Sunday, March 25, 2012

Young adult, book stores, privacy - An evolving rant

I'm back again wanting to rant some more and yet again I don't know what to rant about. Something that makes my blood boil, perhaps?

Well, being 17 I haven't witnessed or experienced as much as some of you... older members. Doesn't mean I'm stupid though. The young adult section in book stores irritates me as it kind of assumes this. We're too old to appreciate works like Harry Potter (one of my favourite series), but are much more likely to enjoy reading a load of tripe about sparkly vampires. Forgive if I'm wrong, but the last time I checked the young adult demographic consists of more than just girls. I don't mean to be offensive to males who read Myers 'work' but it is mainly females who read it.

The YA section doesn't have the opportunity to annoy me as much as it does others as I (don't shoot me) buy my books online. It is pleasing to see that places like Amazon have avoided the dreaded YA section and instead make the cut off at children.

Yes, I buy my books online. I know that for many the fact that book stores are dying out is saddening, and in many respects it is. But we need to be honest with ourselves, it is far easier to order online and with places like Amazon having free delivery it is hard to see a reason not to. The prices are often cheaper so that makes up for the fact I have to wait a few days for the book to arrive.

It annoys me when people moan at me for buying online. Why should I pay more, travel further and risk not being able to get the book I want, when I don't have to? Book stores may have the benefit of being able to handle the book, see the page size and font, but that is about where it ends for me. Sure, people may say but you can try before you buy when you go to a shop, but you can online too. Amazon has a preview feature which allows you to read a fair amount of the book before you buy it. Better still you're not blocking the bookshelf whilst you stand there engrossed in whatever it is you've picked up.

"But there is something about the musty smell of a book store." Yeah, OK that can't be recreated online, but I don't think the book shops which sell second hand, old books will die out. They will simply merge with other second hand stores or possibly have an online presence in addition to the store. Places like Waterstones don't, in my opinion, have the smell of old books simply because they are selling new books. For that reason I don't think the musty smell argument can compete with the 'loads of variety, 24/7 service' argument for online.

The real threat to high-street book stores is probably not even online. It is the supermarkets. Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, they are all starting to stock more and more popular books for less and less. People are buying on impulse in the supermarket as they do not always go purely to buy a book, but to go and buy their groceries. Then they spot a book they like and buy it. A lost sale for book stores which often work on impulse buys, too. When you shop online the chances are that you are not going to have a peek at every book, but search for a specific one, or perhaps go to a specific category. Online purchases are still impulse buys, but not as much as supermarket book purchases.

So, perhaps the loss of impulse book purchases is a shame. Not really, in my opinion. As online stores get bigger, they accommodate more types of user, including impulse buyers. You've all seen the Recommended section on Amazon, or received personalised emails suggesting your next purchase. These advertisements work off impulse. It is like walking down an aisle in Asda and spotting a book you like the look of and buying it. The only difference is that you are online so it is more likely to be appropriate to you.

This brings me onto another thing that really annoys me:  People complaining about the loss of privacy when companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and supermarkets, collect data about you. Personally I welcome these companies to 'spy' on me. I would much rather see a book about writing fiction on the Amazon homepage than a book about expecting mothers! The fact is Amazon knows my web history based on the trail of cookies I leave as does Google. I want personalised ads; I want a better service from the companies I am paying money to; I want to be able to find things that interest me; I want emails that aren't spam, and actually contain content that I want to read. If this costs a small bit of my privacy so be it. I've got nothing to hide so it doesn't really affect me. The vast majority of these services operate an opt out policy so if you're looking for a place to bury the guy you killed without your wife becoming suspicious at the 'How to bury a body' books popping up on the homepage of Amazon then you can just turn off cookies in your browser, and use incognito/private browsing.

So, please stop moaning about your privacy being violated by companies wanting to earn more money by making your experience better. Correct me if I'm wrong but I can't think of anyone who would rather read mindless junk email instead of a list of products that are suited to them.

So, yet again it turns out that I do have stuff to say.

Thanks for reading, I'd love to hear your responses

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Rant


Over at my group on WDC, The CSFS, a new forum has been opened welcoming rants. Now, being me I had to give it a go, but found I had little to rant about... or did I? Here is that rant:

Well, I have very little to rant about. My life is going great, my grades are very good - all is well. So why am I here? To rant about the lack of something to rant about and hopefully during the rant work out something that I could perhaps pass as a valid reason to rant.

