Where Did 4 Years Go?

It’s 4 years today since my first book came out.

Cover Title 300Hard to understand where the time has gone.  Of course a lot has happened since then. More books written, some have even sold! The original An Agent’s Demise was followed by two sequels and a combined trilogy. Yet my writing went in other directions. The excitement of hitting lofty heights of number 1 in the charts for a day with Demise has not been repeated.

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I have had (and still have one) two different day jobs since then.

Four years ago my children were still students now they are both post degree and working.

If someone knows where the time went please let me know – I think it’s with the odd socks and pens in my home. Perhaps it’s just the extra wrinkles on my face. Not a good trade.

Now I need Book 10 to get finished. The nine current ones are listed below. You never know someone might want to read one!

The World of Fives
Intervention
The Demise Trilogy
An Agent’s Demise
An Agent’s Rise
An Agent’s Prize
To The Survivors
The Persuasive Man
Landscape

Trump – Spot The Difference Competition

Spot the difference competition for all readers…

29906170001_5293742523001_5293734054001-vs navypromocertsignhitler-03

Hitler was democratically elected so was Trump – Hitler won 43.9% of popular vote in March 1933. Trump won 45.9% in November 2016

Hitler favoured edicts and decrees – so apparently does Trump based on evidence since inauguration – even ones that have a law for them e.g. No torture congressional law

I make no other comparison

Long Distance Travel

I thought I would ruminate on the /Cynicism On joy \Cynicism off, of the experience of long distance holidaying. This is one of those long-standing and building rants that has turned what used to be a mildly irritating, but ultimately fulfilling activity, into a nightmare of tiredness and bureaucracy. As an example I will use my recent experience of traveling to the lovely country of Thailand for a holiday.

For the purposes of this exercise I will also skip over the endless search through holiday company web sites for a suitable break meeting certain criteria although I am convinced that not one employee or web designer of these holiday sites has actually used the system for their own break.

I could wax lyrically about the joys of on-line check in and seat allocation on Emirates but I want the blog to be shorter than the actual holiday. Suffice to say that as per holiday shopping sites someone needs to be hired who actually knows how ordinary people use the system. So I can change my seat allocated (no choice at booking) up to an unknown time before for a fee, undisclosed. At on-line check-in 48 hrs before the flight I can then change my seat (and accompanying passengers on same booking) to whatever seats are available, zero in my case, because no one else has tried to change this. The system may be an improvement on first come first served at the airport check-in desk but ease of use is not obvious. We then have the boarding pass fiasco. Email, printed out, phone display if security have not stolen your phone, or all three then on baggage drop off – where you effectively check-in anyway, we got new seats and boarding passes. But I’m jumping ahead.

At this stage we have a holiday booked and have on-line checked in. Now we come to the great how do we get to the airport and what time do we go. Long-haul advice is 3 hours before. Presuming the M3 is not closed, (see way back) for the 18 months of roadworks, that have so far lasted 30 months and are still not finished. The airport, Heathrow is within driving distance, for taxi or car, we can set off. We live just over thirty miles from the airport so we had a taxi (cheaper than parking) or train – add 2 hrs plus need to get to train station.)

18:00 Zulu or GMT – Taxi arrives

This arrived on time unlike last holiday. Due to the planets being aligned and a following wind it only took fifty minutes to travel the 30 miles despite 19 miles of 50 mph roadwork restrictions. I mean single lane roads have 60 why 50 in one way coned slightly narrower motorway with no one working – a regular occurrence which is why 18 month project has so far taken 30. Still at least motorway is open.

18:50 Z – Arrive Heathrow Terminal 3.

Baggage drop off is not open for our flight until 3 hrs before even though we are told to arrive 3 hours before! Still it’s only a few minutes to wait in the queue (line for Americans). We now have the check-in which is not a check-in but still checks passport and tickets. Get new boarding passes.

