping application). But bearing in mind the rather controlling nature of Apple, this seems… at best unlikely.
Meanwhile… can anyone recommend a reliable way to roll back to iOS5? (Though I already have a horrible feeling about what the answer’s going to be.)
Dates haven’t yet been finalized, but the convention organizers advise us that the convention will be happening in the second half of March 2012.
And we would not miss it for anything. The unmatchable hospitality of the organizers, the other guests, and the attendees, makes it a gotta-be-there event: intimate and comfortable. And, OMG, the FOOD! Fabulous. It’s such a pleasure to start with to have the chance to sit down twice a day and eat with your fellow con-goers — food at conventions usually being such a hit-and-miss thing. But when the bill of fare includes such superb regional (Lazian) food … well! (Also: any place with a breakfast buffet that includes chocolate cake is okay by me.)
And the hill-town ambience of Fiuggi can’t be beat. (Neither can the hotel’s downstairs spa: Fiuggi is a spa town of considerable vintage.) …Anyway: we had an absolute blast as guests in 2010, and can’t wait to get back there!
A friend asked to see these videos, so I thought I’d bundle them together in a single post.
They’re comments on a certain airline which unarguably has changed the face of aviation in Europe — unquestionably for the better — but has since turned into something of a nightmare. Our own nightmare unfolded during the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, during which Ryanair’s complete uselessness and unhepfulness caused Peter to swear many mighty oaths regarding what he would someday do to “that man” should the airline’s MD ever venture within range.
And as regards the airline’s general fitness-for-purpose when volcanoes are not erupting… seems a lot of other people have opinions that chime with ours…
WARNING: especially regarding the first video, the Cheap Flights song by the wonderful musical comedy group Fascinating Aida — do NOT be drinking anything while this runs.
And now a few words on the subject from der Fuehrer.
Almost all writers I know have work superstitions, though it’s not something we usually discuss except amongst ourselves. They’re like the superstitions some sportsmen have — the way, for example, that baseball players cross themselves when they’re coming up to bat. (Often provoking the response, Oh, come on now, you didn’t have to cross yourself so many times. And do you really have to touch yourself there right afterwards? How can your nethers need so much adjustment when you’ve hardly moved? And now you’re doing it again. I’m looking away now… )
For writers it can be any one of a number of things, or a combination of them. Which way the desk is oriented. How many cups of coffee you have to have before you can sit down and start work. A certain kind of pencil to scribble notes or doodles with. The right seat in the right cafe. Not starting work before a specific time. Not starting work after a specific time. Some of these habits just seem to begin themselves: some are a behavior or an accessory that may have been sheerly accidental at the time, but which the writer has come to associate with work that just came out right.
This is mine: grid paper. Specifically, this grid paper from the Swiss supermarket/department store chain Migros. (Their online shopping partner LeShop.ch carries it as well.)
I’d have to do a little digging to nail down the exact date when this started, but it goes back at least to the late 1990s — not long before the Transcendent Pig started turning up in the YW books. (I’m pretty sure that the writing episode featuring the Pig that’s described here was conducted on Migros grid paper: “the pad” is mentioned, and before the Pad came along, it would have been just plain white printer paper.) In any case I was in Switzerland a lot during the 90’s — doing research for A Wind from the South, among other things — and since everybody who stays in Switzerland for any length of time winds up in a Migros sooner or later, it was probably a given that I would run across these pads eventually and pick one up.
But they’ve turned out to be really nice to work on. Reasons:
- The neutral gray is easy on the eye.
- The grid spacing is just right for my handwriting (which is small): 4mm boxes.
- The paper is 100% recycled.
- It’s a nice weight: 100g/m2.
- Ink doesn’t bleed through, no matter which side you’re writing on, even when you’re using a fountain pen.
- It feels nice to work on — the surface finish is very pleasant.
But most important of all for me:
- Work done on it comes out right.
Don’t ask me how or why. It just seems that way.