Rant: Speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way. Well, that's according to Google anyway. Of course I didn't have to use Google, I could've used Bing but that search engine doesn't present information nicely like Google does and instead takes me to The Free Dictionary which defines a rant as 'To speak or write in an angry or violent manner; rave.' A slightly different definition but nonetheless the same. Using the little known Altavista search engine produces similar results to Bing so I will take the second result which takes me to the Urban Dictionary which states a rant is ' To speak agressivly about somthing. or to take your own tangent about a subject and talk for a long time in a passionate manner. also see Aitkenism.' Following up on its suggestion of a word to also see takes me to a page saying the word is not yet defined.

Was that link provided for people to rant about? Or was it merely a mistake on the behalf of the poster, if so why were they not more careful with there also see, which could otherwise had been a useful extension on my knowledge of the word 'rant'. The knowledge I have, however, is sufficient to be going on with. I can easily find out that 'rant' has its origins between 1590 and 1600 coming from the Dutch word 'randten', which is now obsolete but meant 'to talk foolishly' when it was in common Dutch use.

But the link would likely be as of much accuracy as the source. Being Urban Dictionary I would probably come to find that it is a slang word that is apparently used by people my age. Because supposedly we all have the vocabulary of an asphyxiated pig who must resort to retarded squeals with little meaning to those with a reasonable mastery of the English language. How the word 'cum' meaning 'with; combined with; along with' could possibly have come to hold the same meaning as the slang version of 'come', that is the 'product of an orgasm, such as semen', is beyond me. To make it worse my supposed 'peers' seem to claim that it is this generation who came up with this cool slang despite 'cum' being used in this sense since 1973, and the word 'come' being used for this meaning originating 1650 with this as proof:
They lay soe close together, they made me much to wonder;
I knew not which was wether, until I saw her under.
Then off he came, and blusht for shame soe soon that he had end it;
Yet still she lies, and to him cryes, "one more and none can mend it."
But still, there are easier words to source the meaning of. One of the most commonly used words used in youth lingo on TV is 'blad' which also comes in to other flavours of 'blud' and 'blood'. The meaning is of course going to relate to blood and means brother, or close friend. Sadly those who use this word often fail to realise the sentimentality of the word. Once I overheard two people talking to each other. One said 'hey, blad! Was-sup?' I then proceeded to do the ridiculous thing of confronting them (I did know them, but still...) I asked the one of them if they were related to which he replied 'nah, blud.' I then asked him if they were really close friends. He replied 'nah, blud, we just met like'. I replied 'Oh, it's just you sounded really close, but I haven't seen him with you before.' Needless to say he question me on what gave him that image. His 'cred' wouldn't do if someone like me could get away with implying he was gay. I wasn't, he was the one implying a close friendship or relation. I explain what blad meant and he replied with 'Nah (he says that a lot) man. We ain't nuthin' like that. We just like bredrin, 'tis all.'

I don't know why they insist on being seen as people with a small vocabulary when they use a word clearly derived from 'brethren' , the archaic plural of brother or the normally legal/religious term for 'fellow members'. And they say they don't like Shakespeare yet they happily use 'tis. I was in a position to continue the debate as I knew I would win (not being arrogant or anything, but this guy ate my RE homework once... bringing us to the pig analogy) so I asked him if he enjoyed Shakespeare or read the bible. He replied 'nah, bruv'. It was quickly becoming apparent that either this person was a long lost relative or incapable of understanding what he was saying and what I was in relation to him. I cleared this issue up by asking a few questions about his family tree and I learned to neither of our surprises that we were indeed unrelated. At this point, what is known as an 'awkward turtle' moment. He left and I was wondering if he had intended to sign the word 'platypus' to me or if, as I suspected, he was made awkward by being seen to have lost an argument with a geek.

Not all is lost. The media greatly exaggerates the extent of the youthful destruction of what is already a complex language without needing to be made turbid by the sheer wonder of the in-aptitude some people have of their own language. But like I said at the start of that unusually long sentence without punctuation, the media greatly exaggerates the language of youth. I, for one don't use words like in'it or lad (in the new context not needing to refer to an actual lad). I do occasionally use them, but only if I am mocking the way those who are, apparently, my peers speak.