Go through airport security – main reason we are told it takes hours and to arrive early. Under five minutes (blimey I thought I was dreaming but I can strip and get Kindle, iPad and phone out of bag and into trays pretty quickly) including removing every metallic object on me (except fillings) including shoes, wallet, change, belt. Alarm still goes off – go through body-scanner and hand swipe. Redress

19:20 Z – Departure Hall

What used to be a series of seats is now the Heathrow duty free shopping experience. Every price is more than it cost to get delivered from Amazon. What used to be good deals on booze and fags is now some mecca to madness. We decide to get something to eat to wait the two hrs we have spare till boarding. Food ok drinks over-priced – so much for duty free. Sit around or browsing shops complaining about poor value for money. We can check Amazon whilst in shop as comparison.

21:25 Z – Gate

Go to gate – pass through gate but it’s not the gate – show passport and boarding cards. Go through to boarding lounge. Sit in gate waiting for boarding zone to be called. Emirates ground staff call zone. Ignored by passengers who all rush to board. Then thankfully they get told to wait till their zone is called but they still stand in way. Board plane show boarding pass again

22:00 Z – Scheduled flight time

Still boarding. Doors close 22:15 push back and take off at 22:30

04:30 Z – 08:30 Dubai or Delta time – Arrive Dubai

Disembark – Transit passengers go through security. We’ve just come off a plane for xxxx sake! Repeat process of security at Heathrow but add in pat down by bored security guard. Wait 3 hrs – more non-shopping look at these bargains before repeat of boarding process/fiasco as before. Push back engine start almost on time. Sit on tarmac for 1hr due to air display for Dubai National Day. Clearly not heard of air traffic control

16:00 Z – 23:00 Thailand or Gulf time – Arrive Thailand Phuket

18:30 Z – Leave airport.

Thai immigration – check passport – has 4 planes arrive yet puts only 3 immigration staff on but 3 supervisors who watch. 2 hrs in immigration queue. Get personal transfer car to resort. Pouring down with rain – this is supposed to be dry season! Stopped by Thai police who check our passports – again.

19:45 Z – 02:30 Thailand Time – Arrive in hotel room

Yes we are on holiday!

Fun, good food, lovely beaches, very nice people – not in immigration service. Half way through transfer hotels.img_0107p1030244 img_0165

On-line check-in – same problem with seats can’t print boarding passes over hotel Wi-Fi by pool.

22:00 Z – 05:00 Day of departure

Personal transfer pick up and leave for airport – told over one hour actual 45 mins on empty (except one street’s prostitutes) roads

22:45 Z – 05:45 Check in

Can’t as more than 3 hrs before but need to go through terminal baggage security first. Suitcases open for lots of passengers. Wife gets stuck other side as something in check-in baggage needs to be taken out, wait 15 minutes, seats allocated and baggage drop off by friendly staff.

Security passport and boarding cards – clothes off, scanned clothes back on – not a lot of shopping, have coffee in 28c heat – lovely – do we have to leave?

Wait till boarding same process / fiasco as before. Take-off 20 mins late

+ 6:30 hrs – Arrive Dubai – as above yes including passport and security check for transit – joys of internal train to different terminal.

+ 2:30 hrs – Board for Heathrow

As above, only more gates and called into first gate area by zone where we all then mix then called by zone again fighting past the passengers who ignore the 3 language announcement of which zone is boarding. Also not the one piece of hand luggage allowed. Instead carrying 2 carry-ons plus large handbag and large bag of shopping bargains who wants to board so they can steal all the overhead compartment space. Advice to airlines, get passengers to demonstrate overhead capability with carry-on luggage or just carried-on rather than wheeled across my feet weighing more than my checked-in bag

Push back on time engine start, sit wait 20 minutes, move forward to gate and shut down – sick passenger has to be off loaded. One hour later push back and take off.

21:15 Z – Land London

Passport and Immigration – wife’s new passport does not get through electronic scan so have to wait for her as she re-queues for manual check. My bag in baggage hall – wait 30 mins for wife’s bag.

Get into arrivals – where they filmed Love Actually scene – no taxi driver. – No message on phone. Call taxi firm get voicemail. Wait then note more drivers have arrived find taxi driver who has just got there. He grumpily leads way to car discussing on phone other job which continues in car. Does not appear to be regular taxi firm – outsourced?

