julesjones: (Default)
I cashed out a load of about to expire frequent flyer points onto an Amazon gift voucher, so I indulged in a batch of cheap tat from China for my knitting basket. (And then got seduced by the Chinese fountain pens, but those are for another post...)


Estone 4 pcs Plastic Knit Knitting Needles Pride Row Counter 2 Sizes New by HeroNeo


Cheap and cheerful. They're not great quality and the finish is fairly crude, but they do the job, on the pack I received there are no rough bits to snag your wool, and you get a pack of four for under a quid. The description says 2 small and 2 large; you actually get 2 small and 2 medium if you're comparing with the name brands, so you'll need to look elsewhere if you want ones for needles above 7 mm or so. I wouldn't use these as my primary row counters, but I bought them to have some spares to avoid swapping my good ones on and off needles all the time and for the knitting bag at work. These would be fine if you were looking for some cheap row counters to kit out a novice knitter. I bought them on UK Amazon at http://amzn.to/2t20iMC

That product code doesn't exist on Amazon US, but I found a two pack (http://amzn.to/2tAX4Rw ) and a ten pack ( http://amzn.to/2tv2VaC ) under various other names which seems to be the same thing. Weirdly, these are more expensive per counter than the UK pack.


HeroNeo® 1 pc Mini Multi Purpose Knit Knitting Stitch Row Counter Pendant Style New


This looked pretty cheap and nasty when it arrived, not least because the seam where the front and back clip together wasn't properly sealed. It turned out to work perfectly well, and I'm pleased I bought it. The counter clicks solidly, it's easy to adjust the numbers, and it has a lock so you don't accidentally click the counter when it's packed up for the night. I suspect it won't last more than a year or two of use, but good value for the £1.15 or so I paid for it on Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2uW8ZpF

Again, a gazillion different offerings under different brand names on Amazon US at wildly different prices, but this one admits to being the same model: http://amzn.to/2sBdQfd


Liroyal Useful Electronic Row Counter Finger Ring Golf Digit Stitch Marker LCD Tally Counter


This is intended to be worn as a ring. Alas, personally I found it got in the way when I was using it for knitting. It is, however, a nice little electronic tally counter that will be very useful as long as I have somewhere to put it down (or wear it on a cord around my neck). The one I received was well made. It's very light, the count and reset buttons have a good positive response, the reset button is much smaller and needs more force than the count button so you're unlikely to press it by accident, and it has an adjustable flexible plastic strap. The screen blanks to save power when it isn't used for a while, but it retains the last count. The battery is included (and indeed there is no simple way to change it). The main potential drawback that I can see with it is that the only reset option is to zero it, whereas the mechanical row counters can generally be adjusted to a different number.

Prices vary wildly on Amazon depending on seller and brand name, and as far as I can see they're all the same actual item. I paid 67p for mine, the same item has gone up to 82p a month later, and there are entries under other product codes at ten times that price. Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2t0Bu4q Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2u5BZiA There are also multi-pack offerings which would be useful if kitting out a class.
julesjones: (Default)
I wrote this review for the Amazon product page, but given how many of you lot would find it useful, I'm putting it here as well. I should note that the UK distributor contacted me through Amazon after I'd bought it, and asked if I'd be willing to write a review, as there weren't many on the UK Amazon site. However, I'd already intended to write a review for exactly that reason -- I'd had to go to the US site to find enough information to see if the product would suit me. It just got written rather sooner than it might have been without the request.

***

I'm a daylight-sensitive insomniac who is tired of waking up with the dawn when I'm sleeping in an east-facing room. The sort of masks handed out by airlines help for the odd night, but they're not good enough for regular use. I bought the Sleep Master on spec, and while it's not perfect, it's a lot better than any other mask I've tried. For me it was well worth the 22 pounds I paid for it. I bought mine for insomnia, but I think it's also worth trying for light-sensitive migraine.

It's a wrap-around padded blindfold held on with a velcro fastener, and has no straps or elastic involved in keeping it on your head. There are padded areas over the ears to muffle sound, and it comes with two sets of earplugs if you want heavy-duty sound blocking.