So, this has turned out to be rant with a fair amount in it, despite my original proclamation that I had nothing to rant about.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Be 'Younique'

This article is about the variety of ways any writer can use to prevent themselves accidentally becoming a ‘copycat’.

To start with, it is important to note that copying from others is different from using the general idea. In fantasy, especially, most ideas have been done, but not every idea has been done in every way. These ideas are sometimes referred to as ‘genre property’ and include the concepts such as magical schools (Unseen Academy, Hogwarts), apprentices (Magician, The Magician’s Apprentice) and trolls, wizards, and pretty much everything else associated with fantasy.

To stop yourself from becoming just another copy that isn’t quite as good as the original, you have to become the original. You need to come up with something unique, clever, and new. I’m not going to lie and say this is easy, it isn’t – especially if you’re writing something like epic fantasy with dragons and knights. The way you go about creating something different will vary depending on the sub-genre, but there is one basic rule for all sub-genres.

Think. Now, this may seem to be the obvious thing to do, but it is surprising how often it is not done. If you know your story is going to be about a man who’s been an orphan since childhood but is going to learn more about his parents’ death through means of magic then you have a good start. By knowing what your plot is, it is much easier to make a few changes.

Let’s think about the first part of that plot; this man is an orphan. That’s definitely been done before, but comes under genre property. The unique part here has got to be how he became an orphan and how it has affected him. You would be copying if you had a dark wizard kill them and this caused you’re character to be the chosen one who is the only one who can kill this dark wizard. Perhaps making it an accident that killed the parents, but an unknown one. This helps with the second plot element and enhances the first one.

So, your character is going to find out about the death of his parents. This is more generic and so safer from you accidentally copying someone else. From the first plot element, you have created a unique death… or perhaps a unique known death. Maybe they’re not dead. If so, why did people think they were? Be adventurous here. Don’t have characters think the father’s death was caused by them falling off a cliff and then have the dad come back and explain how he climbed down the cliff face and had rocks thrown at him by an assailant but luckily he managed to escape. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has already done this. If you want to do something similar then perhaps have it be more dangerous, or maybe have somebody else save the character.

As you can see, there are a number of ways to stop yourself from copying and still have the same plot as you wanted. However, there is the issue of knowing what has been written. It is impossible to read everything and so you must do your research. If your plot is good and you haven’t read it before then a quick search on the internet is all that’s needed to make sure you are being original. Use Google to look for keywords from your plot. Using our previous plot example typing, ‘fantasy orphan magic dark wizard’ into Google had Harry Potter as the second result.

Of course, what I have explained is only the tip of the iceberg. To explain all the ideas under the sun would require forever and a day. Let your imagination flow from your pen and by thinking outside the box, you can prevent copying becoming a spanner in the works.

That paragraph beautifully flows to the other method of being unique. This is the one I employ most:  Embrace the Cliché. That, however, is one for another day, and another newsletter article.
So, I leave you with this quote from Terry Pratchett.
Most modern fantasy just rearranges the furniture in Tolkien’s attic.
Hope this helps,
Matt B

Also available at Be Younique (WDC)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

AS Results are in!


Last night I posted about what I was predicting for today's results.

Well, to day I am happy with what I have got would be lying. My predictions were wrong. To say I was thrilled with my results would be telling the absolute truth. I have never been more relieved from a set of results in my life.

I worked really hard for these exams and it seems to have paid off. Surprised doesn't cover the fact the results are so good. Shocked would be better!

Chemistry was the subject that I thought I did worst in, but I got a comfortable A. The UMS (standardised marks) mark required for an A was around 99 and I got 108 so well in the bracket.

I was completely unsure how I did in Biology and guessed a B. I got an A!

The only exam I was confident in doing well was physics. I got an A. To make it even better I got the third highest mark in my year (or class, I'm not sure; there are 2 classes for physics).

