April fools’ weather

As another month is coming, I am doing another retrospective look at this time of year. Early spring can be pretty much anything when it comes to it. From cold days to what feels like summer, it can be anything.

2013

This was strange one. Easter were timed pretty much like this year (Monday was 1.4.) and I planned to go to cinema on the Friday or Saturday before (not sure which). One day ahead, I booked the ticket and went to sleep, paying no mind to the light snowfall that just started. “Can’t hold this time of year and can’t be much,” I told myself.

I could not be wrong more. When I woke the next day, it was 30-45cm of fresh snow overnight, even here in suburbs! In the morning, buses were often up to 30 minutes late. It stopped snowing before I got up, but the massive amount of snow that fell that night lasted for almost 10 days before the temperature went up and it started to melt.

April fools joke, weather style

The Saturday after, I went for a hike where I expected to see some flowers blooming but instead it was about snow crunching under my boots.

2014

The exact opposite with extremely warm days. This time I could see some flowers as the weather peaked at 25°C on 4th April.

Willows on the riverbanks, 2014

Flowers, blooming willows on riverbank and generally the expected spring feeling everywhere with summer-like temperature. 25km on pretty much flat terrain, yet I was drenched as my body was not ready for such heat so early.

Willows on the riverbank, 2014

Also, it was just a week or two after I bought my current pocket camera, so it was a nice way to test the macro mode.

2015 and 2016 were very similar in that, the hike on 11th being likewise very warm.

2016

Ants being busy after winter, 2016

In 2016, the two hikes (2nd and 16th) were those I used to try a bit more macro photos, the weather once again proving cooperative for that.

The second one was especially interesting as apart from flowers, there were some caves and lookouts and those who’d see the GPS log of that day’s hike would think I was lost because I zig-zagged around to see all those places. Still, it was great day.

2017

2017 decided to balance things out, being very rainy for my hike days. The one story I can tell from my 8.4.2017 hike was that there was a woman walking her german shepherd, who decided to give me a hug. Being wet dog, she apologized to me for the stain on my hiking jacket, which I just shrugged off with “the rain will wash it away in no time” which was exactly what happened.


I’ll probably post a bit more about April hiking in two weeks or so, aimed at the hikes I’ve done around Earth day. Those are often much more vibrant and the warmer weather allows me to go higher in the hills without wearing too much clothing.

Favorite highlights, part two

A few days ago, I shared some of my favorite highlights from the last two years and with this post, I’ll continue with bits that took my attention in the two years of e-reading. This time with more serious lines. I will skip the “With great power comes great responsibility” type of quotes as I am quite sure everyone read or heard these several times over.


I’ll start with J.D. Hallowell’s books, as I did last time. There is a part that is sorely missing from our world, especially among those with power. Something I see well in my country where many politicians can’t even see far enough to the next elections.

“We need to begin to start fostering the idea among the people that everyone is responsible to future generations for how they leave this world in their own time… We have to convince people to think ahead for generations, not just a few years. They have to realize that what they do now will affect their great-grandchildren.”

And when I’m at that, there was one more far too real thing about it…

“…the concept of fair play doesn’t usually work its way too far into either the military or politics, and this situation was all about both.”

Next two quotes will come for a piece of well-known classic work, Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray.

Our weakest motives were those of whose nature we were conscious. It often happened that when we thought we were experimenting on others we were really experimenting on ourselves.


When we blame ourselves, we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.

As for the second, I could not agree more. I’m not religious, but I know well enough about it from the times I was visiting psychologist frequently.


And something from D.K. Holmberg about the price of power…

“You say that as if there is something terrible about searching for power, but power by itself is not dangerous. It’s what one does with it that makes it deadly.”


“There’s a price to power, Endric. It’s the same with all things. The question you must ask is whether you’re willing to pay it.”

Paradox of the two quotes? Said by someone seen as power-hungry. Well, I guess he knew about it firsthand.


There are always two ways to say something. Quote from Daniel Ford’s Paladin trilogy, which I’ll most likely re-read by the end of summer before the third book comes out and will post my comments about it.

“It is a rule of leading people, Gideon. You may be confused, or afraid, or overwhelmed, or all three—those who depend on you must never see it. Or, as the Old Baron once put it to me, you absolutely cannot be pissing your pants when your men are expecting orders.”


And something from David Dalglish, to show that harsh changes are… well, harsh.

