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Saturday, May 31, 2014

An economics book to obsess you

"The core message of this enormous and enormously important book can be delivered in a few lines: Left to its own devices, wealth inevitably tends to concentrate in capitalist economies. There is no "natural" mechanism inherent in the structure of such economies for inhibiting, much less reversing, that tendency. Only crises like war and depression, or political interventions like taxation (which, to the upper classes, would be a crisis), can do the trick. And Thomas Piketty has two centuries of data to prove his point." --economics commentator Doug Henwood
As Annalee Newitz points out on io9, Henwood specializes in talking about the dark side of capitalism.  However, Piketty's thesis is very persuasive. In a word, he says that there will always be a one-per-cent.  Wealth drifts -- or zooms, according to the economic climate -- to a few at the top. World Wars One and Two destroyed a lot of wealth, along with a nasty Great Depression in between, and the years after 1945 gave the rest of the hardworking population a chance to catch up. In the Western world, at any rate, there was a general feeling that there should be some kind of wealth equality. But, since the 1980s, mankind has been reverting to type. The rich get richer and richer .... and richer ... while 75% of the population work incredibly hard to be moderately well-off, and there is that sad, embarrassing 20% who will never make it over the poverty line.
And, as French economist Thomas Piketty says, it really is embarrassing.  With globalization poverty should be left behind, but instead we have a super-wealthy global elite. He argues for a fix by taxing the rich -- heavily taxing the rich. It would not only make the situation more fair, but it would discourage the current craziness for huge pay packets for senior executives, along with all the golden parachutes, handshakes and what have you.
The rich, as Henwood also points out, would consider that another major economic crisis, but hell, this thesis surely is seductive.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Indies eligible?

2014 LJ Galley Guide

Library Journal will be previewing 2014 summer, fall, and winter 2014–15 sf/fantasy and horror titles in the August 2014 issue. Eric Norton will be writing the August feature with a focus on the following topics:
  • Debut authors and series
  • Genre trends (is epic sf still big thanks to Game of Thrones? Is hard sf making a comeback? What’s hot now in urban fantasy? Has the vampire craze finally died? Is there a revival in literary horror? Are the boundaries between literary and genre fiction blurring?)
  • Publishing issues: Are publishers launching new sf/fantasy imprints? Are they acquiring more sf/fantasies in translation? Buying more self-published titles? What is going on in digital publishing?
Please email the following information: author, title, ISBN, page count, price, marketing plans, formats available (print, audio, ebook), and a brief description—catalog copy will suffice—to Eric Norton at and be sure to cc Wilda Williams at

The deadline is June 10, 2014.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The tax they don't pay

Also from The Bookseller

It was also revealed this weekend that Amazon routed £11bn through its Luxembourg office last year, where it has based its European operation.
The amount is up on the €11.9bn (£9.5bn) Amazon funnelled through its European head office in 2012, reported The Sunday Times.

The newspaper also reported that the online retailer also claimed a £4m rebate from the taxman in Luxembourg.

In 2013 the company only paid £4.2m in corporation tax in the UK, even though it generated sales here of £4.3bn.
The revelation, in the company’s accounts, led MP Margaret Hodge to say customers should “shop elsewhere”.
Amazon is certainly not alone in this -- Starbucks is another multinational that springs to mind. But it is a disgrace that these conglomerates make huge money out of their worldwide audience, but refuse to contribute their share.

That Amazon-HBG stoush

Sarah Shaffi, writing for The Bookseller, reports.