So I don’t use it on just anything: no to-do lists, no shopping lists. (Those go on sticky notes, either real ones or the virtual ones in my smartphone. Though sometimes work notes do wind up on these due to accident or necessity, and those get stapled up over the desk so I don’t lose track of them. They are never removed until the line or issue mentioned on the note is dealt with in print. Some of these have been around for a while: see the image to the left.) The grid paper is saved for outlines, serious notes or edits (like the ones above, for the High Wizardry New Millennium Edition revision), hand-writing chapter excerpts (as detailed in that link above), and other such heavyweight stuff.
When somebody in the household goes over to CH (or these days, to Germany: there are some Migros outlets there now too), they’re always enjoined to bring a couple of pads back home with them. These go on the shelf by the desk where I can peel off a few sheets in a hurry if I need some at home, or else pack some in a bag with the red plastic writing clipboard if I’m going offsite.
So now everybody knows.
Whether this “magic” has the slightest chance of ever working for anyone else, I have no idea. These things are so subjective. The definition of superstitious behavior, after all, is that it assumes or attempts to create causal links where none really exist.
But who can tell. If it does someone else some good… cheers.
In honor of President Barack Obama’s visit to Ireland today, we’re happy to announce the release of the latest in the series of Young Wizards International edition ebooks, A Wizard Abroad.
Fourth in the Young Wizards series, A Wizard Abroad details how the concerned parents of fourteen-year-old Nita Callahan — thinking that she and fellow young wizard Kit Rodriguez are getting a little too close — pack their daughter off to Ireland for an extended visit to the farm owned by her slightly eccentric Aunt Annie. They think that by doing this they’re going to give Nita a little rest from both Kit and from the stressful and dangerous business of wizardry.
They couldn’t be more wrong. Nita shortly finds herself plunged into a local crisis, as the Lone Power finds yet another way to interfere in human existence. All over Ireland, myths and creatures of the past — both good and evil — start erupting into modern life, a response to the swiftly growing influence of the Lone One’s ancient Celtic avatar, the terrible Balor of the Evil Eye. Nita, Kit, and a host of Irish wizards — including the brooding and enigmatic Ronan Nolan, who Nita starts to find disturbingly attractive — soon find themselves enmeshed in a deadly struggle to stop the Lone Power before Its evil exploits this unexpected gateway to overflow Ireland’s boundaries and overrun the world…
This 2011 International Edition is intended for Young Wizards fans outside the US and Canada who can’t purchase the classic editions of the YW series from North American ebook retailers due to regional sales restrictions. It follows the text of the US SF Book Club first edition of A Wizard Abroad (1993) and the subsequent US paperbacks from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (North American readers can obtain their own region-specific ebook editions of A Wizard Abroad from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.com.)
Readers outside the US and Canada can purchase the International ebook edition of A Wizard Abroad, DRM-free and in .mobi (Kindle) and .ePub (Nook, iPad) formats, through the DianeDuane.com ebook store. It’s also available through Amazon.com for instant download to your Kindle.
Also please note: a new revised edition of A Wizard Abroad, updated by the author and available to readers worldwide, will be released by Errantry Press in the second half of 2011. Please check DianeDuane.com for dates and other details.
…And in the meantime, would somebody please tell the President to stay a little longer next time? And not to forget the golf clubs.
We had a camera stolen from us some years back while en route to Freiburg from Basel on a late train. It’ll be interesting to see whether this is any good to us —
The site reads EXIF info from one of your own digital photos and then trolls the Web looking for other images with the same info.
ETA: it won’t help us — the camera we lost was an older Sony that doesn’t record serial number info in the EXIF. Oh well.
The whole place is downstairs one level, under the busy city food market above. There are booths and tables set near the big copper brew kettles (the Martinsbräu is a microbrewery) and off to one side, by one of the big tables, pictures of angels are hung on the far wall.
Theoretically, the various angels are supposed to be protecting their charges. But some of the angels look… a little ambivalent.