What it's very, very good at is blocking out the light. It's very wide, the padding ensures that almost no light gets through the blindfold itself, and the cut out around the nose is a good shape that ensures a good light seal in that area.

Comfort-wise, it's very good once you get used to it. It's made from a soft, silky material that feels comfortable against my skin. I was concerned that it might get too sweaty, but so far haven't had any problems. The padding makes it quite thick, which makes it feel a bit odd to lie on at first, but after a few days I didn't notice it. The main problem I noticed was that it rests directly against the eyelids, which means that if you're prone to opening your eyes when sleeping, you won't be able to and it's going to disturb your sleep.

It's held on by a long velcro strip which provides plenty of size adjustment, and which does a good job of holding it securely closed without it loosening during the night, as elastic is prone to do. It's also a lot more comfortable than elastic. The one drawback is that I found that it doesn't reliably stay on during the night, although that may because I'm a fairly restless sleeper. It's easy enough to slip back on if it does come off.

The blindfold by itself does muffle sound a little, and could be enough to mask low levels of irritating sound. The flip side of this is that it adds sounds of its own -- the rustling of satin cloth against skin right next to your ear. This could be helpful, if you find it soothing white noise that masks other sounds, or it could be annoying in its own right. I haven't tried the earplugs it came with, but one pair is the type I used to wear in a high decibel industrial environment as hearing protection, so I know that it's capable of blocking very high sound levels.

Washing directions are hand wash in cold water and drip dry. So far it seems to have survived the experience, and I didn't get any colour bleeding. I suspect that you could get away with occasional mashine washing on the wool cycle if you put it in a delicates bag, which matters if you're like me and have hand problems, but I'm not going to try it unless I need to.

In summary: excellent product which should suit most people.

***

An additional bit of review for the blog only -- yes, I'm sure it will be very useful for Other Purposes as well. :-)

I'm probably going to bring this along with me to cons, since so many hotel rooms don't have adequate blackout curtains. If anyone wants to have a look at it with a view to purchasing one of their own, feel free to ask.

Revolutionary, Patented SLEEP MASTER (tm) Sleep Mask. Worlds most effective light and noise reduction package. Helps with snoring partners , insomnia , shift work , jet lag for truly restful sleep. Prevents disturbed rest ensures peaceful slumber
julesjones: (Default)
Review: moo.com business cards

I do very little by way of printed promo material, and most of it I print at home as and when required. But I could do with having some business cards to hand out my contact details at cons, and the business cards might as well double as promo material. However, I need so few that I can't justify doing a batch for each book.

Enter moo.com and their Printfinity system. You can put a different image on the reverse of every card in the batch, if you so desire. Which means that I can order a box of 50, and get a mix of all of my book covers. And they do a completely free sample box of 10, not even a charge for postage. The price is in the form of their own logo on the image side of the card, but it's small and discreet. So I thought I might as well have a play with the system and see what the quality is like.

Read more... )
Overall -- I'm a very satisfied customer. The quality was excellent, and while there was a problem with one order, it was fixed quickly and politely. The only niggle I've got is that there doesn't seem to be a way of storing your images on their system other than as part of a design project. You have to re-upload each time you start a new project. But since they don't charge a fee for uploading images (unlike many card printers), and you can save and edit projects, this is not much of an issue. They also do postcards, greeting cards and stickers, although I haven't seen physical samples of those yet. On my experience so far, I'd be happy to recommend them to other authors looking for small print run options on promo materials. The one problem they have from a promo material perspective is that the laminate makes it difficult to write on them, so you'll need to take along something like a marker pen or photo pen to sign them or add details by hand.

And since they have a "refer a friend" bribery and corruption scheme... If you go through the link below, you'll get 10% off your first order (and I will get a discount off my next order:-> ).

http://www.moo.com/share/qqjdqc
julesjones: (Default)
I wandered into Alex Woolfson's sf webcomic site Yaoi 911 while he was still posting Artifice, and was hooked. The ad I clicked said "smart guy-on-guy sci-fi", and that's exactly what I got.