Hachette Book Group in the US has said it is doing “everything in our power to find a solution” to its dispute with Amazon, which has seen the online retailer removing pre-order capabilities from a number of its key summer titles.
Last week Amazon in the US took away pre-order buttons from a number of Hachette’s forthcoming titles, including J K Rowling’s new Robert Galbraith novel The Silkworm, out in the US on 19th June, and Tom Rob Smith’s The Farm, released on 3rd June.
Titles remain listed as “currently unavailable” today, with customers offered the option of signing up to be emailed when the book is available. In addition, some as yet unpublished titles have not been given a Kindle page. Pre-ordering on for Hachette UK titles has not been affected.
In a statement from the US company, reported by the Los Angeles Times, HBG spokeswoman Sophie Cottrell said: "We are doing everything in our power to find a solution to this difficult situation, one that best serves our authors and their work, and that preserves our ability to survive and thrive as a strong and author-centric publishing company."
Hachette Book Group’s c.e.o. Michael Pietsch echoed the wording in a letter to authors, in which he also said that it was “extremely encouraging to see our retail partners – thousands of chain, online and independent bookstores – showing their support for HBG and our authors”.
He told authors: “I know this is not a comfortable situation for most of you, and I appreciate your support and the many messages I’ve received.”
Writers including James Patterson and Jeffery Deaver have spoken out against Amazon’s tactics.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Choosing your typeface

Unsure which fonts to use when designing your book?

Here is a brilliant infographic from visual.y

The ten guides:

1.  Know your font families

2.  Combine a sans serif font with a serif font

3.  Combine a serif font with a sans serif font

4.  Combining two similar fonts is not cool

5.  Contrast is the key

6.  Stick to two fonts.  Only go for three if you must

7.  Don't mix different moods

8.  Combine fonts of complementary moods and similar time eras.

9.  Use different weights of fonts in the same family

10. There are fonts to be avoided.  Hit the link to the infographic to see which ones.

From galleycat @

Monday, May 26, 2014

Yahoo warning a scam

Told that you must upgrade to classic?

You already have upgraded, months and month ago.  If you have received a warning that you need to hit a link to upgrade in order to continue receiving yahoo emails, delete it.

Don't hit the link.

It's a scam.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Revelations from a successful hybrid author

"Odd as it seems, it's coming to the point where I do Indie publishing to support my family and publish with the major New York publishing houses for the fun of it!"

James L. Nelson, prize-winning author of many books of maritime fiction and non-fiction, has just self-published the sequel to his  bestselling Indie historical, Fin-gall. He talks to me about the pleasures and puzzles of being a hybrid author.

Obviously, you have found Indie publishing worthwhile. Apart from the fact that it is fun, what advantages have you found? Any downside? 

Okay, now you’re getting me going on publishing, a subject I think a lot about. But I’ll assume your readers have an interest in this, so here I go. There are so many pros and cons here. On the con side is the breakdown of the traditional gatekeepers, the agents, editors, etc.. Some would call that a “pro” but I think there is something to be said for gatekeepers. With everyone able to publish it gets much harder for any one author to be seen through the crowd, and let's face it there’s a lot of junk being tossed out out there, obscuring everything. What’s more, reviewers still look to the old gatekeepers, so its very difficult to get a self-published book reviewed in a traditional venue. I’m more lucky than most, having something of a name to rely on, but I still find it very difficult.

What’s more, and this may seem odd, but I also worry about what happens in the macro economic picture. I wonder what happens when we don’t need publishing companies and printers and truck drivers and bookstore employees. Do we end up in a place where the executives at make a fortune, some writers make a little money and everyone else is unemployed? One need only look at what’s happening in the music industry to see there will be some major shake-out.

That said, Indie publishing has some real advantages to writers. Publishing as an industry is a dinosaur and it moves about as quickly as a brontosaurus. With all the pressure on publishing and the economy in general, publishers are getting tighter and tighter (as far as advances, I have heard from a number of writers that $20,000 is the new $50,000). With Indie publishing I can publish as frequently as I like and I have compete control. It’s also a better deal financially. Publishers tend to pay for a book in two big chunks more than a year apart, but with I get paid every month, a real consideration when you’re trying to make a living doing this. So, yes, it’s a mixed bag, but for the most part I have really enjoyed the experience and plan to continue. Which leads us to...

An Indie author who also publishes with a traditional press is known as a “hybrid.” Has being a hybrid posed any difficulties for you?