“Imagine knowing something, knowing it so well that it is burned deep into your gut. You’d question your own name before you questioned this. And then…one day…the whole world changes, and you know nothing.”


And for the last one this time, the revolving doors of nature’s balance will most likely hit humanity in the face, as H.G. Wells knew…

“Humanity had been strong, energetic, and intelligent, and had used all its abundant vitality to alter the conditions under which it lived. And now came the reaction of the altered conditions.”


That’s it for the second part. I might make a third with some favorite lines that don’t fit the previous two groups, I might not…

Goodbye, winter… again

Three weeks ago, I made a blog post called “Goodbye, winter” as the weather seemed to be getting closer to spring. The first March weekend was warm and it seemed spring would come early. Nope, weather fooled central Europe (maybe more than just central) again. Snow showers the next week, the weekend around 17th being really cold…

I originally planned to do a March photo look back, but  this month is often spent in lowlands, searching for the first blossoms, often in vain and so there’s not that much to share. Two hikes happened since then, on 10th and 24th, both being similar: remains of snow in landscape that tries to wane into spring but seems to be lacking strength for the final push.

10th March hike

This was return to place I knew from past but in early summer. Short ascension, then a bit of walking on fields partially covered in snow, followed by  most of the hike in forests, hence only a few photos, even less worth sharing.

Still, it was a nice day spent relaxing outdoors.

Not being something that noteworthy, I decided that it won’t get its own blog post and thought that I might leave it for some retrospective that would focus on the area as a whole.

24th March hike

This one was quite close to the first one by distance, starting not so far away, but going in different direction. Despite good forecast the day started with a lot of mist and minimum visibility, not good when the hike starts near a lookout, from which we could not look far away…

I hoped that Murphy’s law would eventually force the weather to the original forecast as I intentionally left my sunglasses at home. Trick I use often when it’s on a verge like this, and one that often works.

This trickery might have a price to it this time as my early parts of the hike were made a bit inconvenient by some digestive trouble, but once that was solved, the rest of the day went really well. Diversity was not missing, early parts in the forest as well as fields, up and down. After a short stop at ski slope where the last skiers were using the very last bits of snow(I’d guess the layer at 10cm or so) before the season ends there (elevation around 500m ASL, above 1000 the skiing season might go on for a week or two more).

Eventually we reached a place that was greatly devastated by harsh winds. Crossing the deforested area took quite a while, it was over 2km, and the area was wide as well. It caused some challenges with marking the trail and I had to use my GPS and intuition to go on. Along the way, it lead me to think about some aspects that make spruce forests vulnerable to winds (especially due to dry years and bark beetle infestation, deadly combo) and the observation that most of those that remained were larches – identified by the tiny cones.

Due to the deforestation, I could look around a bit more, even though the visibility distance was not large. I believe that the photo above is roughly aimed at the place from the first photo, from distance of maybe 10km.

Eventually, the trail led us to a small quarry, abandoned and flooded when the mining went too deep and it was flooded from below. Flooded quarries turned into lakes are frequent, but most of the time it is by being abandoned and letting the rain (and snow) do its work over time, not by being flooded from below. By what we were told by our guide, some fool drowned a car there but being in shade, the lake was covered by a sheet of ice and there was nothing to see that would prove this.

Then followed a descent to the village that was our destination. The lower pace and mixture of warmer passages (fields or deforested + sun) with colder (in forest with snow cooling the air from below) made me drowsy and even a cup of black tea did not seem to rouse me. Having almost three hours left before departure, I decided to improvise and go for a small (original intention) bonus round that eventually raised the total length from 22 to 31 km. It was originally intended to be a stroll around the village but I eventually walked up a hill with transmitter above it, looking down on the village for a short while before taking a scenic route back down.


While I’d like this to be my last “farewell, winter” post this year, I can’t rely on that. There’s no telling what will come in the next month and show in mid-April might be rare yet I’ve seen that too.


Including map this time: orange is 10.3. hike, green is 24.3. original hike, blue is 24.3. bonus round. Zooming recommended for details, the default zoom level is far to make it easy to see both.

Closing thought: I might make a post about abandoned (even if not flooded) quarries in the hills of Czech republic and what kind of scenery can they make at some point in the future. They are not always just a place of devastation, especially if they are small and the nature is left to its own devices afterwards.

Music, ads, missteps and piracy

Yesterday, I was reading an article that YouTube intends to increase ad frequency for users that use it primarily for listening to music. The supposed explanation is simple: they create internet traffic that’s mostly unused as the video transferred is not being looked at, those having the music on background usually doing something else either on other browser tab or completely out of the browser.

