Friday, 30 September 2011

Dearest B

Dear beautiful B,

HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY my gorgeous friend! It was so wonderful to hear your voice today, but made me miss you even more. But since you spent the entirety of our brief call praising me and my adventures, crying "lies lies lies" when I tried to tell you how truly fabulous you are, I'm going to break it down for you:

I remember when I first heard about you - yes, your well-deserved but ridiculous reputation preceded you! A friend of mine at Youth Central talked about an amazing, over-achieving friend at Oaktree who, at 19, was already Vic SD, among other equally incredible feats. Already I was envious, and I knew then that I wanted to meet you. (OMG WHAT A STALKER.)

Little did I know I would soon have the chance - I saw your friendly, fun-loving, encouraging, enthusiastic, charismatic personality firsthand on the Roadtrip, and knew for certain that you were someone I wanted to count as a friend (although I had yet to be officially introduced.) But I'll admit I was intimidated by your awesomeness, and never dreamed that we would ever mix in the same, over-achieving circles.

Luck was on my side; shortly after joining the Oaktree admin team, and being decidedly overwhelmed by the amount of people my age OR YOUNGER excessively succeeding at life, I was delighted and relieved to discover a down to earth, funny, smart, charming, witty, excitable kindred spirit - you. The tipping point that secured our friendship was NC, when I discovered the dept of your generosity (endless) and the fact that you are so thoughtful, it's second nature for you to insist (not offer, insist!) on helping someone.

Over the past year we've had the summer hanging out in the office, impromptu sleepovers, uni dates, many a gossip session, shared much glee and gossip girl fangirly joy, despaired over boys, and endlessly planned our futures. I can't even begin to tell you how much I appreciate the strength of your support, especially during the stress of LBL. You truly have been something of a mother for me at OT, always ready with a hug, bot to mention making sure I'm eating, sleeping, and taking time off (while of course not doing any of these things because you are Super Woman.) Even while I'm away, you feed my optimism, confidence and dreams with your utterly misguided faith in my abilities.

You call yourself a cynic but I know that's not true, because what drives you is knowing that you can - and will - make a difference and change things for the better. You believe the best in me, and see great things for me, because you see them for yourself (as you sure) - your conviction is motivating and flattering. One of the things I admire most about you is your honesty and your take-no-bullshit attitude (not only because it provides highly amusing commentaries on life.) I know that - wherever your ambition and hard work take you, you're going to shape the world for the better. I have huge hope for the future this world, because you are in it.

And don't you DARE tell me I'm wrong or lying (would I lie to you B? That's just offensive) because you're in massive denial about what an incredible person you are, and I'm going to help you overcome this :)


Happy birthday B. I mean every word, and I'm so grateful, lucky and proud to have you as a friend.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Me and My E-Friend

I did it. I did something I honestly never really thought I'd do, and I don't regret it. 

Yes, I bought an e-reader. A Kobo, to be exact - one of the last few before they seem to have gone extinct (much like its creator, Borders), as it now seems you can sadly only buy one from North America, it is no longer even available from (the last remants of Borders Australia, now bought by educational publisher Pearson).

I know, I felt like a pretty big hypocrite for buying one - me, always the crusader for the written word, lover and advocator of books. Books! Food for my greedy imagination, my sturdy guardians of vivid fantasies and wild adventures, steadfastly offering a sweet and complete escape from reality, my portals of fancy and hope, housing friends I will never meet and lands I long to see; constant, reassuring, ever-hopeful. 

Though, true to my (former! Sob) job, I could get appropriately enthusiastic about e-readers, quote all the perks my friends had cited; promote the ease of travel, the luxury of a library in your pocket, the cheapness of e-books, the expanding e-market, the way of the future, etc etc. But I always said I never wanted e-reading - give me paper and print, a hefty tome, the promise of a new book, a clean cover, an uncracked spine, or a well-loved, soft, caressed, wrinkled classic, with that intoxicating scent of age and wisdom and dust, preferably by a fireside with a hot mug of cocoa, any day! 