Set off – M3 closed for bridge works on project so have to take alternate route – I mean, all they have been doing is supposedly allowing the hard shoulder (as per M42) to be used as peak times. This has saved cost of adding proper lanes according to Highways Agency. Still great project if and when it gets finished. Whilst on holiday they have started to close motorway every night so that can work without traffic – progress – none visible

23:10 Z – Arrive home – why did we go on holiday?

Following day – what time is it why am I so tired do I have to go to work?

Re-Moaners and Trump’eters

Another few weeks drift past and yet the same issues which seem to have been in the news all year, remain.

The US never-ending election still has over 3 weeks to run and just when you think the behaviour and approach of both camps can’t get any worse they manage to achieve it. If it’s not sexual abuse allegations it’s more leaked emails. I pity the American voter. I thought our choice this side of the Atlantic was pretty bad but the candidates there look appalling.

I watched the clip of Gary Johnson who is apparently also standing as a Libertarian Party candidate – I mean really? Over five years into a civil war in Syria and this man who wants to be President of the most powerful nation on earth does not know what Aleppo is?

At least Trump and Clinton have managed to answer some questions on the subject. It’s not unusual for foreign affairs (not the sexual kind) to play little part in a US election, but one might have expected that confrontations with Russia over Syria, Ukraine and Crimea, to have some impact. Likewise relations with China over the Spratley Islands rather than ridiculous notions of simplistic arguments over manufacturing jobs in the US should have some policy. It remains completely unreported what either candidate’s plans for North Korea are. Better not ask Trump but his rhetoric can’t be worse than the accusations from US Security services that NK was behind the Sony attack.

What still amazes many commentators is that Trump is still popular with large swathes of the US electorate despite all the gaffes. It demonstrates how unpopular Clinton is but more importantly how upset many American voters are with the established political class which Clinton embodies.  Here we have some of the parallels with the UK EU debate despite the referendum.

Although there is an element of the moaning bad loser side in some of the pronouncements from what was the remain side, many did set out the risks to the economy an no-vote would bring. Several senior economists have stated that the currency changes that we have seen since end of June were a long overdue correction to Sterling’s position just exasperated by the vote for exit and on-going uncertainty of what that means. In the percentages shown everything is referred to the currency position post 23rd June, failing as usual to mention that Sterling’s value had risen significantly in the lead up to the vote.

Euro over 5 years from here shows a different story than the headlines might have you believe on 19th Oct 2011 the exchange rate was 1.14 and it closed on 14th Oct 2016 at 1.11. In particular, the rise of the pound in 2015 and the lead up to the vote is dramatic. US Dollar to Sterling is a significant fall over the same period 1.57 to 1.21 and the comments on reserve currencies should be concerning, but at the same time interest rates have been signaled upwards in the US and stay the same or lower in the UK which does not help Sterling investors. By the way Euro to US Dollar has gone down from 1.37 to 1.11 in the same time period.

I have picked an arbitrary period but some of us can remember much better and worse Pound to Dollar rates. It reached a low of 1.05 in February 1985 after the ERM fiasco and was as high as 2.11 in November 2007 as sub-prime crashed the dollar

What do we learn from that brief history- currencies fluctuate – sometimes a lot – thousands of traders around the world make money doing that.

Final discussion for today is on Credit Rating Agencies and their comments – yes the same folks that branded those sub-prime investment funds as AAA, are doing all their warnings on where the pound might go next. All the discussion is based on what the UK might do as if what might happen in the Euro (How is Greece by the way and Italy, Portugal, Spain?) will have no impact. Remember Euro zone and other EU exports to the UK, exceed UK Exports to the EU – we both have a lot to lose if we are stupid and put in unnecessary tariffs.  World trade will be damaged if Trump introduced tariffs to protect American jobs and cancels NAFTA. Likewise what will be the impact on the dollar if Trump wins and implements that piece of rhetoric.

Guess what the pound might go up or down or sideways.  Can we moan about currency traders instead?

Is There Anybody Out There?