I'm doing my ICT a year early. This means that I did 2 years of GCSE in one go in year 10, did my AS level in year 11 and my A2 this year, year 12. I thought I'd completely flunked one of the questions, but it turns out I didn't. I got an A. My ICT teacher said to my parents 'I expected Matt to get an A, but not such a high A.' He then went on to explain I got the highest ever mark in that paper for my school - 95%! 'It was a hard paper' were his words and I modestly agree.

Needless to say I am euphoric with these results and am more ebullient than ever about my academic life.

Matt B

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Exam Results are Looming


Tomorrow is AS Results day for the January exams. Normally I don't get worried for exam results, but this time is different.

The Chemistry exam was the hardest exam I have ever sat. Couple that with the A grade and the cold fact I got a C in the trial exam and the pressure is high. In this case I would be thrilled with an A, disappointed with a C, unsurprised by a B and devastated with less than a C. However, I don't think the exam went badly. After speaking to teachers about the exam I feel better. The conversation usually started with me saying the exam was hard and then the teacher pointing out different questions and me saying 'I got that one' a fair few times.

The Biology was one of those exams where I don't know if it went well. After most exams I have a gut feeling about how it went, but this one I really just don't know. Nobody really discussed the Bio exam so I don't even have the comfort of knowing I got at least some of the answers right. Funnily enough I got a B in the trial exam despite finding the subject harder than Chemistry. Like above, I would be thrilled with an A, disappointed with a C, unsurprised by a B and devastated with less than a C. The really worry for this one is that there have been rumours going around that 1 in 5 people failed the exam. However, I did some digging in the past exam statistics and learned in 2011 30% got an E or less and in 2010 35% got an E or less. I take solace in that the rumours going round are little more than just rumours. The exam grade boundaries are determined by how hard the exam was (hard exams have nicer boundaries) and how well everyone did. The boards are ruled by percentages and they aim to get a certain percentage of A's, B's, etc... on each paper by adjusting the boundaries.

The Physics exam was the only exam I am confident with. I felt good after that exam and so am hoping for the A. I would be disappointed with a B here and pretty upset with a C or less. However, as explained above if nationally the paper was done well the grade boundaries will be higher. Also, I have found that the exams you feel went best are those you get the most unexpected result in.

ICT is the only subject with coursework that I take. The sciences have practical exams but they are not worth as much. I can be comforted by this fact if the ICT exam doesn't go as planned. I think I should at least get a B, but I just don't know. I was stupid and didn't look up the EC Regulations even though they were mentioned in the case study and a 6 mark question came up on that. I may have got 1 or 2 marks there, but it could make the difference if the boundaries are tight.

So, the short story is I just don't know how I did in my exams so there is really no point worrying as there is nothing I can do.

I will post my results tomorrow, no matter what they are. If they are good I will like to share it with you all, if they are not so good I want you to know about the changes I will make to my work and revision techniques and attitudes.

Matt B

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


This post is for those of you who have hypermnesia and can remember that I am trying to expand my vocabulary.
Words - courtesy of

Of course those with hypermnesia are often froward as you can always remember exactly what was said and so can cleverly divert instruction. That said many are affable despite their hegemony. I will point out that eating the brains of a person who as the ability will not give you it, if only because human brains aren't normally comestible. Then again those who seek to steal your ability are often doing so only to fulfil their sycophantic disposition. I imagine those who eat brains are spelunkers, specifically for caves that are adventitious. Anyway, I give an encomium to all those with hypermnesia and fully enjoy the company of ebullient spelunkers so long as they're not too stentorian.

In other words:

Of course those with an abnormally vivid memory are often disposed to disobedience as you can always remember exactly what was said and so can cleverly divert instruction. That said many are characterised by ease and friendliness despite their dominant influence and authority over others. I will point out that eating the brains of a person who as the ability will not give you it, if only because human brains aren't normally edible. Then again those who seek to steal your ability are often doing so only to fulfil their servile, self-flattering disposition. I imagine those who eat brains are cave explorers, specifically for caves that are arising sporadically in places that are unusual for them. Anyway, I give a glowing praise to all those with hypermnesia and fully enjoy the company of bubbly, lively spelunkers so long as they're not too loud.

Raven Shadows


I have just read a fantastic poem on and I want to share the link with you all.

Raven Shadows, by Julie

I have sent a review to her, though it read more of the extent of how many ways I can say I enjoyed something! The review is here:

My Review

Matt B


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...