I really sort of fell into this Indie thing. I wrote my first Viking book, Fin Gall, about five years ago and it never found a traditional publisher. Five years ago Indie publishing was not as common or easy or cheap as it is now, so I didn’t think about going that route. But the more I read about this new trend, the more curious I became. I had Fin Gall already written so I didn’t have to gamble the time to write a new book, so just for fun I published it. Turned out to be such a success that I decided to write a sequel specifically to self publish. Right now I’m also starting a new series for St. Martin’s Press about a young ship captain set in 1795. The book will be called The French Prize and should be out in a year. There’s been no conflict between that and the Indie publishing, but if St. Martins wants to do another, there could be. But frankly at this point I don’t think I can afford to not do the Indie publishing, so we’ll see what happens. Odd as it seems, its coming to the point where I do Indie publishing to support my family and publish with the major New York publishing houses for the fun of it!

Writing sequels can be tricky, because you have to keep the reader who is new to the series in mind. What, for you, were the pleasures and problems of continuing the saga of Thorgrim and his men?

There were a number of plot lines left dangling in Fin Gall (which was pointed out by a number of readers!) so it was fun to got back and tie those up. And of course when you create characters who interest you its nice to revisit them. There is certainly a balancing act in this. You have to bear in mind that a reader might not have read the first book, or if they are like me they can’t remember a damned thing, so you have to give enough of a recap of the first book to let the reader know what’s going on without being tedious about it. Also, as an editor once said to me, in a series each book has to be different but not too different. Readers want a fresh book but they also want the elements that made them like the first book. We’re all like that. We read series because we like to visit folks we know. So that balance can be tricky.

Had Thorgrim’s character developed in the interval? Did he threaten to take over the plot?

Thorgrim has certainly developed, but I don’t think he’s threatening a take-over. To some degree the lesser characters can be more fun to write because they don’t have to carry as much weight and can be more outrageous. I have a new character in the series, Starri Deathless, whom I like very much. And Thorgrim’s son, Harald, is more fleshed out and takes a bigger part. He even gets a cool Viking nickname – Harald Broadarm.

What is your funniest experience as a traditional author?  At a book signing or book festival, for instance. 

I have no funny experiences, I am deadly serious about all aspects of publishing, as you know. Naw, just kidding. That’s a hard one, though. I do like the time I was in the bookstore at the Mariner’s Museum in Virginia, not doing a signing, just there as a tourist. The store carried my book Reign of Iron and as authors are wont to do I offered to sign their stock. I showed the manager the book and my picture and she laughed and said, “Hey, that does sort of look like you!” I had to show her my driver's license to get her to believe me!

And finally, give my readers one excellent reason why they should buy Dubh-linn!

Well, I can give you a few reasons. Dubh-linn is a fast paced, exciting and historically accurate historical adventure set in a fascinating time, Ireland in the 800’s where the native Irish and invading Norsemen were contending for domination. Great beach reading (its getting to be summer here on this side of the world). And if people don’t buy it I’ll have to send my poor children out in the snow, barefoot, to sell matches to feed our family. Again.

In case you have made the terrible oversight of having not read Fin Gall (of which Dubh-linn is a sequel) and are suffering the consequences, I'll be offering it as a free Kindle download May 24 - 28. So rush out in a downloading frenzy!

852 A.D. For centuries, the Vikings have swept out of the Norse countries and fallen on England, Ireland, whatever lands they could reach aboard their longships. Few could resist the power of their violent onslaught. They came at first to plunder, and...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Eleanor's odyssey comes to an end

She has visited ports like St Helena and Cape Town, seen convicts marched on shore at Port Jackson, heard colorful stories from her husband and others while sailing through coral seas, lived for a while in Calcutta, and now she is on the verge of coming home...

Eleanor's journal concludes.

On the 21st of May we fell in with a large fleet from the Mediterranean, who joined convoy, much to our annoyance, as many of them sailed very heavily, and detained us. We had very thick weather on entering the British Channel. One night a large ship, supposed to be a frigate, ran on board the Highland Chief: they were sailing in opposite directions, and the bower anchors of the Highland Chief hooked into a port of the frigate, and as the ships were going fast through the water, the anchor was carried away. The cable being bent, very soon all ran out at the hawse-hole, and lucky it was that the end of the cable was not made fast, as had that been the case some serious mischief must assuredly have happened; as it was, the Highland Chief received so much damage from the shock  that she was obliged to be towed into Plymouth.

