Kindle your relationship with reading

That sounded a little like an advert for Kindle – and it sort of is.

Ebooks – electronic books – are extremely popular for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is also the same reason that makes having a MP3 in your pocket a lot more popular than cramming a few dozen CDs in there: mobility.

Ebooks, for those living under a hardcover rock, are essentially special digital files of a book (novel, non-fiction, whatever), that can be opened and read by certain devices and/or programs. Not all ebooks have to be in those special digital file formats, but all special digital file formats need a dedicated program that can open it.

Here are some of the most common formats for ebooks:

PDF:

The first format that would have come to your mind would be PDFs. They’re great when you’ve typed up your 30-page long manuscript, all in 12pt Garamond, and all you have to do on your Microsoft Word is hit “Export” and the computer does it all for you. Then, you can send it off to anyone with the proclivity to read it, and you know that it won’t mess up, because almost all devices can recognize PDFs. PDF is even better if you have images, because we’ve all had to deal with images going on a walkabout whenever you try to move some text around it.

Then you hit a snag: Ralph wants to read your 30-page on his 5-inch phone, except because the PDF was made with 12pt Garamond, it’s too wide for his screen! He has to zoom in, and keep swiping and moving the PDF around, and he keeps losing his place.

No PDF

Alright, Ralph, calm down. There is actually a way for him to read your manuscript on his little screen, without any compromise on anyone’s behalf.

Ebook formats are formats that allow the text to be resized, and free flowing. Imagine your text to be a box of nails: PDF sees those nails hammered into a piece of wood, and you just can’t move them around. Ebook formats, on the other hand, is more like having those nails on a sheet of metal, and the user is a magnet. They can freely move the nails around so there’s more or less of them clumped together. This is what they call ‘free-flowing’ text.

Alright, that was a terrible analogy, but you get my drift.

There are two major ebook formats, firstly, we’ll look at EPUB.

EPUB:

Epub is the industry standard for ebook formats. That means, most publishers or software developers would work with Epub in mind. Epub is most commonly used on Apple devices, like your iPad or iPhone. It is also used on many other, third-party apps for tablets and such.

Here, let Wikipedia explain it better.

MOBI:

Great! You’re super excited about being able to read A Song of Ice and Fire without building up biceps. You go to your nearest electronic store, and you tell them you want to buy an ebook reader. The gal points at the nearest Kindle, and that’s what you go home with. You’ve already got a few DRM-free ebook files from a Humble Bundle that you paid for, and since epub is the way to go, you try to load them up into your Kindle.

Except…it won’t work!

Amazon’s Kindle is probably the most ubiquitous and well known e-reader (electronic reader) around. And they do not read epub files.

Apart from their proprietary, DRM protected AZW files (for the ebooks you buy off of their Amazon store), Kindles accept only PDF, and mobi.

Fun fact: Mobi might not even stick around for Amazon…who could be moving onto something else that’s not epub.

Let’s make an ebook!

So, you’re looking at your 30-pager, and Ralph is ralphing on about his 5-inch deficiency. You know that as an author, you need to please your readers, so you’re going to make your manuscript into an ebook. Here are some ideas:

Bookbaby has a great series of articles that explain some preliminary steps you need to take before publishing.

The first step is to know what you are publishing. If it’s text-only, then epub (or mobi, if you are wanting Kindle readers to access your product too) is the way to go. Otherwise, if there is a large quantity of images, such as photo-books or instructional booklets, then PDF may be the easiest course of action.

After that, it is a matter of deciding which platform you will publish in. Remember that epub is the industry standard, and will work on iPads, as well as other e-ink readers such as KOBO, NOOK, etc; mobi is the only one which Kindles will accept (apart from their proprietary AZW format).

There are electronic publishers for your ebook, which also help you format your work. Jutoh; Lulu; and Smashwords all offer publishing in epub. Mobipocket, the people who made the mobi format, obviously allow you to publish in mobi.

What to take away:

Ebooks are much more sophisticated than reading as a PDF; a well formatted ebook an be read easily on any device, using any sized font.

There are many different kinds of file formats for ebooks, depending on the device you’re using to read. Generally, epub is the way to go, being the industry standard. However, the format decision need to ultimately be made with the knowledge of intended audience and platform in mind.