Just going through the blogroll and revisiting some old favorites preparatory to cleaning the present list up.
One I’ve always liked is “Rubber Slippers in Italy”. Here Rowena posts about the Carnivale in Schignano and its traditions about the Bei and the Brut — “the Beautiful and the Ugly.”
Peter read this over my shoulder and said, “Isn’t it interesting how cultural stereotypes shift over time. Once if you had a big belly, or were pale from not having to work outside in the fields, it was a sign you were wealthy and successful. Now it’s all tans and abs…”
Folks, just a quick word: this week has become unusually disrupted due to other work that’s going on in-house, so I’m going to have to postpone the chapter posting until just after the 27th. Unfortunately the chapter’s just not ready to go up yet, the in-house crisis won’t allow any work on any other projects until the weekend — when we’re due to be at the Discworld convention in Birmingham — and even then opportunities for work will be understandably spotty until Wednesday.
(sigh) I’m so sorry about this. Life this month just has not been going to plan. More shortly, however.
It was a charming convention. I look forward to coming back some time (with Peter, this time).
Stockholm is a city I look forward to visiting again when I have more time. The light here is very special. (The dark, not so special. Or maybe it is, but I’m a little set against it at the moment, as last night I got off the T-bana / Metro on the wrong side of the square at Odenplan, and (having set off confidently in the wrong direction) spent the next three-quarters of an hour (a) walking around in the dark and the rain (b) while trying to read the city map (c) and trying not to look like I was reading the city map in the dark, in the rain (d) while being ten blocks from where I should have been. No matter: I backtracked and found where I should have been.)
(It’s funny today. Last night, not so funny. But eighteen or twenty-four hours puts everything in perspective.)
Meanwhile, preparatory to heading back to my hotel, I find myself sitting in Gamla stan / the Old Town… in an Irish bar. They just happened to have (a) whiskey and (b) a ton of open outlets in the front of the place where I was able to plug in the computer and the phone.
Home tomorrow. Which is good, as I miss the computers, and the cats. And the husband. (Feorag, also NB: you have fans up here, and Fluff is kindly spoken of.) But in the meantime — thanks to all the Stocon folk for a memorable weekend. (And the cookbooks are brilliant, guys. Thanks again.)
Spent a super day amongst the Swedes. No more to say about that at the moment, except that I’m about to go back to the hotel and fall over. (NB: Sweden looks a lot like Ireland when it’s raining. But you knew that.)
So here I am. Missing Peter (inevitable), enjoying the weather (hot, sunny, a touch humid), and working (also inevitable: Vasa is going to have to wait for the next trip, I’m afraid).
The eclipse passed without notice in most parts of the city, I think. (But at only — what, 30%-ish totality? — this is forgivable. I think I noticed things getting a little dim this morning, but there was some cloud cover passing through at the time, and people no doubt attributed the change of lighting to that.)
Meanwhile I am holed up in a comfortable bar/restaurant called the Järntorgs Pumpen, finishing work on the film outline and watching other, more normal people sitting out in the sun in front of the restaurant and enjoying themselves. Having had a nice cool tuna salad, I then started a cyberskulk (i.e., a hunt for powerpoints / outlets) and was delighted to find outlets to charge up both computer and cellphone just a table away. (Future visitors, NB: it’s the table for four inside the window on the left as you face the restaurant from the square: the outlets are between the table and the front door.)
Here’s the view from where I’m working:
(Dublin readers: imagine my surprise to find a bar/restaurant called “The Temple Bar” just around the corner. To my surprise, the menu was mostly Greek. Go figure.)
PASADENA, Calif.–Bars abound in spiral galaxies today, but this was not always the case. A group of 16 astronomers, led by Kartik Sheth of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, has found that bars tripled in number over the past seven billion years…
So what’s the cause? Gentrification, or looser liquor licensing laws? You decide.
(with a tip of the hat to The Quantum Pontiff)