The weather continuing very foggy, obliged us to keep our bell continually tolling, for fear of running foul of ships coming the contrary way; and as the fleet that joined us consisted of 150 sail, nothing was heard but the blowing of horns, beating of drums, and tinkling of bells, to keep clear of each other; but the fog signals from the men of war, made by the report of guns, were so well understood, either by the number, or by quick or slow time, that the ships could alter their course to any point of the compass.  We may say that we entered the English channel in the dark, as during five days we could not see a mile from the ship, and sailed upwards of 300 miles in this way.

However, on the morning of the 24th of May we had the heartfelt satisfaction of once more seeing our native land; the chalky cliffs of the Isle of Wight could not be mistaken. As the wind was easterly, a signal was made for the convoy to put into Spithead, where we anchored about two in the afternoon. Mr. D. was sent to London with the dispatches; at which time Capt. R., Doctor L., and Capt. D. took the opportunity of going to town also. As I did not intend leaving the ship until she arrived in the river Thames, Miss L. remained with me; we stayed here four days, and no custom-house boat or officer came on board of us; what a fine opportunity we had of smuggling! My husband, however, had put that out of our power, by shewing all our presents, &c., before we left Calcutta.

On the 28th the Lapwing frigate made the signal for convoy to the eastward, in consequence of which we proceeded, and passed through the Downs next day, having no occasion to anchor, as the other ships were obliged to do, for their poor seamen to be pressed. The few European seamen we had were hid away, and the boarding officers, seeing so many black faces on board, did not suspect us.

The next day we entered the river Thames, and were met by my brother-in-law, Mr. T. R., who had procured a very fine sailing boat to take us to town; this was a joyful meeting indeed, rendered doubly so to me when I learned that my beloved parents and all my family were well.
Next day, the 2d of June, we arrived in London, after an absence of two years and three days, with thankful hearts to a merciful God, who had permitted us to return in safety to our native land, having traversed a space of upwards of thirty-seven thousand miles without the smallest accident. It was particularly gratifying to my husband to receive letters from the friends of those poor men who embarked from Ireland, expressive of their sincere thanks for the great kindness and humanity shewn to them on the passage, and observing that they had mentioned that the only hardship they experienced was the necessary confinement, which the laws of their country and the safety of the ship required.

I now conclude my remarks upon my first voyage, which I am conscious require much correction and revision.

In the meantime, Eleanor Reid has accumulated hundreds of followers.  Her journal, complete with a discursive commentary, and richly illustrated from contemporary sources, will be out in time for Christmas.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Foul language sells

The list of Indie bestsellers from GalleyCat @ makes interesting reading this week.

Apparently, gutter language is In, and good taste is Out. 
And on smashwords, non-fiction is ruling the day.

Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of May 21, 2014
1. Taint by S.L. Jennings: “If you enrolled yourself in this program then you are wholly aware that you’re a lousy lay. Good for you. Admitting it is half the battle. For those of you that have been sent here by your husband or significant other, dry your tears and get over it. You’ve been given a gift, ladies. The gift of mind-blowing, wall-climbing, multiple-orgasm-inducing sex. You have the opportunity to f*ck like a porn star. And I guarantee, you will when I’m done with you.”
2. Reasonable Doubt by Whitney Garcia Williams: “She lied to me…She betrayed the one rule that I’m most adamant about: Honesty. Complete and utter fucking honesty. I really wish she was someone else—someone who didn’t have the ability to make me feel, someone I could easily discard like the hundreds of women before her. She isn’t.”
3. The Wedding Contract by H.M. Ward: “After I get the witch at the front desk to hand me my room key, I head for the shower. I was supposed to shoot my best friend’s wedding alone, and I couldn’t wait to escape New York and Nick Ferro. Yeah, he’s beautiful, sexy, and completely charming, but he’s stealing my clients. He’s done so much damage that I’m going to be lucky if I can keep my studio open for a couple of weeks. This wedding means everything to me, and I refuse to let a spoiled brat with a shiny new MBA put me out of business. Screw that.”
4. Mid Life Love by Whitney Gracia Williams: “If you’d asked me what love was two years ago, I probably would’ve said, ‘It’s this amazing feeling that obsesses and possesses you; it’s what me and my husband currently have.’ If you ask me that same question today, I’ll say, ‘Please get the hell out of my face.’ Claire Gracen’s life is picture perfect. Her career as a marketing director is on the brink of being legendary, and her marriage to her high school sweetheart has never been stronger. No, wait. It has. It used to be amazing and fulfilling, but one day Claire realizes that she’s been living a lie and her best friend and husband have committed the ultimate betrayal.”
5. Plummet by Michael Zarocostas: “Micah Grayson is an eager rookie fresh out of law school. Raphael Bianco is a degenerate senior associate who’s never met a temptation he could resist. Gabe Weiss is a millionaire senior partner who has a dream life. All three are litigators at Sullivan & Adler, the most powerful law firm in Manhattan. Two of them share a lover. One of them will kill in cold blood. But who is his victim? A dark why-dun-it set in the backstabbing conference rooms of corporate law.”
6. The Atlantis World by A.G. Riddle: “Northern Morocco: Dr. Kate Warner cured a global pandemic, and she thought she could cure herself. She was wrong. And she was wrong about the scope of the Atlantis conspiracy. Humanity faces a new threat, an enemy beyond imagination. With her own time running out and the utter collapse of human civilization looming, a new hope arrives: a signal from a potential ally.”
7. Hotel Paradise by Carol Drinkwater: “Genevieve Bowles is an award-winning songwriter who visits the south of France to attend the Cannes film festival. The day after the renowned festival’s closing ceremony, Genevieve is invited to visit the newly-refurbished Hotel Paradise. Genevieve knows the hotel well – in fact, her past life there has haunted her for over a decade…”
8. Bender (The Core Four) by Stacy Borel: “All Keegan wanted was a roommate who was quiet, minded their own business, and paid for part of the rent. Instead, she got Camden Brooks. Camden, with his sinful body, sharp tongue, and the inability to stay out of Keegan’s personal space, couldn’t seem to curb his interest in the new girl who wouldn’t put up with his domineering ways.”
9.  The Fixed Trilogy by Laurelin Paige: “All three books of the NY Times Bestselling Fixed Trilogy are included in this bundle.”
10. Dragon’s Lair by Chantal Fernando: “When I found my boyfriend cheating on me, I did something stupid. Or should I say, someone? Because of that mistake, I’m now stuck in a world I don’t belong in. I’m a law student. They’re criminals. He’s the Vice President of a MC. I’m a good girl with a strict upbringing. He’s my ex-boyfriend’s brother. And I’m screwed.”
Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of May 21, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Island of the Lost and leadership studies

Island of the Lost is the story of two near-simultaneous shipwrecks on sub-Antarctic Auckland Island in 1865, and the differing fates of the two sets of castaways.

Each was utterly unaware of the existence of the other group, and so they were left entirely to their own devices, completely dependent on the leadership skills of their captains.

One was an abject failure.  Though a competent and well-respected shipmaster, he did not have the flexibility to turn his men into a cohesive group, working together for their joint survival.  Over the next 19 months they all died, save three.  Some turned to cannibalism.  There was one resourceful seaman, Robert Holding -- but he was "just" a seaman, and so the captain and officers disdained to accept his sensible ideas.

The other group succeeded brilliantly.  They built a cabin, foraged for food, had a duty roster, built a forge, made their own tools, and constructed a getaway boat from the timbers of the wreck.  They all survived.

The book, with its demonstration of the crucial difference that leadership makes, is used in course in American schools and universities.  For the first time today, I found that it is being used in Australia and the UK, too.

Very satisfying. Read the whole of this very interesting discussion

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hound of the Baskervilles?