There are several online electronic publishers who can help you create an ebook and distribute it.

Finally, Ralph needs to find himself a better reading device.

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The Thief – Single Shot Video Assignment

The single shot video task required a minute-long unedited sequence depicting a 3-line story. Bobker asserts that “in a single scene uninterrupted by cuts, the character of the image can be changed by simply moving the camera in, our, and around the players”, meaning the focus should be on the composition and utilization of the frame and camera to tell the story (Bobker, 60).

Having never used a camera before, this was an opportunity to get hands on experience. As a result, I had to learn to operate the basic steady camera movement, since natural movement of frame can “change the character of the image” (58), but to move it unevenly draws attention away from the action and towards the act of the spectacle itself. This was my central concern upon the beginning of filming.

The 3-line plot, centering on the theme “success”, was shown thus: A girl stops to take a phone-call, and leaves her bag open. A thief comes along and pickpockets a wallet. He walks past her and around a corner, successfully having stolen the wallet.

We chose to follow the thief around a corner, because it creates a sense of depth in the video. Since the clip takes place against a giant wall, there is a flatness to the image. By allowing a character to move from afar to near, and creating an illusion of a z-axis, the audience is drawn into the depth of the frame (59). Furthermore, we chose to end on a low-angle shot, in order to frame the successful thief as being powerful. The changing angles – from straight on to low angle – also creates a sense of height within the frame.

We also opted to first focus on the girl, then move slowly back to reveal the thief – who was seen in the background earlier. In this way, the camera movement and frame acts as a character in itself – ie, the vehicle of the audience’s gaze – and also allows us to tell the story through visual alone. By tracking slowly across a blank wall, and finally revealing the thief’s face, it allows the audience to know exactly what is happening, and create a sense of tension, without needing audio. We also focus on an outstretched hand about to pickpocket – centered in the frame, and moving slowly – because it also creates tension.

The tension is furthered by showing both the thief and the girl within frame after the theft. As the thief moves along the z-axis, the frame moves to show both characters while focusing on the thief. This also softens the flat 2D feel of the earlier wall-tracking.

I am proud of the camera movements when tracking along the wall to reveal the thief, then the follow of his outstretched hand, because I feel this portion especially drew the audience into the gaze. However, the flat 2D wall-tracking was tacky, and did not make good use of spatial techniques.

Reference:

Bobker, Lee R. “Composition.” Elements of Film. New York: Harcourt Brace Jonavich, 1974. 55-61. Print.

If We Only Die Once, I Wanna Die With You

[Something I Need – OneRepublic]

As of yesterday, I’m being taught and trained to make coffees at our cafe as well! This is very exciting because once I’m taught coffee (and become proficient at it), I’m basically able to take care of the whole store (to a degree, I suppose). RESPONSIBILITIES! It also means that I’m expected to work a lot faster than I used to, and to be able to look after other coworkers and help them out. A little daunting, I admit, but the prospect of power just sizzles me with excitement.

Also, I found out that I picked up the basics quite easily, and now it’s a matter of practice, practice, and more practice, until I become as fast as my supervisors, and make beautiful coffees too.

That’s just a small update on what’s been happening since last week. I’ve been playing Pokemon Y, obviously. The game is astonishing and it mostly hit everything I expected, and considering I was building my own hype for about 8 months, it would have been near impossible for the game to actually match my expectations. As always, my slow playing habits mean that everyone who I play with are ages ahead of me, and the battles I do with them are very one-sided, but I won’t let that detract from my enjoyment of my little piece of gem.

I’m also been accepted and offered a place in the courses that I applied for! Now it’s a matter of accepting the offers myself, applying for student loans and whatnot, and getting all ready for conscientious studying. If I learned anything from all the time I spend at work now, it’s that I’m fully capable of not just learning the basics but being really good at it, as long as I put my whole mind to it. I don’t know, though, I mean there are all sorts of new games to play in 2014!!!

