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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Americans hammering at the door of New Zealand


There's been a massive increase in the number of Britons and Americans planning to come to New Zealand since Britain's Brexit vote and Donald Trump's political rise.

Immigration NZ typically receives 3000 registrations from Britons wanting to work, study or invest in New Zealand each month, through its New Zealand Now website.  But that leapt to 5005 in the 12 days immediately following Britain's June 23 Brexit referendum, in which Britons voted to leave the European Union, spokeswoman Emma Murphy said.

The department also normally received 7000 registrations from Americans wanting to work, study or invest in New Zealand each quarter, through New Zealand Now, she said.

But that had risen to 13,522 in the less than three months since Donald Trump won the Republican Party's pivotal Indiana primary on May 3.

About 3700 Britons normally visited the websites each day, but that had nearly trebled to 10,000 in the 12 days following the Brexit referendum.

Visits from the US rose from an average of 6100 a day before the Indiana primary to 8700 since, she said.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Working on a cruise ship

What it is really like.....

Cruise ship employees have revealed what it's really like to live and work at sea for months at a time.

In a new thread on the US-based website Reddit, current and former workers lifted the veil on their exploits as they explained what goes on behind closed doors or in plain sight when passengers aren't paying attention.

Anonymous crew members told tales of random hookups with colleagues, booze-fuelled parties, hatred for bosses and

Cruise ship 'hanky panky'

It's no surprise that cruise ship workers become involved in flings or serious relationships, given that they live and work in close quarters for weeks or months on end.

A Reddit user named MirtaGev wrote: "Everyone sleeps with everyone."

Another user, JMPBass, added: "Remember high school, where everyone knew everything about everyone's business? Who was macking whom, cheating on so-and-so, doing this-and-that, being a such-and-such? Well, that's ship life in a nutshell.

"The bar is where we all congregate, it's where we all commiserate and it's our only meat market option."

Hookups with passengers are a no-no

User heapsgoods worked on a cruise ship for three years and revealed they had three friends sent home for sleeping with passengers.

The Redditor wrote: "Essentially you get busted, you have a masters hearing and you're sent home at the next port (on your dime).

"The cruise companies don't want to be liable for anything and rape accusations are all too real. We aren't allowed to take elevator rides with guests if you're the only two people in it either, for the same reason."

Having your own cabin has its perks

Most employees sleep in shared cabins that are tiny and cramped, but officers tend to have their own rooms. It turns out there are a number of advantages, especially for those who are looking for love.

One user wrote: "If you have a solo room then you might as well write a blank booty cheque.
"Girls (and guys) go crazy over you as you have a solo room. Ugliest guys get prettiest girls if they have a solo room... I should know."

A female crew member said she enjoyed similar "benefits" as an officer, which meant she had a large cabin with a double bed and windows.

Your social life is better at sea than it is on land

Workers said a lot of partying happens when they're at sea or on their down time when the vessel is at port, although not every employee is into that kind of lifestyle.

Employees have access to cheap booze from the crew bar or event discounts at certain bars or restaurants on land.

Reddit user heapsgoods wrote: "There is a crew only bar, and beers are $1.50. Some ships have a crew only hot tub."

An engineer who worked four months at a time on cruise ships for three years added: "Alcohol (including spirits with my company) was very cheap and you would often find yourself buying drinks for an entire room of people for very little cost.

"I could, as an officer, order room service and there were even some crew cooking in there cabins and selling it to other hungry crew members.

"All in all it's a hard lifestyle to maintain and sleep is limited if you're social and want to go ashore at the same time but in my opinion, totally worth it. If for a few years in any case."

There is no such thing as privacy

User Seastar321, who worked on cruise ships for five years, described the joy of sharing a room with colleagues and working alongside them all day.

They wrote: "Long working hours, very small shared cabin with walls thinner than paper so you can hear everything your neighbours are doing."

User too-tsunami added: "Think of a time you did something embarrassing while drunk at a bar. Now imagine having to see every single person who saw you do that embarrassing drunk thing, every day for months & months. That's what ship life is like"

The food for crew is really bad

Several crew members wrote on the thread that the food served to crew is "almost inedible" or "really bad".

Workers also said they had limited options or had to eat food they weren't used to.

A user named too-tsunami wrote: "Food is provided, but the two most common ethnicities on my ship were the Philippines and India, so the crew cafeteria was usually full of food I wasn't used to, like pigtail stew & fish heads. I ate a lot of salad & mashed potatoes on my contracts."

It's not all play

Many employees complained they worked long hours for days on end and didn't get paid what they should have.

A user named teddersman wrote: "Crew members are super hard working and work weeks are 70 hours a week without a single day off for 6-8 months at a time.

