Travelling with your laptop

Jetting off to visit friends – hopefully, friends with a spare room, if not, at least a comfortable sofa bed – is one of the highlights of being freelance… and being a writer. I’m all about getting to the airport early, clearing security with more than an hour to spare, staking out a good bar table with a power source and settling in to do some serious, distraction-free work. But after a few delays, and one too many strong coffees, working on your laptop starts to take its strain.

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Oh no – not you again!

If it were only typing, it might not be too bad, but these days, writing means finding images, resizing, editing and moving stuff around. It means formatting, more formatting, and even more formatting and I’m doing the two-finger-dance on a touchpad the size of a packet of Camel Wides… Not that I smoke Camel Wides anymore (does anyone? Do they even still make them?).

Do I have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?
I recently did a 3-hour delay in Stuttgart (lovely airport, btw) and I’m not joking, by the time they called the gate I was relieved. My hands had started to take on a kind of clawed raven look and the thought crossed my mind, “have I just given myself repetitive strain injury from trying to re-size an image for Twitter?”

In case you’re wondering, the general symptoms are; tenderness or pain in the wrist, with a throbbing or pulsating sensation, tingling and a loss of sensation.
Yeah, I looked it up.

But even if you don’t have CTS, which I don’t and didn’t, there are exercises you can do to relieve soreness in your hands from spending too much time clicking. I checked them out too. They do help somewhat but they’re not the kind of exercises you’d want to do in public.

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One involves pulling your index finger backward, which might make your seat neighbor think you’re about to flick a bogey at him.

The next one is a fist… I probably don’t need to explain why that’s bad. And finally, there’s the one where you hold your hand up in the air and rotate all the fingers in tiny circles individually.

Yeah, I accidentally ordered a beer that way, so not all bad.

But seriously, none of these really did anything to help my poor right hand, which by the time I landed had swelled up with cabin pressure and water retention until it looked like a novelty Incredible Hulk hand. I got into Heathrow and headed to the city, but despite the 20-minute train ride, was in no mood to open my laptop. That’s okay, I’m not so obsessive that I need to write on short train rides, but I was planning to do some writing over the weekend. There’s only so much coffee, sushi, and pedicures you can handle in 48 hours and fortunately, the person I was visiting is a late sleeper and knowing this, I planned on getting a couple of hours in before she even woke up.

But the next morning, before she rose, I spent most of my time searching out options to alleviate hand pain. Those in the know, architects, designers, and gamers, it would seem, are all about the ergonomic mouse (is the plural of mouse still mice in this context?). Anyway, after a few minutes research, I was ready to buy one, but after a few more minutes research, I realized, I had no idea where to start in this new field. Because it’s harvest time here, and the mice or mouses are all over the place. Seriously, they have categories and sub-categories; medical mouse, productivity mouse, productivity-gaming mouse. That second one sounds like a superhero. But seriously, you do need to do a little ergonomic mouse research before you decide on one.mice_21

Anyway, I’ve discovered, I’m an ergonomic productivity mouse kind of girl and without naming any names, it’s got Bluetooth and it’s wireless and it’s only just occurred to me, that it doesn’t look like a mouse at all. Right. Without the tail attaching it to my laptop, it doesn’t look anything like a mouse.

But thanks to overnight delivery, I had my new pet ready for the trip home and as it turned out, a relatively delay-free hour in the airport bar. So I got it out and a sat there with my right hand comfortably positioned at around 45 degrees to my side, with a firm but loose grip and relaxed shoulders and wrist muscles and I must say I really noticed the difference.

One thing I must mention. When they call your gate and you jump up. Do remember the thing isn’t attached.

Thank you, nice Grannie, from Texas or thereabouts for pointing out that I had forgotten my “compact”. Much appreciated.

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Hulk signing out…

Pretty Nick Worthy (Clickbait)

Hey you there! Yeah, you, reading the Internet! Look over here! I know you want to read the news or check out the crazy antics of America’s cats, but you’ll have to wait for a moment while I draw you into my website with headlines about items I know you’re interested in reading about. It’s […]

via Did cavemen create the original clickbait? And is it the secret to staying healthy? — nickclaussen.com

Bunnies Belong in Fields, not Mansions

It was announced last night that the last Playboy Bunny Girl, who was part of a specialist breeding program in the 60s, has passed away peacefully in her enclosure at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, California. Candy Fabulous, 61 – real name, Beryl Arkwright and originally from Sheffield – died after a long […]

via Last surviving Bunny Girl bred in captivity dies at The Playboy Mansion — The Whitechapel Whelk

Introducing… Citizen Kill

Stephen Clark’s debut novel, Citizen Kill, is coming out July 4th 2017 and he’s been kind enough to give me a sneak-peak of the book.

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In a not-too-alternative-present, Citizen Kill tells the story of how a new administration reboots the War on Terror after the president’s young son is killed in an explosion. A CIA program targeting U.S. citizens suspected of radicalizing Muslims, has more than just re-education in mind. In this version of events, these people are presumed guilty as soon as flagged and to save any doubt, approved for assassination.

