Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Karl Is Angry: Moon Hit By Scientists

#badscience

I saw the following link in my Twitter feed yesterday, covered by the BBC:

"Sighting of meteorite's moon hit by Aberystwyth scientists"

Why are Aberystwyth scientists hitting meteorite moons? What did those poor moons ever do to them? And why did the BBC only report that scientists had been seen doing it, rather than going to the police with this information?

This got me proper affronted. I studied astronomy at university. Even won a prize in it for "outstanding achievement". Then these scientists come along and start hitting things. What next? Will they chin a planet? Uppercut a star? Suplex a black hole?

Proof of my astronomical credentials

I complained but got no response from BBC, who obviously have an anti-moon bias.

I will continue to report on cases of science gone mad.

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Thursday, 16 March 2017

My Girlfriend's In A Comma, I Know, It's Serious

 
What punctuation issue do people come to blows over most often? Single versus double quotation marks? How to use an ellipsis? Dashes? Apostrophes?

Nah, it's commas. Specifically, the serial comma. (Some people call it the Oxford comma. I don't particularly like Oxford so will stick to the proper name of a serial comma. Though as a peripatetic writer, I am aware of other punctuation elements tied to real places, such as the River Piddle Slash and the Shitterton Dash.)

A serial comma is where a comma is added before the final conjunction in a list, usually "and".

Example without a serial comma: Karl wrote Turner, They Move Below and Harvest Festival.
Example with a serial comma: Karl wrote Turner, They Move Below, and Harvest Festival.

Generally, individuals either brandish knives and shout "You must always use a serial comma!" or they raise a club and yell "You must never use a serial comma!" Yep, it's all or nothing for most people.

But guys, come on, peace and love! Chill! In most cases the answer is not to be found at one extreme or the other. Those who say it should never be used are being silly. Look at this sentence.

The inspiration for "Fast Times" was my ex-lovers, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Teletubbies.

Wow, how many ex-lovers did I have? It becomes a lot clearer (and prevents me being taken to court for slander) if I add a comma:

The inspiration for "Fast Times" was my ex-lovers, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Teletubbies.

Phew! They were just inspirations, and separate from my ex-lovers.

My infinitely wise view: if the comma clarifies things (prevents confusion), I definitely add it. If it creates confusion, I definitely leave it out. In all other cases it doesn't matter one way or the other as long as you're consistent. That's how all punctuation should be used - the minimum to achieve clear communication.

And clarity of communication is always the issue. This week a court case hinged on a serial comma. If a certain dairy had used one they would have won the case. As it was, they lost. Hard cheese.

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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Out Now! Karl Drinkwater’s Horror Collection


Lock the doors. Bar the windows. Sharpen the axes. Boil the kettle. Then stop ... horror time!

All three of my horror/dark thriller books are now available as a single e-book collection (which works out a fair bit cheaper than buying them separately). It should be available at all the major e-book vendors, including Amazon. The three titles included are also available separately, both in print and as e-books. Please spread the word. :-)

The Blurb


Three Horror Books In One Tense Collection.

Turner

An isolated Welsh island seemed like the perfect escape for a convict on the run, a jilted woman, and a policeman seeking a quiet life. When the surly locals turn to murderous violence the three visitors are forced to flee together, trying to stay one step ahead of their increasingly insane pursuers.

"TURNER was intense, dramatic, and shocking. Well-done horror is all about setting up an atmosphere of anxiety and hopelessness; Turner smothers the reader in both in the opening chapters. It’s not ‘if’ someone is going to die, it’s ‘if’ someone will survive." -- Lizzy's Dark Fiction

They Move Below

In this collection of fifteen tales Karl Drinkwater sews flesh onto the bones of our worst fears whilst revisiting some of horror's classic settings, such as the teen party, the boat in trouble, the thing in the cellar, the haunted museum, the ghost in the machine, and the urban legends that come true. No-one is safe. Darkness hides things, no matter how much we strain our eyes. And sometimes those things are looking back at us.

"THEY MOVE BELOW is a great collection of dark tales. Nobody is guaranteed to come through a story unscathed, and there was enough variety in the scenarios that I was able to read through more than one story in a single sitting and still think each new tale felt fresh. Mr Drinkwater has a delightfully warped imagination. Now if you will excuse me it is late and I need to go and turn on all the lights..." -- Grab This Book

Harvest Festival

First the birds went quiet. Then the evening sky filled with strange clouds that trapped the heat below. Now Callum wakes, dripping in sweat. Something has come to his isolated Welsh farm. If he's going to keep his family alive during this single night when all hell breaks loose, he'll have to think fast. And when he sees what he's facing, he suspects even that may not be enough.