"Most crew members rely on tips for their wages. My position was salaried for $58/a day, I was an officer on board working in the guest services office. Came out to roughly $1400 a month after taxes. No one else is taxed besides Americans on board."

Redditor JMPBass, a musician in a cruise ship band, called it the 'jail factor', adding: "You're in a tin can and you can't leave. Some people can never get off in port because their jobs don't allow for it."

It's a great way to see the world

Many people dream of having a job where they get paid while exploring the world. Even though they put in a lot of hours, cruise ship workers take in a lot of the sights.

User Seastar321 wrote: "In five years on cruise ships I literally travelled the world. I basically visited every continent except Antarctica and went to over 75 countries."

Their experiences included a sled dog ride in Alaska, white water rafting in Costa Rica, a day on a luxury yacht in the Caribbean, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and visiting the pyramids of Egypt.

The Redditor added: "None of the bulls*** you have to put up with on board matters compared to that."

There is a class system

User TickleMafia said things are very divided by position.

They wrote: "There is almost a caste system in place with officers at the top, then entertainment, then front-of-house, then the back of house.

"These groups are usually divided by nationality too, so there isn't a lot of interaction between them."
A user named BilliousN added: "Totally depends on which country you come from. My wife and I met working on ships. She's Indonesian, worked 10 month contracts without a day off, 12-14 hours a day... and made about $600 bucks a month.

"Lived in a shared room, ate food that was literally made from the scraps of what passengers didn't eat, never had time to get off ship in port.

"I'm American, worked 4 month contracts, had a solo room, usually worked about 6-10 hours a day, ate with the passengers in the lido, and made around $3000 a month."

Workers don't pay rent (but may have to pay for toilet paper)

Cruise ship employees don't have to pay rent on their cabins, although many are sending money back home to support their families.

User TickleMafia, a musician, wrote: "Paying zero rent or bills is a great deal and I've been incredibly lucky that that is an option, but... the pay is almost always less then what you make on land, and if you lose work on land it can be a wash.

"Some lines also try and suck the crew dry, charging extra for necessities like toilet paper, drinking water or over-charging for internet."

A user named teddersman added: "Wifi was $5 a day for 24 hour access to limited social media apps or $10 for 100 minutes unrestricted. I spent way too much money on the s***** wifi."
Is it true?  As a cruise lecturer, I have to say, yes .... Reading this, there was a lot of nodding.  But there was a lot that was a surprise!


Cruise ships often call at Tahiti.  The local ship Paul Gauguin is a common sight at the Paquebot Quay in Papeete.  But on April 21 there was an unusual visitor -- STS Tenacious. Not only was this three-masted bark reminiscent of a much earlier era, but there were 29 disabled student sailors on board.

Tenacious is a British sail-training ship that was specially designed to accommodate men and women who suffer from some kind of disability. Some are blind, some are deaf, and others have more "invisible" conditions, such as diabetes or hemophilia.

Launched in the year 2000, Tenacious is the largest wooden sailing ship to come out of the United Kingdom in the last hundred years.  At over 200 feet long, she carries over three thousand square feet of canvas in her sails.

The Tenacious was built to help meet the huge demand for voyages that followed the success of Lord Nelson, the first ship ever built to enable physically disadvantaged people to take part in the romance of the sea.  Funded by the UK Lottery Foundation, plus private donations, she is owned by a registered charity, the Jubilee Sailing Trust. She is a hard-working ship -- more than 85% of her time is spent at sea, and to date she had carried 13,000 people, including 1400 who were confined to wheelchairs.

And how does a man or woman in a wheelchair help to set the sails? By being hoisted up the mast -- a highlight for many who have sailed with her.  Moving around the deck is easy, too, as aisles are wide, and lifts help get people from one level to another.  Important signs are in Braille, and directional arrows are engraved on handrails.

Before arriving at Papeete, the ship called at Costa Rica, the Marquesas Islands, Bora Bora and Moorea.  Right now, they are on the way to Australia, where the ship will be dry-docked for maintenance in Melbourne.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tupaia a Tahitian bestseller

On June 25, a signing was held at the wonderful Odyssey bookstore in Papeete, Tahiti.

There I had the pleasure of meeting Liliana Meslin, owner of 'Ura Publishing, which produced the beautiful French edition of Tupaia.

Not only was she charming, but she had the great news that Tupaia is a local bestseller.  As one of the many people who turned up to talk to me commented, the book has given Tahitians their own great hero.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How old should a president be?

What the writing community would think ....

From the New York Times

For Presidents, Age
Is Not Just a Number

“One of the mixed blessings of being 20 and 21 and even 23,” Joan Didion wrote, “is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.”

But of course it has. Whether we are 20 — or 2 or 91 — we feel, by and large, what billions of others have felt at that same age. Writers know this. Our great books are filled with universal observations about our every year, their desperations and delights.