On Saturday, Mela and I went to a friend’s birthday party in Essendon, and it was her first time driving into the city. The way home was extremely scary for both of us, because there were lots of cars, and we didn’t know the way at all, and was blindly following the GPS which repeatedly told us to merge into wrong lanes, so she was doing scary turns out of lanes last second. I think it will be a while before she’s confident enough to drive in the city, but for the most part she’s a very capable driver! Maybe I should brush up on navigating skills…

Also, today I shouted my parents lunch. I don’t know about you, but in my family, as I am the only child, there aren’t many times when I buy my parents things – they’re also the kind of parents who don’t really want things bought for them. So today we went to a new Japanese restaurant that opened and I footed the bill. Felt pretty good!

I’m heading off to sleep now, because tomorrow/today is my Dad’s birthday, and we’re having people over. That means I need to clean up my spread of junk food and USB cables since my little corner in the house is actually the entertainment area.

I’ll try to blog again soon, mostly because I feel like I should. But also because lately Serena and I haven’t been talking, and maybe if I blog she and I can discuss my posts. That may be optimistic.

Alex.

But When You’re With Me, I’ll Make You Believe

[Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5 ft Christina Aguilera]

Strange to be coming back to a habit which I used to have everyday. I read somewhere that 21 days make a habit, so here’s to 21 days of a new habit.

My comeback’s comeback’s comeback (did I count that right?) comes on the heels of a different direction that I’m taking in my life. Namely, that I’m going back onto the same direction that I was (hoping to be) heading towards this time last year.

Bar the stroke of depressing inspiration from the post prior, my life had taken a creative standstill. After graduation, I attempted to continue writing, but the lure of an obligation-free lifestyle took me in too far, and I found myself sitting at the tail end of May with nothing to show for it but working two 3-hour shifts a week, and taking benefits from the government (which isn’t something I’m complaining about). And while every day I told myself that I’d get right on it – ‘it’ being the first step towards a proper ‘life’, i.e. applying for writing/media jobs more seriously (more seriously than occasionally contacting some small publishing company about internships), or at least have a plan sketched out – it was simply more relaxing to watch old episodes of Buffy and gorge myself on Daredevil comics. I started and semi-abandoned two different writing projects, as well as a movie review blog idea which I’ve also heaped into a folder on my USB titled “Microsoft Docs”, the polite sign at the gate that is the graveyard of my creativity spurs.

So when June came whizzing around, I accepted a job at a local cafe, which offered me up to 20+ hours a week of working – and hard working, too. My paychecks started holding much bigger numbers, and I told myself that this was obviously my next step, since it was  next to impossible to find a job in the media these days (especially if I didn’t try), and at least I’m earning some seed money for when I take a step away from the ledge and start doing work for no money – an inevitable step.

Then, the other week, I reconnected with an old friend. She’s the kind of person who would ask about you out of the kindness of her heart, but not take a wishy-washy answer as fact and move on. She pressed why I didn’t have a proper plan, and even went so far as to contact an acquaintance of her own who works in the media, just to ask for how I can get started.

So I dug up my old internet bookmarks where I’d stashed away a few post-grad courses I’d been looking at in my final year of undergrad studying. I semi-made up my mind that I should return to study, if not only for the practical experience that those courses will provide for to fatten my port-folio. I sounded my ideas off of Amelia, who immediately seized on the fact that for the past half a year I’d done naught to further my own career, and guilt-tripped me into doing something about it. Granted, she told me to just go and properly look for a job, but I reviewed my own state of mind, and felt that perhaps I wasn’t ready to look for the job, but instead should study for it. If this would be a vain exercise to put off shouldering responsibilities…well, time will tell.

In any case, I’d applied for and am in the process of being accepted for a Masters in Media. I’d like to think I’d be one of the gap-year-taking older students (although, considering this is a post-grad degree, I just may be one of the youngest anyway) who studies above and beyond the requirement and partake in all class discussions.

600 words in: excellent. I should have weeded out the people who didn’t really care about my ramblings, and am left with Serena. Hi Serena, are you still reading this?

Much like the gag on Family Guy, I’m a writer who needs people to know I’m writing. I haven’t gone as far as to go into a cafe and bring my laptop, although if I am to work and study at the same time next year, it just may happen out of necessity.

So, Serena, please continue reading.