Artifice, now complete, is a solid story about an android soldier who didn't obey orders, and is now being interrogated by the company's top robopsychologist to find out why. There follows a battle of wits as Doctor Maven tries to uncover why Deacon, last survivor of an assassination squad, not only failed to kill the last survivor of the colony his unit was sent to dispose of, but attacked the retrieval team sent in to fetch him. Excellent writing by Woolfson teamed with nice art by Winona Nelson, and it skilfully blends a thoughtful look at the use and abuse of androids with a delightful gay romance.

The Young Protectors, currently in progress, is a superheroes comic. Although some of the superheroes we run into aren't so heroic... In the prologue, young superhero Kyle has just finished a quick visit to a place he doesn't really want to be found by the rest of the team, when he encounters supervillain The Annihilator. The Annihilator's price for not telling the world that he just saw Kyle go into a gay bar for the first time is... a kiss. :-) Kyle goes back to ordinary after-class superheroing in the first chapter, but life rapidly gets more complicated for him. At forty-something pages in, there's a lot of intriguing backstory and long-term plot being hinted at, and I can't wait to see what happens next. Also, some acidly entertaining commentary about the amount of collateral damage around superheroes. Woolfson's excellent script is pencilled by Adam DeKraker and coloured by Veronica Gandini. I have no idea where Woolfson's planning to take this, but if you like your superhero comics with some May/December superhero/supervillain in the mix, take a look at this.

There are more pieces available to mailing list subscribers, but these are the ones which are currently available without registering.
julesjones: (Default)
And doing a spot of ego-surfing this morning, I discovered that there is a Czech site reviewing yaoi, and someone has reviewed the two Lord and Master novels. (The Google translation service isn't good enough for me to work out whether they liked it or not.)
julesjones: (Default)
I generally don't point at reviews of my books, even the good ones, unless it's one where I personally asked the reviewer to look at the book. But every so often there is a review that makes an author think, "Yes! They got what I was trying to do! It worked!" And Jenre has just posted such a review of Lord and Master.

[exit, bouncing]
julesjones: (Default)
I stumbled over the Cult Pens website a couple of years ago when I was looking for a mail order source for my beloved Pentel R56 rollerballs. I promptly bookmarked it for future use, but hadn't got around to ordering anything from them until a couple of weeks ago.

They stock a *lot* of different pens and pencils. More to the point, they stock the refills and accessories for them as well. You can buy both singly and by the box. The site has plenty of information on each line stocked, usually with their own commentary and not just the blurb from the manufacturer. It is obvious from the commentary that this place is run by pen geeks.

The sheer number of product lines makes navigating the site a slightly daunting task, but it's well laid out into sections by manufacturer, and there is a useful interactive selection guide where you can put in the features you want and what you intend to use it for, and get back recommendations. There are also very good articles on mechanical pencils and technical pens, with an in-depth look at the different types and features, and recommendations for different uses at price brackets ranging from budget to extravagant.

The prices are shown both with and without VAT. UK shipping is simple -- if your order is under 10 pounds, it's 1.50, over that it's free. They also ship internationally, with VAT deducted where appropriate.

The prices are reasonable, but generally not hugely cheap. I'm fairly sure I could have got most of the things I ordered a little bit cheaper by shopping around. But the advantage of using this site was that I could get everything at one site, all at a reasonable price, with clear information that let me decide whether it would do the job I wanted it for. I ordered 8 individual items and one box of a dozen black R50 rollerballs (which were in the Office Essentials, a small selection of nice office pens on heavy discount).

The shopping basket is reasonably easy to use. One thing I particularly liked was that I could leave it for a couple of hours, come back, and find the basket still there. I find it annoying when a basket times out after ten minutes or so -- this is a security precaution which is useful when you have to sign into an account before you start shopping, but is simply a nuisance when the site doesn't have any of your personal information until you actually check out. The main payment method is debit or credit card, but you can also generate an order from the basket and then select "cheque" as payment method if you want to pay by post using UK cheque or postal order.