The points is to direct those users to specialized (and potentially paid) music services, yet here comes another great misstep: they are not available in all countries, or are severely limited in some. Trying to push users to a service only to show them “not available in your country” only makes the step more fickle and will only make people look for ways to bypass it. Some might use adblockers, some might try to use VPN or something for bypassing country limitations and some might go back to pirating music.

It’s a few months ago when I was thinking about piracy when it comes to e-books, where, fortunately, the issue was limited by the immense choice and lower cost of self-published books. Yet, it was probably the music industry – way sooner than gaming and movies – who was hit by this the hardest. The music industry made several massive missteps on the way, which in fact supported piracy in its inception, so I would say.

I would start in late 90s or early 2000s. Back then, I still used portable CD player, which could play mp3s and read DVDs so I could stuff a bunch of CDs into single mp3 DVD. Not as efficient as mp3 players, but decent solution. Eventually, the player was lost when we were burgled and I eventually bought my first mp3 player. As it could show the name of track, album, artist and such, it meant I had to get these information to the music track itself.

In those early days, CDs sometimes had some kind of protection to prevent ripping mp3 files. To prevent them being copied illegally, but it had the side-effect of preventing legal owners to put them to their portable players. Or create a copy for their car player, because no one would risk damaging an original in their car. What was worse, the track information was not there, and it took several years before that changed. Combined with the slow conversion, downloading pirated mp3 ‘CD’ was eventually much faster than ripping the original and filling in all the data as all the pirated sources had that filled in, including cover image. Absurd as it might look, the approach of music publishers made even owners of legitimately bought CDs download mp3s for convenience.

Music industry had several more mistakes which were aimed at pirates but hit pretty much everyone else. A small local band got into a trouble for not announcing a “public music production” (or how exactly the law names it) and threatened with large bill for breaching copyright laws. For playing THEIR OWN MUSIC, to maybe two hundred people.

I eventually bought an iPod touch back in 1/2009 (maybe it was 2010) which I still have and still use. I know that these days, online streaming services are there, but even these have some limitations. Not so much about their libraries, but about the fact that they are online. They can work well at home or in office, but the main upside of mp3 players is that they work anywhere. Train, bus, plane, high in the mountains… you’re not limited by the need to be online. Something I know well myself. I was writing at the end of summer about my holidays where even phone signal was weak at the hotel and pretty much non-existent in the hills, now think about internet connection.

Try to use Spotify here…

Not to mention that in my country, mobile internet is still extremely expensive with quality that goes to hell once you move out of a city. For me, as someone who listens to music while hiking, mp3 player is irreplaceable.

So, long story short, companies supposed to help the authors get their deserved money are doing very poor job and often going against what they try to stand for. That is being said by me who goes to concerts and buys band’s shirts to support them. Said by me who goes to cinema to watch movies while some people pirate them on day two and later sees the DVD cost double the cinema ticket, for movie I already saw and with no doubt that the anti-piracy effort inflated the price significantly. By which, I am posting this image from 2010 that is probably still very much true.

Too true…

The “best” part? Software that allows to cut all these unskippable parts took a few seconds to find and was so foolproof that anyone who would want to skip all of these could do that by creating a pirate copy of his own, legally-bought DVD. Talk about shooting yourself in the leg, huh? Closing thought: all the trailers on a DVD with movie are outdated and irrelevant in a few months and make them even more annoying.

BONUS: I remember a case where one such anti-piracy company was sued for breaching copyright laws by using an image for their campaign without the author’s permission…


That’s one random mesh of thoughts over, next time I guess I’ll be writing about something more usual for me.

 

Two years with ebooks: favorite highlights

Tomorrow, it’ll be two years since I bought my e-reader. In retrospect, decision I am glad for as it brought be back to reading books while as well saving my precious space. As long as it’s not freezing (currently waiting for winter and spring to agree who rules now) I can carry it around pretty much anywhere – a whole small library if I wanted.

Important advantage, even though I am not too regular in using it, is highlighting passages I find interesting, whether they are funny, inspirational or otherwise remarkable.

So, to “celebrate” my two years of e-reading, I’ll share some of my favorite highlights. Since there’s many of them for the two years, this time I’ll focus on the funny ones and leave the serious and inspirational for some other day.