All of us age more or less in step — you, me and our two presumptive nominees for president. Donald J. Trump, who turned 70 last week, would no doubt recognize himself in the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer, who wrote, “A man of 70 should know what he wants.”

Still, not every passage can speak to every person. Hillary Clinton began her second bid for president at an age when such mountainous ambition is generally in decline. In a magazine article titled “Life at Sixty-Seven,” Theodore Dreiser wrote, “Fame, success, power, $500 million, world leadership — well, if they should arrive, I might not exactly take to cover, but as for lying awake nights craving them as in my youth I did — well, I really don’t care to any more.”

Nonetheless, the simple fact remains that age informs who we are. That fact is as relatable to our presidents as it is to the rest of us. And as we wait to see how age might shape a Trump or Clinton presidency, here is a sampling of observations about age that speak to the experiences of our last eight presidents.
  1. Photo
    Credit Illustrations by Lauren Tamaki
  2. Barack Obama was months shy of 46 when he announced his candidacy for president.
    At 46 one must be a miser; only have time for essentials.
    —Virginia Woolf, “The Diary of Virginia Woolf,” March 22, 1928
  3. Photo
  4. Bill Clinton was 51 when news of his affair with Monica Lewinsky broke.
    At fifty-one you had to keep running just to escape the avalanche of your own past.
    —Stephen King, “Needful Things”
  5. Photo
  6. Jimmy Carter was 54 when, in a bid to put a finger on the nation’s problems, he gave his “Malaise” speech.
    At fifty-four, he thinks a lot of things, he believes a few, but what can he really claim to know?
    —Julian Barnes, “Arthur & George”
  7. Photo
  8. George W. Bush was almost 57 when he commenced his attack on Iraq.
    Fifty-seven; it’s a critical age … Desire is much the same as it ever was but satisfaction brings in its revenges.
    —Hjalmar Söderberg, “Doctor Glas”
  9. Photo
  10. Richard Nixon was 61 when he resigned as president.
    I might, at sixty-one years of age, have been a little inclined to stay at home.
    —Daniel Defoe, “The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe”
  11. Photo
  12. Gerald Ford was about to turn 62 when he slipped on a staircase in Austria; from then on he was lampooned as clumsy.
    He was turning sixty-two, not an age of life-altering shocks but only of subtle diminishments.
    —Paul Theroux, “The Lower River”

  13. Photo
  14. George H. W. Bush was 66 when he chose to upend Republican orthodoxy and raise taxes.
    At sixty-six I am more rebellious than I was at 16. Now I know the whole structure must topple, must be razed.
    —Henry Miller, “Art and Outrage”
  15. Photo
  16. Ronald Reagan was 70 when he survived an assassination attempt.
    You must take living so seriously
    That even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees
    And not for your children, either,
    But because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
    Because living, I mean, weighs heavier.
    —Nazım Hikmet, “On Living”
    Joshua Prager, the author of “100 Years: Wisdom From Famous Writers on Every Year of Your Life,” is writing a book on Roe v. Wade.
    Lauren Tamaki is a designer and illustrator.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Do you use the Oxford comma?

For the initiated, an Oxford comma is the comma before the word 'and' in a list.

As in:  Potatoes, leeks, onions, and lettuces are all vegetables.

Personally, I don't like it.  Lots of people don't.  But writers have to live with the house styles of their publishers, and so I have countenanced it on many occasions.

And a video laying out its origin and popularity has gone viral ....

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Travel guides going digital?

Penguin Random House has entered into an agreement to sell travel imprint Fodor’s to Internet Brands in a deal whose terms were not disclosed.

Penguin Random House will still distribute Fodor’s print guides on behalf of Internet Brands.
Fodor’s will join the Los Angeles-based Internet Brands’ portfolio which already includes travel websites such as and While the company mostly focuses on digital, Internet Brands has some experience in print through Nolo, its legal guidebooks property.

Fodor’s published its first guidebook 80 years ago and has since published titles on some 7,500 destinations around the globe. The publisher currently has more than 150 travel guide in print, as well as 250 e-books and 25 mobile apps, as well as popular newsletters. The publisher’s website has been around for 20 years and counts about 4.5 million monthly visitors.

“The Fodor’s name is legendary, and we have a deep appreciation for its history and the direct impact Fodor’s has on the way people explore new places,” stated Bob Brisco, CEO at Internet Brands. “Internet Brands has a proven history of navigating legacy brands to strong growth in the digital world. We’re confident that Internet Brands is the ideal partner to ensure that the Fodor’s brand continues to guide travelers for generations to come.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Amazon and Audio Books

Noticeable of late is that print books are selling better than digital, and audio seems to be doing even better than that -- or so it seems, from observation of Amazon sales of Island of the Lost.