I ordered on Sunday evening, received a clear and detailed delivery note with full UK VAT receipt by email immediately, and my parcel was with me on Tuesday morning via first class post. The items were packed loose in an appropriately sized bubble mailer, without any padding inside the envelope, along with a paper copy of the delivery note. I'd hope that more expensive items would have a bit more protection, but for the items I'd ordered this was fine.

I like this site, and will be ordering from them again. The only problem is the sheer amount of temptation one has to resist. :-)

ETA: One of the people at Cult Pens has commented on the copy of the post on my WordPress bookblog, and notes "For more expensive or breakable items, we do use extra packing, or even box them. If items were arriving broken, it would cost us too much to keep replacing them."
julesjones: (Default)
I stumbled over the Cult Pens website a couple of years ago when I was looking for a mail order source for my beloved Pentel R56 rollerballs. I promptly bookmarked it for future use, but hadn't got around to ordering anything from them until a couple of weeks ago.

They stock a *lot* of different pens and pencils. More to the point, they stock the refills and accessories for them as well. You can buy both singly and by the box. The site has plenty of information on each line stocked, usually with their own commentary and not just the blurb from the manufacturer. It is obvious from the commentary that this place is run by pen geeks.

The sheer number of product lines makes navigating the site a slightly daunting task, but it's well laid out into sections by manufacturer, and there is a useful interactive selection guide where you can put in the features you want and what you intend to use it for, and get back recommendations. There are also very good articles on mechanical pencils and technical pens, with an in-depth look at the different types and features, and recommendations for different uses at price brackets ranging from budget to extravagant.

The prices are shown both with and without VAT. UK shipping is simple -- if your order is under 10 pounds, it's 1.50, over that it's free. They also ship internationally, with VAT deducted where appropriate.

The prices are reasonable, but generally not hugely cheap. I'm fairly sure I could have got most of the things I ordered a little bit cheaper by shopping around. But the advantage of using this site was that I could get everything at one site, all at a reasonable price, with clear information that let me decide whether it would do the job I wanted it for. I ordered 8 individual items and one box of a dozen black R50 rollerballs (which were in the Office Essentials, a small selection of nice office pens on heavy discount).

The shopping basket is reasonably easy to use. One thing I particularly liked was that I could leave it for a couple of hours, come back, and find the basket still there. I find it annoying when a basket times out after ten minutes or so -- this is a security precaution which is useful when you have to sign into an account before you start shopping, but is simply a nuisance when the site doesn't have any of your personal information until you actually check out. The main payment method is debit or credit card, but you can also generate an order from the basket and then select "cheque" as payment method if you want to pay by post using UK cheque or postal order.

I ordered on Sunday evening, received a clear and detailed delivery note with full UK VAT receipt by email immediately, and my parcel was with me on Tuesday morning via first class post. The items were packed loose in an appropriately sized bubble mailer, without any padding inside the envelope, along with a paper copy of the delivery note. I'd hope that more expensive items would have a bit more protection, but for the items I'd ordered this was fine.

I like this site, and will be ordering from them again. The only problem is the sheer amount of temptation one has to resist. :-)

ETA: One of the people at Cult Pens has commented on the copy of the post on my WordPress bookblog, and notes "For more expensive or breakable items, we do use extra packing, or even box them. If items were arriving broken, it would cost us too much to keep replacing them."
julesjones: (Default)
I bought a second-hand Cybook Gen3 ebook reader from my writing partner last month, and I've been using it long enough now to have some initial thoughts about it. This isn't a proper review, as I haven't been exploring all its features. What I *have* been doing with it is simply reading some of the books she'd loaded on it, mostly on the bus to and from work.

And the obvious question is — do I regret spending one hundred pounds on this thing? After all, I could buy quite a few paperbacks for that money. To which the answer is "no", and for a specific reason I'll get to at the end of this post. And it's not one of the obvious reasons, like saving shelf space or being able to carry a hundred books with me at all times, although I can see the advantages there.