Continue reading

3/2018 Writing update

Last time I posted something about my writing progress was in December 2017, when I finished the first draft of the prequel to my story, created by expanding the former prologue. That thing is now in some kind of second draft as I made some changed of varying size. Yet, that is not what I want to mention now.

At this point, I am in fifth draft stage for the actual first book. Well, fifth. I have no clue how to number them, no clue what usually tends to be considered another draft and not just the same one with a bunch of correction, but I’ll call it fifth anyway.

First draft was quite self-explanatory. Second was just a bunch of minor changes and adding the first version of the prologue. Third made some changes, but was mostly about clarification and again, mostly small things. I rewrote some paragraphs, but very rarely changed a whole page, let alone a chapter. The prologue had the most of it as it was still under some development.

Then I saw the struggle and decided to separate the prologue into a to-be prequel (or book #0,5 as I call it). That was finished in a month at some 39.000 words, after which, again ignoring any rational sense of progression, went to finish the first draft of second book (yes, while first is still in development). I did that in Christmas writing rush and eventually finished it (at 233.000 words) mid-January, and it lays untouched since as there will be enough time to work on it later.

After that, I went to fourth draft on the first book. This was mostly changing the beginning to make up for the removed prologue and rewriting the beginning to account for the decision. More smaller changes happened, more rewording, cutting parts that were too lengthy even to me and adding information that was missing, some of it on feedback from my trusted alpha reader. I also replaced some more placeholder names with (hopefully) final ones.

The biggest thing was that I admitted that in some scenes, either the main characters are a bit too overpowered without having a reason for it, or their opponents not good enough, which called for some changes as well. They were small, but got me to think about it more.

And so I come to current situation, the fifth draft. For the first half, nothing seemed to change much from the fourth one. More edits in varying intensity, some of the longest chapters split in two, one or two renamed… until I reached chapter 28 or so. It continues where the problem with being overpowered was. I realized some battles were really drawn out without any decent suspense and realized that I had to change my approach to those parts.

The solution I came up with the last two days is quite radical. Two battles (one battle and one skirmish in fact) are to be completely removed and the actually interesting parts to be used a bit differently at the other moments, which will have me change a bit when one character appears and in the end lead me to completely rewriting at least five chapters, with ‘collateral damage’ in form of smaller changes to many more. I hope that with this decision, the remaining battles will be much more interesting.

it also made me to review some other things when it comes to the enemies and their power, something I can’t talk much about for now. All I can say is that I hope that different demon species will be actually different, instead of being continuous grayscale and some of them blending from one to another to make it confusing even for me, eventually enough that I had to make side notes (that should’ve given me the hint much earlier).

It pushes me back even more compared to my original plan to have the first book done in 7/2018. I could not imagine what a journey this will be when I started in 7/2015…


Current status of “Project Eternity”

Book #0,5: Second draft at ~39k words. Currently expected release date: Late Q4/2018 in best case, realistically Q1/2019 if everything goes well.

Book #1: Fifth draft in progress. Fourth ended at ~239k words, peak was 244k before I started cutting, no idea where it will move when I am done with fifth, expecting drop to maybe 225k. Expected release: Late Q4/2019 in best case – quite some pushback from my original hope of 21.7.2018… good thing that I have no real deadlines.

Book #2: First draft done (at ~233k words), though the amount of typos, misspells and other is disgusting and there will be a lot of polish to do even though work on #1 taught me much along the way. I am optimistic with being still able to aim for the original plan in 7/2021.

Book #3: Just a few notes and rough idea for the storyline. Original ETA of 7/2025 still sounds feasible.

By the way, I have some ideas for the names of the individual books and name for the series is decided, but I am not ready to share them yet.

Book review: Tower Lord

Sequel to Blood Song, Tower Lord follows the story of Vaelin Al Sorna and his fellow brothers of the Sixth Order. The first book ended with failed oversea invasion which caused the small group that was together until then to be separated, which also changed how the story is told, switching between multiple points of view: Vaelin, Princess Lyrna, Reva and Frentis ‘the climber’.

Before I get to the story itself, I think I should say that the change made the second book a bit more enjoyable to me for some reason.

Vaelin, after the end of first book, decides he had enough of war, especially as the one he fought in was forged from lies and greed. He spent five years in enemy’s prison, lost some of his friend and for the others, had no idea where they were, if they were even alive – which he does not know.

When he finally returns home, he’s sent to be Tower Lord of the Northern reaches, hoping that to be a calm time spent away from the wars, greed and lies. Continue reading