Archaeologists have discovered the skeleton of a massive dog that would have stood 7 feet tall on its hind legs, in the ruins of Leiston Abbey in Suffolk, England, according to a news report in The Express.  The remains are near where an ancient legend spoke of a hellhound called Black Shuck, said to have flaming red eyes and a rugged black coat, who terrorized villagers.
The name Shuck derives from the Old English word scucca meaning ‘demon’. He is one of many ghostly black dogs recorded across the British Isles.  Its alleged appearance during a storm on 4th August, 1577 at the Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh, is a particularly famous account of the beast, in which legend says that thunder caused the doors of the church to burst open and the snarling dog crashed in and ran through the congregation, killing a man and a boy, before it fled when the steeple collapsed. The encounter on the same day at St Mary's Church, Bungay was described in ‘A Straunge and Terrible Wunder’ by the Reverend Abraham Fleming in 1577:
This black dog, or the devil in such a likeness (God he knoweth all who worketh all,) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftness, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible form and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling upon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them both at one instant clean backward, in so much that even at a moment where they kneeled, they strangely died.
Brendon Wilkins, projects director of archaeological group Dig Ventures, said: “Most of these legends about dogs may have some roots in reality.” 
The remains of the massive dog, which is estimated to have weighed 200 pounds, were found just a few miles from the two churches where Black Shuck killed the worshippers. It appears to have been buried in a shallow grave at precisely the same time as Shuck is said to have been on the loose, primarily around Suffolk and the East Anglia region.
- See more 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Brilliant cover art

From my favorite photographer, Robert A. Schaefer

Robert wrote ...

"In June my friend Jan Clausen’s book of new poems will be published, and requested that my image Modern metal sculpture “ Homage to the Castellers” in the Barri Gotic, Barcelona, Spain be used for the cover art." 

And look at that jacket -- brilliant!

Does the poetry match it?  I will have to wait, to read, and see ....

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Homeward bound, with turtle soup

On the Friendship their share of the turtle bounty is taken on board, and Eleanor resumes her journal

Next day, when the turtle was divided, three came to our share; they were immense creatures, weighing upwards of 400 pounds each. Our people brought on board several buckets full of turtle eggs, which they found buried in the sand; they were perfectly round, about the size of a small orange, with a soft flexible skin; they also brought off a number of little turtles, about the size of small crabs, and a number of tropic birds, who were so stupid as to suffer themselves to be taken by hand when sitting upon the rocks.

All being ready, we left the island on the 23d of March, and proceeded with a fine strong trade-wind towards the Equator, which we crossed on the 28th of March; from that time until the 3d of April we had much unsettled weather, with squalls, thunder and lightning, and almost constant rain. This was expected about these latitudes: however we now got into the regular north-east trade winds, about four degrees north, and proceeded steadily on, in a north-west direction, until we came to about 23° north, and 37° west, where we fell in with a vast quantity of gulph weed, which at times was so thick in all directions, as to have frightened people unacquainted with its appearance. We were several days sailing through these fields of floating marine substance, and caught many branches of it; they were extremely elegant, and greatly resembled some land plants. Many very curious marine animals were found adhering to these branches.

About the 27th degree of latitude we were clear of the sea-weed, and then began to get into the variable winds, which enabled us to get round the Azores, or Western Islands, but had much bad weather, the ship at times taking in great quantities of water over the decks. This continued until we arrived in soundings off Scilly, where we encountered a most severe gale, in which a poor fellow named Hunt, a seaman, had both thighs broken by the falling of the arm-chest. 

The limbs were immediately set by Doctor L[aird], and Mrs. D. with so much skill and success (notwithstanding the violent motion of the ship) that when the man was afterwards taken to the London Hospital, the surgeons there said the operation did great credit to those who had performed it: the man perfectly recovered, and sailed afterwards with the captain to India. The passengers kindly made up a purse of 30 guinease for this poor fellow.

So who was the resourceful "Mrs. D"?  The wife of either Capt. D. or  Mr. C-- D--, evidently, but in the absence of a passenger list, it is impossible to tell who she was.  Which leaves us with yet another unsung female heroine of the sea ....

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Eleanor revisits St Helena

... and defies her husband after they arrive at Ascension Island ...

We now got into the strong south-east trade winds, and made great progress towards the Cape of Good Hope, off which place the Varuna parted from us, as she was ordered to land some stores there, and to re-join us at St. Helena. 