CIA black-ops agent Justin Raines is among the recruits in the new program, but haunted by a botched assignment overseas, Justin has a developed a healthy scepticism for authority and the new administration. And when one of his targets, turns out to be respected educator, who he believes is innocent, he grows disillusioned. Justin knows, if he doesn’t find a way to prove, beyond a doubt, her innocence, he’ll still be expected to eliminate her. And if he doesn’t, they will both be assassinated.

“Washington stops at nothing to protect the nation from terrorists, while Justin Raines risks everything to protect the nation from Washington.”

Check it out on Goodreads here

http://stephenclarkbooks.com

30492f_b6a0fbd90ae047a481eb9df6567d62cf~mv2.jpgStephen Clark is a former award-winning journalist who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington, D.C. bureau of FoxNews.com.

As a reporter for the Utica Observer-Dispatch, he won a New York Newspaper Publishers Association Award of Distinguished Community Service for his investigation into the financial struggles of nonprofit services.

 

Guest Post: Portraits of Montserrat: AP McGrath

This week, Guest Blogger, Photographer and Author A .P. McGrath talks about his novel “A Burning in the Darkness” and his portraits of Montserrat.

“The small town in south Tipperary in Ireland where I grew up had a population of 5,000 and when I was a teenager I began taking black and white photographs of local people in the places where they worked and lived. My mum knew the editor of the local newspaper – everybody knows everybody in a town that small. He liked the pictures I was taking and offered a weekly slot entitled ‘The Town and It’s People’. I would approach shop owners, butchers, pub owners etc. and ask them if I could drop by some day soon to take their picture. I realised they would dress up a little and strike a certain pose, but people reveal themselves through these self-conscious acts as much as they do when they are caught unawares. These folk had a certain pride in their living or work places and I wanted to capture these spaces as much as the people themselves. I was interested in the details of the old shops that were giving way to the more modern out of town shopping. I liked the light and the tonality and the resonances of past times. The weekly portraits were a hit with the townsfolk. Indeed on more than one occasion I remember my mum remarking to me “Oh, I hear Mrs O’Reilly is disappointed you haven’t taken her photograph”. The townsfolk wanted themselves seen in and certain light and, in truth, I probably had my own slightly selfish reasons for taking the photographs. I knew that I wanted to leave.

“Probably all of the world’s biggest airports have a quiet prayer room offering sanctuary before a journey. A traveller might be embarking on a whole new life in a new country. Maybe he or she has planned an escape from an anxious past or is simply going on a welcome family holiday in the sun. Travel can also be a dreary necessity. We may need to make a business trip or a journey because of events that are beyond our control, as in the death of a family member or loved one. One friend told me she was about to go on a business trip when she miscarried her second pregnancy. She was in her mid to late forties and knew it was probably her last chance to give her young son a brother or sister. She entered the quietness of the prayer room and had a think and a good cry before she carried on with her journey. The prayer room had been a welcome and necessary shelter.

Smaller cover McGrath_DRAFT2 #2 Smaller Size (1)“In a novel, place is inseparable from character and events. Indeed it can become an effective character in itself, a protagonist, soaked in mood. My novel A Burning in the Darkness begins in the prayer room of one of the world’s biggest airports. There is a tiny confessional box and in its anonymous darkness a voice confesses a murder to Father Michael Kieh, but a young boy has witnessed the killer go into the confessional. Michael becomes the main suspect in the murder investigation because of a group of pitiless antagonists, but he doesn’t betray the identity of the young boy nor break the Seal of Confession.

“The airport is a cinematic place. It is a frenzied cathedral dedicated to travel. It is also a lonely place. Michael is one of a number of faith representatives tending to the needs of more than 80 million passengers who pass through its gates each year, yet he rarely gets to see members of his flock more than once. His environment is constantly changing and he begins to question his faith. As a consequence, he is drawn to the companionship of an art dealer, Joan, who frequents the airport for business trips.

“Michael grew up in Liberia in the midst of its brutal civil war. His childhood experiences shaped him and made him what he is: a good man. I wanted to explore the idea that he had the freedom to think differently from his environment. He had the ability to strike out against its dominant mood because he wanted the world to be good and not characterised by the destructive madness of war. And he had the strength of character to do it.  

“I studied English and Philosophy at University College Dublin, but I also trained and studied as a photographer. In the late eighties I had the opportunity to go to the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat and used my time there to take portraits of some of its people. Some months ago, after I’d finished writing the novel, I was doing a clean-out of the attic and came across the photographs which had been hidden away for many years.