Well, surprise surprise, Amazon is behind this.  According to a post on Digital Book World, audio is being pushed by the mega-selling internet site.  Karen Commins is the commentator.

Most people (she says) don’t realize that Amazon has systematically acquired companies and innovated technologies in order to push audiobooks into mainstream entertainment.

In 2007, Amazon bought Brilliance Audio, which was the largest independent producer of audiobooks in the country. At the time of the purchase, Brilliance created 12 to 15 audiobooks per month, or no more than 180 audiobooks a year. At the Audio Publishers Association conference in May, a rep from Brilliance Audio commented that the company now produces 2,000 audiobooks a year.

The next year, Amazon spent $300 million to buy, which is the world’s largest distributor of audiobooks. Audible’s 2008 catalog had around 60,000 titles. Today, Audible’s title count is fast approaching the quarter-million mark.

One reason for the dramatic uptick in title production is the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), a site created in 2011 by Amazon-owned Audible. ACX enables authors and other rights holders to connect directly with narrators to produce audiobooks.

Before ACX appeared, indie authors had few chances to get their titles into audio. Narrators also had limited prospects of working in the industry. While some publishers hired narrators with home studios, most audio productions were recorded and edited in the publishers’ locations. Now, though narrators across the United States and United Kingdom are gaining work through ACX to produce audiobooks from our own studios. As a result, ACX is responsible for one-fourth of the audiobooks available for sale on Audible.

After ramping up audiobook production, Amazon’s next innovative move was designed to generate a higher volume of sales of Audible audiobooks. In 2012, Amazon announced Whispersync for Voice, a technology that allows users to seamlessly switch between the Kindle ebook and the Audible audiobook. They also could enjoy an immersive experience of simultaneous reading and listening.
To ensure its customers would purchase both editions of the same book, Amazon discounts the price of the audiobook after the Kindle book is purchased, and audiobook aficionados take advantage of the combo deal. In fact, many actively look for free or inexpensive Kindle books just so they can get the audiobook at a cheaper price.

As of 2013, Amazon has also been offering consumers the Find Your Match service, which scans through their Kindle library and shows them the audiobooks available for the “upgrade.”
That same year Amazon bought the social media site Goodreads, as book sales have always heavily relied on word-of-mouth recommendations. As DBW reported last year, Amazon added audio samples of Audible books to the Goodreads site. Once the user clicks on the sample, the audio plays, and a dialog box appears offering the audiobook for free with 30-day trial on Audible.

Audiobook devotees always have been evangelists for the media, but now Amazon is harnessing that enthusiasm to bring in new listeners. Just like vendors in grocery stores who hand out free food hoping that you will like it and buy it, Audible, through its members, is giving away free audiobooks with no strings attached.

Last year, Audible implemented a program called Onebook, which allowed its subscribers to send a book in their library to up to 10 people. If the recipients were not Audible subscribers and it was their first Audible audiobook, they received a free audiobook.

The Onebook program was radically expanded and renamed in May. With the current Send A Book initiative, the biggest change is that Audible subscribers now can share a book in their library with up to 1,000 people. The recipients still can redeem only one free book, but they now have the option to send it to people in their network. Recipients do not need to create an Audible account, much less start an Audible 30-day trial, as long as they have an existing account on Amazon.

In addition to enticing prospective buyers with free audiobooks, Amazon has significantly increased Audible’s visibility through advertising. Audible became a sponsor of the popular podcast Serial and the PBS TV show Downton Abbey.

What’s more, Amazon is also trying to attract new audiobook listeners by including audiobook offers with its hardware products. For instance, a friend told me she recently bought Amazon’s Echo on QVC and received two free audiobooks as part of the package.

Now that audiobooks are becoming mainstream entertainment, Audible Studios is developing original material to appeal to a wider group of listeners. One example is the highly acclaimed adaptation of Joe Hill’s graphic novel Locke & Key. This full-cast recording featuring more than 50 actors is complete with music and special effects, and sounds like a blockbuster film. Audible also has paid movie stars like Colin Firth and Kate Winslet to narrate traditional audiobooks.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Learning assassination from books

Murder Suspect in Jo Cox Killing Bought Books From Nazi Group

    Thomas Mair, the suspect in the brutal murder of British Parliament member Jo Cox, reportedly bought books on how to make guns from an extremist group in the United States.
    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit that fights hate groups in the United States, Mair bought a manual on how to make a homemade pistol from neo Nazi group the National Alliance. The Guardian has the scoop:
    He bought books that instructed readers on the “chemistry of powder and explosives”, “incendiaries”, and a work called Improvised Munitions Handbook. The handbook included detailed instructions on constructing a pipe pistol using parts available in DIY stores.