"HARVEST FESTIVAL - I felt like my heart was in my mouth. I could very much feel the fear that the family were feeling and as a parent my maternal instinct was kicking in and shouting at Callum and Cerys to get their family to safety. This is certainly not a novel you want to read just before going to bed. It literally had me on the edge of my seat. I found it to be a very tense read that scared, yet thrilled me. A great read for any horror lovers." -- ByTheLetterBookReviews

Reviews - A Favour Asked!

The three books that make up the collection each have lots of reviews, as you can see from their individual pages: Turner, They Move Below, Harvest Festival. Unfortunately, the reviews from the separate books don't have any effect on a compilation, meaning the new Horror Collection looks rather lonely and unloved! That will stop a lot of readers from taking a gamble on the book. So the favour is: if you've enjoyed any of the three books in the collection, please could you pop a rating (and/or few words of favourable review) at one or more of these sites? Many, many thanks if you do!

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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

End-User License Agreements - EULAs

Sometimes you have to agree to something you can't even see, 
in order to use the software you paid for - this is how EULAs appear in Steam on my PC

What Is An End-User License Agreement / EULA?


End-User License Agreements - EULAs - are those mammoth and impenetrable "Terms & Conditions" (T&C) documents that are cited whenever you install software or sign up for a new service of any kind. Which generally means a few a week. It's common knowledge that people do not read them, and therefore are not actually agreeing to them when they click a button - they are clicking the button just to move on. The words "I agree" bear no relationship to the intention of the person clicking on the button.

The screenshot above is a good example. I sometimes buy computer games on Steam (though I prefer GOG). Then when I go to install the game I bought, Steam pops up a box like that above. To play the game I have to click "I AGREE" - even though I am not shown what I am agreeing to, making it impossible to agree in any meaningful sense of the word. (I reported this craziness to Steam many times, and they either ignored it, or support just went in circles with no resolution).

TL;DR

Are EULAs really too long to read? This is what Wikipedia says:
One common criticism of end-user license agreements is that they are often far too lengthy for users to devote the time to thoroughly read them. In March 2012, the PayPal end-user license agreement was 36,275 words long and in May 2011 the iTunes agreement was 56 pages long. [Source; checked 7th March 2017]
So the Paypal agreement is the length of half a novel of densely-packed legal jargon. And you're meant to read and understand it all before clicking the button. How ridiculous.

As I mentioned here, I once copied and pasted into a Word document a selection of the EULAs that were mashed into my face over a five month period in 2010. It certainly wasn't every relevant agreement/T&C/licence, and nor was it from some specialist sphere like work. This was just from being a normal person using my PC and installing a few games and bits of software. The agreements over that period amounted to 331,993 words, or 592 pages of dense single-spaced legalese. Seems ridiculous doesn't it? No-one can realistically be agreeing to all that; if I'd included licences I had to deal with from my work in libraries it would probably have tripled that figure or more. If you're interested, you can view that document here. In a few cases I couldn't copy and paste from the EULA box because the software/service provider had disabled that option (thanks), so I had to enter random words that came to the same total so my document's final word count was accurate, even if the content wasn't. Bear in mind that was 2010 - we use even more software and services nowadays. It's not unknown to share content via Hootsuite or Buffer to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on, while listening to Spotify and dragging a file from Dropbox to Google Drive so you can use Wordpress to update a blog post and edit the image you downloaded from a stock image site with Photoshop, and you check something on a phone app that came via an app store (both of which had their own "agreements") while you wait etc etc. Also bear in mind that EULAs/T&Cs are not static. I often get emails telling me they've changed. And, yes, I'd probably be expected to read them all over again - the service will assume I do that, and agree with it, all unless they hear otherwise (by ending the service I have already paid for). My head spins.

No wonder I hate this kind of thing. It's one of the reasons I changed the copyright sections of my books to make things more open and easier for people.

Finally, this article captures what would happen if we were really able to read all these EULAs: "I read all the small print on the internet and it made me want to die". And that was only reading a puny 146,000 words of EULAs.

This is one curse of modern life: normal functioning includes agreeing to things you do not, and cannot, agree to.

Update 2017-03-17: Further links
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