APMcGrath Montserrat 5aI was struck by the way they explore the intertwined relationship between character and environment. In technical terms the portraits are taken with a wide angle lens so that you see both the person and the surroundings. I was drawn to the looming Soufrière Hills volcano at the centre of the island and it becomes the backdrop to many of the photographs. However in July 1995, the volcano erupted and destroyed most of the main habitable areas, including the principle town, the airport and docking facilities. Two thirds of the population was forced to leave, mainly to the UK.APMcGrath Montserrat 6a

Most of the photographs were taken in parts of the island ravaged by the volcano. This area was designated an exclusion zone and it covers more than half of the island. So there is poignancy to these photographs that capture a world now lost.

Several months before the publication of my novel I realised I had to set up a web site. I’m not a corporate person. I couldn’t see myself in a smiling brochure portrait, passing myself off as a kind of salesperson. But I could see that the photographs of Montserrat might say as much about me as they do about the people in the photographs. APMcGrath Montserrat 4aThe quality of the relationship between the subject and the artist is crucial. The degree of imaginative sympathy for the subject is something that sets a good work of art a part from others. The ultimate skill is not in mastering the camera or a fancy ability with words; it is getting the subjects to reveal themselves – even if the subject is entirely your invention.”

AP McGrath

You can find more portraits of Montserrat on AP’s web site: http://www.apmcgrath.com.

 

Yippee! Free on Kindle. A Burning in The Darkness

Get your free kindle edition here

A Burning in The Darkness by A P McGrath

‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.’

Michael immediately recognised the voice. ‘What do you wish to confess?’

‘She won’t be waiting for you.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘I’m truly sorry,’ the penitent whispered, his voice breaking with remorse. ‘This was commanded. I was angry with her. I was angry with you. I’m begging God’s forgiveness.’

‘What have you done?’        

‘The worst thing…’

Smaller cover McGrath_DRAFT2 #2 Smaller Size (1)Michael Kieh is a faith rep in one of the world’s busiest airports. His own experiences during the Liberian civil war compel him to help those in need, but he becomes embroiled in a gruesome murder mystery his own compassion will make him a suspect.

His struggle to prove his innocence will lead him on a charged journey that pitches love against revenge. He’s innocent, he must be innocent….But is there something about Michael we don’t yet know?

A Burning in the Darkness is available for free download on Amazon from June 12th – June 17th 2017.

Get your free kindle edition here

Rainbows and Unicorns! Why your unicorn is a homophobic, has-been ready to die a mythical death.

 

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I won’t do a big intro. We’re all busy and no one reads intros. I’ll get straight to it.

We’re all being bombarded with unicorn things in the tackiest sales pitch of the century. It’s bullshit and we know it.images2 But it’s even darker and more cynical than you realise.

 If you like unicorn shit, you can buy it

Yeah, unicorn fluff, that’s poop and it’s meant to be funny. You can also buy meat, milk, burps, blood and spunk and other ironic unicorn related stuff.
But the spunk is probably the only trustworthy unicorn product on the market.

Because – in mythology a unicorn is an erection… basically. It was a horned beast who would show up if a maiden flashed her baps (English for, going topless). But like all things weird, somewhere along the line it got hijacked, firstly by the Renaissance painters who liked to paint anything that could be interpreted using bare breasted women and later by cartoonists from France to Japan.7eec1992b2ce68565782df8b38769cd0

 Why are we seeing them now?

Nostalgia. Plain and simple. It sells and the Millennials are suckers for it because the world right now is so shitty and unpredictable. Those cartoons that have been doing the
rounds since the 80s, Rainbow Bright, The Last Unicorn, My Little Pony, She-Ra, tended to have a unicorn of two in.

Hang on. Did someone say Rainbow?

Yeah. Me. Rainbow Bright. If you remember your nostalgia accurately, you’ll also remember she didn’t have a unicorn, but ask most people and they’ll swear she did. Why was that? It’s the association with rainbows. In the last few years, we’ve started putting unicorns and rainbows in the same sentence. i.e. “Rainbows and Unicorns!” (Transl. Think Positive).

 OMG! I love rainbows!

Rainbow colours in my hair, on my nails, in my ice cream – happy, happy, happy. I love rainbows. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t. But guess who really loves rainbows. The LGBT+ community. Oh… wait… hang on… marketing trend toe curl… “If we say rainbow when talking about all things rainbowy, won’t we sound, well… a bit gay?”

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Yes. And there is the reason all your pretty, multi-coloured stuff got rebranded as UNICORN. It’s not because it’s pastel. Look at a rainbow. Rainbows are pastel. And none of this stuff has anything to do with horses or horns. It’s because firms like Starbucks want to cash in on your desperation to buy something colourful and happy but they don’t want to risk losing 50% of these potential customers who might have negative feelings towards rainbows.

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Thanks to Starbucks and the like, the nostalgia of a unicorn is now being replaced with real, recent memories, which might not be so sparkly. Anyone who’s had a Unicorn Cappuccino will realise, while your drinking your sugar fluff, your phone still rings, your boss still loses it and people are still using your tax money to drop bombs on children in other countries.

So either way, we’re over it. The Last Unicorn will die soon. But rest assured, something equally meaningless is waiting in the shadows to take its place.