Yesterday was the annual Social Night, an event held by the SAMA club, or the anime club of Monash Uni. Amelia is a committee member this year, and she worked hard for the event. I’m not one for photo-blogging, but here is a glimpse of what the table settings that she designed looked like (if you click on the link).

The event was smaller than last year, but it was still extremely entertaining. Maybe it was because I know how hard Amelia worked for the event, but I felt it was more intimate.

Serena snuck a bottle of vodka into the party, and became the producer/enabler for most of the drunken behavior last night.

The night was capped by a rousing Happy Birthday for Amelia, who turned 21 at midnight after the event. I look at her, and sometimes I’m astonished to realize I’ve been with her for 2 years, which simultaneously feel like no time at all, and yet I can’t remember what I used to do without her in my life (no, I will not read through my old blog posts to refresh my memory).

I’ll find more interesting things to blog about apart from myself for the next 20 days. Unfortunately tomorrow is an entire day of work, so maybe I’ll find a funny customer anecdote to share.

Thanks for reading, Serena (and any of you other beautiful folks who I know have subscribed to and stuck with me despite the hiccups).

Alex.

The Life and Laughs: Revenge of the Laugh

Oh, subscribers, are you still there? Are you surprised to see me again?

As of this moment, I have finished all the assessment tasks for my university degree. There is the small matter of handing it in and, oh, passing, but I have confidence that I will receive a high enough score to get me the certificate.

So, where I left you last.

I was about to start my two-week internship, which turned out really interesting. I found out lots about myself in those two weeks – how quickly I can really write, how to self-edit, how to take criticism (although, the sub-editor who sat me down and went through my work was very nice about correcting my mistakes, much nicer than my actual class teacher), how to make phone-interviews.

I also learned how much I hate journalism. Well, not all aspects of journalism – but I wasn’t a fan of slow moving, methodical get-the-interview-and-write-it journalism. I’m not knocking it, I just guess it wasn’t for me!

I also did some tough interviews for a writing class, since the assessments needed us to go interview complete strangers. I interviewed two research professors, and a few of my friends. For one article, I chose to interview April and Bianca about their personal lives. They were toughies, I had to fight to keep tears back with Bianca.

Overall, I did pretty well in Semester 1. Of course, I knew Semester 2 was going to be a bitch and half. But before that…

I went on the SAMA camp. SAMA is the Monash Anime club, which Mela is a part of. It was in the middle of July, so it was cold and wet – and the place we went to seemed to be creating mud out of every crevice. As the club is a nerdy one, most nights were spent playing Mahjong, watching anime or horror movies. The last night, however, saw everyone wanting to get rid of all the alcohol that was brought. Much drunkeness and throwing-upness occurred. Cindy drank til she was a bit beyond tipsy (we thought she was outright drunk, but a few weeks later we saw a video of her being actually drunk and talking in an infectious British accent). And my girl? Well, she went much beyond drunk – bashed through hilarious drunk by hugging everyone and telling them she loves them, and then crashed into bad drunk and threw up what smelled like pure alcohol. The next day, suffice to say, she suffered.

There was also the SAMA Social Night, which happened in August. I was forced to go, and went through a horrible process of trying to find clothing for the formal event. In the end, I put together some dodgy looking pieces, fixed with the bowtie that Amelia gave me for my birthday (oh, did I mention? I turned 21! I got loads of presents, but Amelia’s was the best: the bowtie, a great scarf, and a crap-load of Nerds lollies). I ended up winning best-dressed male. Clare, who went, could not stop smiling at me when I was up on stage. If I could have melted with embarrassment, I would have.

Semester 2 was tougher. I had 3 subjects again, but all requiring research, and none were creative. One was a whipping 8000 word mini-thesis. Amusingly, the other two subjects overlapped each other almost completely in content, simply from different ends. And so the first six weeks saw me learn a whole load of new information, and the last six saw me revise it in the other class.

Annie and I worked very hard, for once…and the last time. We holed ourselves up in the library every day we were in (which was, granted, around twice a week), for a whole month, and worked our asses off while we were at home. We did up to 20,000 words of research for a 2,500 essay, and sure we laughed about it later, but at that time, it was horrible. I once wrote so hard that my arms cramped, something I haven’t really encountered since VCE exams.