Not trying to steal Pink Floyd lyrics from the song of the same name and no this is not a comment on the recent planetary discoveries. This is about this very quiet blog. Quiet from me that is after nearly a month without a post. Of course I have done a couple of minor updates to pages. Blink and you would miss them. Updates on pages about books which is, in the end, the purpose of this blog.

Yes despite the politics and commentary I’m trying to sell my books or at least get people interested in reading them. Sorry if that is a shock to anyone that does read the blog.

“How’s that going then?” I hear you not ask.

Well, as of 18:30 UK British Summer Time on 7th September 2016, generally OK. Not great but OK if I take the long view. My biggest seller is currently ranked just over 700,000 out of 6 million plus on Amazon USA and 290,000 on Amazon UK. One sale can move me up tens of thousands of places until you hit the lofty heights of the sub 100,000s. Good news today is that I have had an offer to translate one of my books into Portuguese.

I still have sales occasionally, even rarer to get reviews which may or may not hamper or help sales but we are not here to discuss sales or reviews or even lack of blogs. Oh no, we have bigger fish to fry.

The anyone out there was based on some alarming statistics on the actual number of readers as percentages of the population. I was led to this topic by a GoodReads forum discussion. They had USA figures which implied that only 2% of the US population had read a book in the past year. That is still a lot of people but that means 98% had not – a much bigger number.  So I have been digging.

According to National Readership Survey 65% of UK adults read some print news on a daily basis rising to 92% on an irregular basis and higher if electronic media is included. According to this news story in The Guardian from 2013, 4 million adults never read a book for pleasure which implies that the UK is far more literature inclined than the US and…

A quarter of the UK’s adult population – more than 12 million people – had picked up a book to read for enjoyment less than twice in the past six months.

Which of course means that 75% of adult population had i.e. 36 million potential readers and the numbers are better for a single book in 12 months. I would presume that this number had not gone down significantly in last 3 years.  So I have a massive market to aim at. I should be happy at the potential, I mean even an Apple like 0.0005% (tax Apple allegedly paid on profits in Ireland) would equate to 186 sales – wow I could get to 150,000 or higher on that basis!

Surely there is someone out there that wants to read a book, mine I mean? Is there anybody out there?

Evolution is Dead

I have been posing a question to myself, no one else talks to me so I might as well. Has Human evolution stopped? If you are a creationist or other similar believer please stop reading now.

The general scientific viewpoint is that the evolutionary process as described by Darwin and others is how all lifeforms on planet Earth (and anywhere else) evolved via genetic mutation based on survival of the fittest. To be blunt this means that only the strongest survive. In relatively modern times (given billions of year of Earth’s history) the study of this has had bad implications from Eugenics to the Nazi’s but have we as a species also caused our own problems.

Many of you will be aware of the Darwin Awards which describes anecdotal or sometimes real incidents where Darwin fights back against stupidity of human beings but I would like to widen the discussion into two areas. Health and Safety and Dentistry. The medical arguments would only cause anger and allegations of discrimination whilst missing the point.

Health and Safety

An example from the Olympics at the weekend. The leading rider crashed in the women’s race the day after 2 of the leading men’s race riders had done a similar thing. This prompted all and sundry to complain about the safety of the course. No one mentioned that the riders should have ridden slower to ensure they got around the bend(s). Likewise at work we have become accustomed to the H&S rules dictating everything from ladder positioning to what height out seat should be. All of this is taken care of now and policed by a range of rules and legislation. Thus preventing a range of actions that would have killed off sections of the public who seem to have lost the ability to think for themselves. i.e. crossing roads by looking both ways not whilst reading your phone with headphones in/on. Instead build more barriers and post warnings not to do this. So the stupid idiots who lack common sense are maintained in the gene pool to reproduce and create more idiots who will then have to be protected from their own stupidity. Of course if our ancient ancestors had not played with fire we would not have developed the means to use it. Playing with a busy road may not be the best way of progressing the brainpower of our species, although car brake engineering has come on leaps and bounds.