Would I buy one at full market price? (Currently 269 pounds if shipped to the UK.) Probably not, but mostly because the wee beastie is physically fragile, and I fully expect that I'll manage to break it within a year or two given my current usage of it. I can see why other people would pay that for it, and why I might in other circumstances.

read more about the pros and cons )
And the killer app for me? I can read it on the bus without feeling car-sick.

If I try to read a dead tree book on the bus, I start feeling sick after a few minutes. I can read if I'm careful, but it requires a certain amount of thought and stopping as soon as I feel in the least bit queasy. I took the Cybook with me on the bus the first week I had it, mostly because otherwise I'd have to wait until the following weekend to have time to play with it — and was still reading at journey’s end. By the end of the week, it was clear that this was not a one-off. In the month since, I've found that if the bus is *really* bumpy I need to put the Cybook down for a minute or two, but I can usually read it without problems. I don't know why there's a difference (my guess is that it's at least partly to do with the Cybook being completely rigid), but since I spend around an hour a day on the bus at the moment, something that lets me read during that hour is *well* worth the hundred pounds I paid for it. While I'm doing that commute, you will have to prise my Cybook from my cold dead hands...
julesjones: (Default)
I know people love to hate Microsoft -- but they do sell good hardware. When I finally had to abandon my ancient Trust ergonomic keyboard because my new laptop wouldn't support an AT connector even through an adaptor, I went straight for a Microsoft keyboard -- the Microsoft Natural 4000. I've had it just over a year, so it's time to report.

The 4000 is a split-and-angled layout designed to reduce RSI. Even though I'd been using such a layout for the last ten years, it did take me a few days to get used to this one, as the exact slope and dishing of the keypads is slightly different to my old one. And I can remember how long it took me to get used to an ergonomic keyboard the first time. If you've never used one before it will take a while to adapt, especially if you're like me and have a fast but totally untrained typing method that wanders all over the keyboard.

It's well worth taking the time, as for most people a good split keyboard such as this will reduce the risk of RSI and help people who already have problems. This model is very comfortable to use -- the keys generally give good feedback without feeling spongy or requiring a lot of force, although the space bar needs something of a heavy hand. There's an integrated padded wrist rest, which is very comfortable and used properly reduces arm strain. There are foldaway feet to raise the back of the keyboard if desired, but there is also a clip-on platform for the front of the keyboard which gives a slight reverse slope, which is actually more comfortable for many people. (Note that it may not a good idea to rest your wrists/palms on the rest while actually hitting keys -- what it's good for is dropping your hands into a supported rest position for a second while you think about what to type next.) I have RSI that will flare up with very little provocation, and this is one of the two most comfortable keyboards I've ever used.

There's a collection of extra buttons, some programmable -- most of which I personally don't use, but which are likely to be useful to some people. The two that I do find I use regularly are the zoom lever, which is a godsend when trying to read webpages with tiny fonts, and the mute key, which lets me switch off the sound *fast* when I hit a webpage with annoying embedded sound.

The shape means that it takes up quite a bit more desk space than a standard keyboard. One word of warning -- I use a left-handed mouse, and you'll have to stretch for the mouse if you place it on the right.

It's relatively pricy by the standards of ordinary consumer keyboards, but if you have problems with RSI and this one works for you, it's worth the extra money, and it's a *lot* cheaper than some specialist keyboards.

(But don't let your cat knock a glass of wine over it, right, [livejournal.com profile] desperance?)
julesjones: (Default)
I'm catching up on a bit of reading, including reading some of the other entries at Loose Id's Katrina fundraiser. So it's review time. :-)

Ally Blue's "Nicky" is a haunting and bittersweet love story about a love that has lasted in spite of the lovers having chosen different paths in life. It's beautifully constructed, with gorgeous use of language to create mood. This one's hot, but it's hot because it engages the emotions as well as the gonads. Excellent short story, and well worth a read as a story even if your tastes in erotica don't run to m/m.

You'll find the story at http://www.livejournal.com/community/li_katrina_aid/4530.html

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