I also got a new laptop! A Samsung Series 9, which is as light as an eyelash and about as thick. It’s a beautiful machine, and I want so much to keep it beautiful I haven’t taken off the plastic cover on the front and on the wrist-rest.

Amelia bought me tickets for and attended with me Maroon 5. It was a shocking concert – although there wasn’t a mosh, and we sat further back than we thought we would, they made up for it with their relentless energy. I did not stop dancing the whole time they were on stage, and neither did they! Jen and I shouted ourselves hoarse (we both wanted to go, and dragged our other halves with us).

Amelia turned 20, and I took her to the Conservatory at Crown. It was a bad start, because I got lost and was late to the restaurant, but Amelia ate a massive fill from the buffet, and I gorged myself on the chocolate fountain. The food was very good (considering how much it costs), but the thing that got me the most was the service. First-class waiters and waitresses were patient as hell, despite covering about two dozen people each.

We also celebrated our 1 year anniversary (yes, it HAS been that long!) but, unfortunately, on the day I had classes I had to attend. We delegated the celebrating to her birthday, since they’re both very close to each other. Amelia also held another birthday dinner at Paesano’s at Knox O-Zone, and so many people showed up that we had to get two massive tables and squeeze together.

Meg, Amelia’s dog, has gotten extremely cute – and much bigger! Although she is still quite small, she no longer fits just on one arm, and I need to carry her with both. She’s not gotten much smarter, but she’s very loyal, and the other week when I visited her after a long break, she was so excited, she peed! I love Meg very much, and I can’t stop talking about her when I’m with other people. I think it annoys them but if they were loved by Meg, they’d do the same.

And now, I’ve finished all the assessments for my university schooling. I’m not going back to class next year, nor have I a job lined up. I was hoping to take a year off and see what my options are. Perhaps I can pay Amelia more attention too, as I have neglected her a lot this past few months.

I’m about to go to China for a two week holiday, by myself. I’m utterly terrified, because I’m about as good a flyer as a rock, and I’ve never had to go by myself before. But, hey, I’m 21 now, I should learn how to hack it.

It also means that, despite this lengthy and vigorous attempt to revive this blog, I will not be blogging for the next 2-3 weeks, because WordPress is blocked in China. But I will strive to come back.

So, Revenge of the Laugh! The Life Returns. Etc.

Alex.

/edit: Also, Brendan happened. He had to carry my drunk girlfriend since I couldn’t, and she kept on thinking she was flying, causing him to nearly drop her a lot. (This was at SAMA camp by the way.) Also a bunch of other stuff including him took place, like um. I don’t know. Also he got a new girlfriend.

I need to get my story straight

[We Are Young – Fun. ft Janelle Monae]

I am aware it’s March, but I am also aware that I haven’t written on here since over a month ago. I think I’m either outgrowing this blog, which has to be silly because this is such a good place to record memories, or I’m simply too lazy. This doesn’t mean I am going to return to frequent blogging now, I don’t know, we’ll see I suppose.

So things happened since I last appeared on here. Most of February, to be exact. I hung out with the girl almost every chance I had. I had a job interview for Elwood which I didn’t win. Spent Valentines day doing that, too, and then watching Chronicle at Jam Factory, something that Mela didn’t like but she did it for me. Watched Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as well, which was really sad, but kind of well sculpted to be so. I did a lot of TV watching at home as well, burning through Bloody Monday, The Walking Dead, Alcatraz, Family Guy, more Doctor Who, but somehow not making such a big dint into Will and Grace and Parks and Recreation.

Celebrated 5 months at work, because we had bad timetabling there, but we decided to try celebrate it on Valentines day as well as 3 days prior, to make up for it.

Visited Cindy at her restaurant, and made her wait on us. That was terrific.

I capped my net usage on my phone somehow, and had to pay a $150 bill, which was terrifying and shit. I managed, though.

Went to Mela’s orientation days, which were sort of interesting but mostly just boring. They were not sufficient warning for how tough her course is though.

So then Uni started, and Mela was snowed in by how much work she has to do, and while I was getting it easier, I knew my life was gonna get tougher soon. Sure enough, I was notified almost too late that my internship was to start the following week (now the upcoming week), at the same time having to go to work (the internship is full-time) and keep up with my school work and suddenly A Wild Assignment appears! So yeah, pretty unstoked at the moment.