Dentistry

Sexual attraction (and consequent mating) is based on physical attractiveness our use of dentistry to improve looks is now hiding genetic failure. If you genetically have bad teeth a trip to the dentist will help, but your future mate would not know what’s hiding in the genes or jeans. This Dentistry is denying Darwin. Of course dentistry also improves health due to lack of cleaning teeth but thus bad teeth genetically continue. Darwin reversed or blocked. The same is true of course of other medical advances.

Countering My Own Argument

Of course the keeping of genetic mutations which might otherwise die out also means that the genetic spectrum is wider thus potentially more scope for greater and more diverse development. Then there is the impact of gene splicing or other genetic manipulation either before birth or via stem cells/medical implant to remove certain diseases or hereditary illnesses.

Who knows perhaps in 10,000 years we will all have perfect teeth at birth and live as long as we want.

Anti-Social Media

I’m a Luddite, a technophobe or just plain old. I don’t get social media. Clearly that is not strictly true. This is social media or part of it, as are Twitter and Facebook. I have accounts at both I just don’t use them. I mean when this blog is published it gets linked to Twitter, Facebook and my Linked-In profile and of course back to my author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. But that is it. If I don’t post I barely use the other means. I do post some limited comments on Goodreads and occasionally re-tweet a like. I have used a small Twitter advert alongside my other woeful attempts at marketing. Other than that the accounts are dormant – I struggle to recall my Facebook log-in

I just don’t fell the need to tell the world what I am doing every minute of every day. I watch the Millennial generation permanently connected and typing text, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. I have no idea why they do it or feel the need to share their now non-private lives with anyone who cares.  They exchange their data with all these companies with barely a thought for what is done with it or where it is or why anyone wants to know.  My wife and daughter constantly update and like others’ streams, timelines and whatever the profile details are called.

As the usual technical support for these and other IT issues, I have no idea how to post a photo onto the timeline. Actually, I do but I cannot be bothered. I don’t want to be tagged in a photo. Actually as a so-called IT professional I feel I should know all about these systems and how they work, but frankly I do not care. I am far more concerned with infrastructure, databases, networks, system up time and performance than I am with how to add a comment to a Facebook post..

At work I have email, Intranet, IM and Yammer. Again I struggle to understand why everyone wants to know what I am doing, where I am and what I am working on or even at work, in a meeting or away. Of course my boss wants to know and he does. Normally we meet or I telephone.

Some people think this is reclusive behaviour, guilty as charged. I just like to think that I like my privacy especially away from formal work. This means that I am doing the role of author all wrong. These days I should be posting and twittering continuously in the vague hope that all this activity might lead to someone reading my book or even better buying one.

PC Pro published an article this month (I’m a subscriber to a physical magazine – as I said a Luddite) stating that ‘eBook sales were stagnant and the technology underpinning them was dull.’ It then listed some stats on UK sales from the top five publishers, forgetting about the rest of the world and independent writers in the process. Certainly the biggest e-book retailer seems to be having few problems. Perhaps the premise was wrong

I bring this up not just to comment on the article, I might write to them in a handwritten stamped addressed envelope delivered by Royal Mail. They appear not to have a web site not one the magazine lists anyway – they do. They have email, Twitter and of course Facebook. I have dispensed with a dedicated web site. I still have a name and page but my web site is now this blog. A sign of the times or just the sheer effort needed to keep all these systems going. I’m blogging today when I should be writing. I’m reading Goodreads’ forums rather than reading a book or better yet trying to write one.

We go to restaurants for company and the food to find our companions still telling the world that they are in a restaurant and interacting with people that are not there. Still one thing I would have loved when I was a single dating person (neolithic age I think) is Tinder. I used to hate asking a girl to dance or to buy her a drink, because I was scared of the big No rejection. Now I would just have to swipe. Not that I have. I have just watched how it works. Mrs H need have no concerns. This is not an Ashley Madison confessional.

You see I do know about these things I just don’t use them. They are like a drug and a I saw a news article this week about IT Detox. Yes it was on-line and had hundreds of comments, likes rather missing the point I thought.

Please of course like this, re-tweet it – I’m not that anti.