Five days after this the Minerva and Highland Chief parted, and left us to come on by ourselves. This was very unjustifiable on the part of our commodore: but as his ship sailed much faster than ours, he no doubt gave a sufficient reason in his logbook. 

We arrived however in safety at St. Helena on the 1st of March; the other ships had only arrived two days before. As Capt. R[oss] was intimate with Major G., commanding the garrison here, he was so good as to procure accommodations for us all at his house, where we were very comfortable as long as the ship remained. 

I frequently saw my old friend Mrs. P[orteous]. from Orange Grove; we had some pleasant rides to Longwood, and dined with the Rev. Mr. W. a brother of Mrs. G., whose house was situated in a most romantic part of the Island, from whence we commanded the most magnificent views of rugged nature.

We were not allowed to proceed from hence without convoy, particularly as Col. B[rooke], the governor, who was obliged to proceed to England on account of ill health, was to sail in the Highland Chief, the only ship which had room.

On the 9th of March we were much gratified by the arrival of H. M.’s ship Buffalo, from Port Jackson, having on board our old and worthy friend Gov. H[unter]., with his nephew and niece, Capt. and Mrs. K[ent].; they had come from the Cape in company with the Varuna, to convoy us to England. Now all was bustle once more, preparing for our departure for our native land. 

As Gov. H. had the direction of the ships, he intended touching at the Island of Ascension to procure some turtle; accordingly on the 16th of March we sailed from St. Helena, and in five days anchored at the island of Ascension. 

It appeared as if recently burnt to a brown cinder; not the smallest verdure could be seen from where the ship lay. Before dark a boat was sent from each ship to assist in turning the turtle, as it was agreed to share them among the different ships. 

Next day our friends from the Buffalo dined with us, and in the evening it was proposed that the ladies should land, just have it to say that they had been upon the island. This proposal did not meet my husband’s approbation: however we persevered, and got a wetting without having the gratification of landing at all; as the boat was nearly swamped in the surf. 

Mrs. K. was much alarmed; and had it not been for the exertions of her brother, Lieut. B. K., who was on shore with the seamen, our adventure might have ended seriously. As an aggravation of our disappointment, when we came on board no one pitied us; they all said we could have expected nothing else, from the great surf that continually rolled on the shore.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The World of the Container Ship

A beautifully written and thoroughly absorbing book review

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate

by Rose George
Metropolitan, 287 pp., $28.00

Reviewed by Maya Jasanoff, fresh from her own voyage on the biggest container ship in the world.

It begins:

"Imagine the Empire State Building. Now imagine tipping it on its side, nudging it into the Hudson, and putting out to sea. That was the scale of thing I contemplated one day in late November, as I gaped at the immense navy hull of CMA CGM Christophe Colomb, one of the world’s largest container ships, which stretched above and out of sight on either side of me, on a quayside in Hong Kong. Nearly twelve hundred feet long, it’s bigger than an aircraft carrier and longer than the world’s largest cruise ships. On Christophe Colomb, all of that space goes to boxes. The ship has a capacity of 13,344 TEUs—“twenty-foot equivalent units,” the size of a standard shipping container (although most containers today are forty feet in length). These are stacked seven high above deck and another six to eight below. In cheerful shades of turquoise, maroon, navy, gold, and green, they look like a set of Legos designed for a young giant.
"Trying to see where one even boards such a vessel, I noticed a steep aluminum gangway and went up its seventy-four steps, through two hatches, and into the eight-story “castle” that sits above the main deck and houses the ship’s living quarters, offices, and bridge. This was to be my home for nearly four weeks, as I took passage on Christophe Colomb from Hong Kong to Southampton, England, via the Suez Canal."
Jasanoff intersperses her thoughtful and congratulatory review of the book with memories of her own experiences.  Like cruise ships today, the firms that own and run these huge sea-going trucks use Filipino manpower.  I found her descriptions of her shipmates particularly heart-warming.  And what strange, isolated lives they lead.
Thoroughly recommended reading, so hit the link at the top.  Now I must hunt down the book ....