For the Wild Assignment is actually an interesting one: a short human interest blog piece. I interviewed my long-time friend Ping who has dwarfism, and just during the interview I was inspired to go out and rock my life. I don’t know if I can write a piece to do him justice, but I can try.

And, finally, I slept over at Amelia’s house – the circumstances leading to which included a lot of lies – and it was actually really nice, even though she had to study most of the night. She has a single bed, so halfway through the night she offered to sleep on the floor. When I got up to pee during the night, her dog woke up and followed me. I had to tuck Meg back in, which was cute, but strange that she wakes up so easily.

So yes, that was a quick catch up for my month past. I don’t get to see Mela as often anymore, which makes both of us really sad, and in the coming weeks I won’t get to see her at all.

Also, tomorrow is our 6 month anniversary. Easy.

I might write more when my internship starts, but I do have to be careful to write most of it positively, or objectively, or simply password protect it.

Alex.

Hurry Annie!

So, having had 3 hours sleep, I met up with Mela at the Glen right after I wrote that previous post. We took the train up, and realized that we were both exhausted and a bit too hot – the day was shaping up to be a lot warmer than forecast.

We got to Melbourne Central and agreed on some ice-cold shots of caffeine. I got a Double Beef’n’Cheese so I wouldn’t be consuming caffeine on an empty stomach, and Mela gave me that exasperated “Aleeeeex” because I eat unhealthy.

I had the Voltage thing at Gloria Jeans, which sounded nice but they had little bits of I-don’t-even-know black things and they stuck to my teeth. And it tasted horrible.

Mela got me a matching teddy bear to the one I got her, and so Mela-bear is now sitting snugly in my bed waiting for me to join it tonight. We took many photos with Mela-bear with Mela-person’s new Nikon camera, but she hasn’t uploaded them yet.

We went into the uni for me to print off my essays and hand them in. 19 pages of blood, sweat and tears sat in my hand as I grouped them with their respective cover sheets and slipped them into the essay submission slot. It wasn’t until much later in the day that I realized I never signed the area of declaration against plagiarism.

We went to 7/11 for our free slurpee, and then went back to Melbourne Central for a bit of sitting down before lunch, because it was uncomfortably hot and I was suffering in my new, stiff skinny jeans. The “a bit of sitting down” turned into nearly an hour of the two of us sitting on those bamboo couches and generally being annoying. Or, at least, I was, because I was very tired and I felt like being a bitch. Mela put up with it nicely, patiently waiting for me to make my mind up what to eat. We were so tired and lazy that, sitting pretty much 5 steps away from the nearest food vendor, we called up Annie, Clare, Jen and Julia in case one of them would be in the city to buy our lunch for us.

In the end we went to QV to eat. Halfway through, Annie texted saying that she was still at Bentleigh. This was at past 3, and with under an hour until the deadline, we were getting worried. So Mela-person and I ate our food quickly and hurried down to the uni to meet Jen, Anna and Josh, and together we filled out Annie’s cover sheets ahead of time so that when she arrived all she had to do was staple them together and hand it in.

We sat there for over half an hour in stress waiting for Annie, whose train decided to stop running. As more and more people piled in, and the clock hand crept towards the 12 (with the little hand at the 4 and stuff), we got extremely worried.

Finally, at 5 past 4, with people still lining up so it seemed that Annie has escaped late submission, the girl rushes into the room. We greet her with showers of bulldog clips, staplers and papers, and quickly threw her essays into the submission box. And, with that flourish of barely concealed dread, Annie’s 2nd year of university was over.

We started heading to Passionflower, but as we were leaving the campus I realized for the first time that my phone wasn’t in my pocket – a curious event, considering how large the phone is compared to how tight my jeans are. Josh found it in the library, after a blessed soul handed it in without stealing it. We went to Passionflower – but not after getting our 2nd free Slurpee – but Mela and I had to leave earlier because we’d been out way too late the night before.

And now I will finish my final Writing for Screen assessment, and be free like a candy wrapper caught in the up-drought.

Alex.