I didn't shun those that chose to e-read, deride them as my father did for turning to the Dark Side,* for abandoning the good old-fashioned book for an electronic imposter and succumbing to technology. After all, my dear grandmother has an e-reader (a Nook, the Barnes and Noble version, bought for her by my uncle, who also has the Kindle) - so does another aunt, and several friends. I could cede the benefits, particularly the ultimate attraction - size and convenience of travel. As someone who notoriously spends longer choosing which books to take than anything else (and usually forgetting other so-called necessities in the process, because really, who needs 'em when you've got I Capture the Castle, The Name of the Rose or The Book Thief?) and chronically overpacks on such titles (although I contend you can do no such thing my mother will argue otherwise) to allay the fear that I will RUN OUT OF BRAIN FOOD - and if that's not a downer on your holiday, I don't know what is - this held very strong appeal. 

But to my surprise, when two very good and wisdomous friends told me I absolutely must buy a Kobo for my travels, I agreed and promptly went out and bought one. 

Possibly because we were closing down (oh dreadful days) at that point, so Kobos were on sale. If I need convincing, a discount usually clinches it for me.

But also possibly because even though I've got a stack of books on my desk like you would not believe, accumulated over 11.5 months of working in heaven (hello, 30% off!), I couldn't even begin to fathom which ones or how many could possibly sustain me for 5 WHOLE MONTHS, not to mention multiple flights, which can consume a book in a single sitting. Daunting, right? 

Moreover, I was traveling to a country that don't speaka my language, so book buying opportunities would be scare (thank you, Rough Guide! You're not lying - my current English selection in La Fortuna consists of Twilight, Harry Potter and some Dr Phil-wannabe.) Now, if I were really backpacking it up - which I'm not, only in weekends - I might be tempted to leave my booking choosing to fate, relying on that time-honoured tradition of book swapping. But I'm living with a family, whose partaking of English literature rivals mine of Russian (in the native tongue) - read: non-existent. 

And PLANES you guys!! SO MANY PLANES!! Not being a freak who can sleep on planes, the whole prospect seemed overwhelming and almost - almost! - impossible. 

But no - as my aforementioned Wisdomous Friends imparted, the Kobo was the way to go! Having travelled extensively themselves for months at a time in Europe and in Africa, they couldn't speak more highly of it. So liberating! So many choices! So wonderful! Easy on the eyes! Great battery life! Pocket-sized, but not too small! And being that one of these friends worked with me at Borders (and has a book collection I aspire to achieve), and the other is the fiancee of my (former) boss at Borders, I knew these were Wisdomous Words indeed, spoken from hearts that loved books like brothers (maybe more). 

I bought one, Reader. And I have never looked back. Seriously, it is fabulous. Nothing on a real book, of course, but fantastic in every other way. I soon began to appreciate this on the way over, when I had 4 flights and 40something hours to kill on the way over (split two thirds/one third in the air/on the ground). Now let's face it, airports and airplanes do not really allow the kind of headspace necessary to truly enjoy literature - and by literature, I mean anything more than a trashy good read. My plane lit of choice is fluffy, funny and entertaining, but not mushy - I want someone badass like Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter to keep me amused whilst cruising over the Atlantic, or any one of Meg Cabot's sweet, entirely-too-talkative (and I can say that because it applies to me too) heroines to find love in an exotic European location. Books that I can read in the barest meaning of the word and mostly just absorb. Hemingway, we talked about this, you'll always be my favourite but me, you and planes is a threesome that doesn't light my fire, baby. 

So that's what I read before I even got to San Jose - 3 whole books, 2 Janet Evanovich novels and one by that YA Queen and part-time Mistress of Older Fiction** Meg Cabot. What a luxury! Books that, once closed, weren't taking up unnecessary space in my luggage or needing to be thrown out/donated. 

Not only that, but I have the fabulous luxury of CHOICE. I have all kinds of genres to choose from: Happy Books, Sad Books, Intense Books, Really Intense Books, Books I Should Read, Funny Books, History Books, Recommended Books, Books I've Always Intended to Read, Books I Can't Wait to Read, and so on. I just finished Super Sad True Love Story, which completely bummed me out (that's for another post) so I wanted something that would cheer me up. Cue: the always fabulous P G Wodehouse's My Man Jeeves! Which is the 15th book I've read in 6 weeks - AMAZING! That I have TIME to read!! I'm making up for the fact that I've only read one book in the past 7 months (World War Z. Not my usual genre - zombies - but feeds into my penchant for post-apocalyptic dystopian futures.)  

The best thing about the Kobo is it came preloaded with 100 Penguin Classics, most of which I haven't read, so I only had to add a couple more. Ebooks are ridiculously cheap (which makes me worry I'm ripping off authors) - the Game of Thrones quartet is only $19 for all four from the Kobo website! WINNING! 

Another perk is that a dear friend from work has written a NOVEL which she could send me in PDF format before I left and I downloaded it right away! (but if you ever have the choice, download in ePub if you can, it formats better.) 

Equally awesome is the fact that I can shop on the go. Should I ever run out of reading material, or simply desire more, I can shop easily in the Kobo online store (can't believe Kobo 1.0 didn't have wifi!), which has pretty good prices (BD obviously very competitive and website of choice when shopping on a computer, not wirelessly. Better range too.)

Though I will say this: there are definitely some less-than-glowing features about the Kobo that it can't really help by nature and therefore books will always win:

--> It has a battery. Somehow I keep forgetting this though, and so at the most inopportune or particularly annoying times - while at school, or in the middle of a good book - it will die. Thankfully, real books never die. But the Kobo does have great battery life - I use it intensively (I probably read 2-3 hours a day and more on weekends) and I charge it once a week. 
--> You can't flip back to that last chapter if you missed something or forgot a name or want to double check what someone said. This is pretty annoying - I could never read Peter Temple's Truth on this thing, because I'd constantly need to refer to earlier passages to remember who is who. But most frustrating is that I can't mark a page if I find a quote I like and want to come back to, or write down later - when I'm done with my books they tend to resemble little rectangular porcupines, with all kinds of scrap paper and post it notes marking phrases and paragraphs of note. No can do with the Kobo. 
--> Potential harm factor is high, ie I wouldn't take it in the bath with me. Ok fine it's not like I'm having any baths over here BUT I am wary about taking it to the beach. It's not a problem if I'm with friends - although sand is worrying - but having just been to the beach by myself for the weekend, it's not the kind of thing I like to leave with my towel on the shore. If I had a book, it wouldn't be a huge deal if someone stole it (although obviously annoying.) More irksome is the fact that if (god forbid!) anything should happen to it - I drop it, it decides to stop working, stolen, lost, etc etc - I lose my library! Books are much harder to break. 

So while my Kobo is my best friend while I'm away, I'll be returning home to my true besties, who will always be there for me and whom I will always love and cherish. I may not have the tactile experience of reading a physical book, but I lose none of the pleasure - the sheer, down-the-rabbit-hole delight of the story.

So what should you look for when buying or considering an e-friend?

--> Open e-reader - meaning that unlike the Kindle, it's not locked on to - you can buy and download from any site (except Amazon obvs). This means you can take advantage of  free classics available from Project Gutenburg! FTW! 
--> Not backlit - better for your eyes, for battery life and more like a real page. Although you should probably invest in a book light. 
--> Extra memory capacity, if you want it - the Kobo comes with 1Gb of memory, which it's claimed can hold up to 1,000 books, but since most downloads are a couple of mb, not one, that's exaggerating slightly. It's more than enough for me, but if you want more, get one with a memory card slot. 
--> Wifi - for on the go downloading!
--> Touch screen and colour? That's up to you my friend! My Kobo is not a touch screen (isn't the always the first thing to go?) which I like - it just has a toggle button.

Any recommends for books I should be downloading? 


*ok so he didn't actually say that but it pretty much sums up his whole view of technology - and I am Darth Vader ;)
**I couldn't very well say adult fiction now could I? Though I know a certain riotgrrl would love it if I did :)