Reading the Lord of the Rings aloud

The reading project that I am working on is a re-read of the Lord of the Rings. I’ve read the book/trilogy around a The_Lord_of_the_Rings_Trilogydozen times over the years but the two main differences this time are that I am reading it aloud and that I am consulting a couple of commentaries as I go. The references works I am using are The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion and the The Lord of the Rings Reread series by Kate Nepveu. The Companion is a fairly large book (860 pages) that follows the text page by page and gives explanations for words, characters and the history/development of the text. These can range from a simple definition to a couple of pages on a specific topic or character. The reread has a quick synopsis at the start of the article for each chapter and then some commentary by Kate followed by some comments from her readers (which I usually only quickly skim).

I started my read-aloud on February 15th 2015 and I am now ( April 7th ) just past the half-way point ( I completed The Fellowship of the Ring on March 27th) . My process is to read the text for 30-60 minutes ( I’m reading the three-book 1979 3rd edition paperback edition, which amusingly has various errors that the Reader’s Companion points out as I go) which gets me though 5-10 pages. I read aloud everything on the page including chapter titles, songs, non-English words and footnotes. A few times I have checked the correct pronunciation of words ( Eomer is one ) but otherwise I try not to get distracted. Once I finish for the session I open the Reader’s Companion and check the entries for the pages I have just read and at the end of each chapter ( chapters are usually around 20-30 pages) I have a look at Kate’s blog entry. I try an read most days and sometimes do extras on weekends.

One thing I really need to say is that I really am enjoying the whole thing. I love the book (like I said I’ve read it over a dozen times) and reading it aloud makes the experience even better. The main difference is that I do not skip over words/sentences/paragraphs which tends to happen when I read normally. So I don’t miss phrases like the description of Lake Hithoel:

The sun, already long fallen from the noon, was shining in a windy sky. The pent waters spread out into a long oval lake, pale Nen Hithoel, fenced by steep grey hills whose sides were clad with trees. At the far southern end rose three peaks. The midmost stood somewhat forward from the others and sundered from them, an island in the waters, about which the flowing River flung pale shimmering arms. Distant but deep there came up on the wind a roaring sound like the roll of thunder heard far away.

LOTR_Readers_Companion
Nor do I skip the other little details that are easy to miss, like Grishnakh and his Mordor Orcs leaving the rest of the group for a couple of days on the plains of Rohan or the description of country leading up to the west gate of Moria. Although I do wish I’d seen the link to the map of Helm’s Deep halfway down this page before I’d read the chapter as it would have made things clearer. The Companion is also good at pointing out how things fit in the chronology, so when somebody gazes at the horizon and sees a cloud of smoke it will say what event elsewhere in the book (or other writing) that is from. You also get a great feel for Tolkien’s language and words and his vivid descriptions of scenes and landscape (often up to a page long) such the example above. Although I do find he uses “suddenly” an awful lot when he has new events/people break into the narrative.

The readers companion is a great resource, written by two serious Tolkien scholars but intended for general readers rather than academics. Kate Nepveu’s articles are also very useful in giving a more opinionated and subjective commentary. I would definitely recommend the experience to others who are fans of the Lord of the Rings. I’m not sure how well it would work with other books but certainly it enhances a work I already know well and love.

At the current rate I am expecting to finish some time in June or July. The next project I’m planning is Shakespeare’s plays. I am planning on reading each one (multiple times including possibly at least once aloud) and watching the BBC Television Shakespeare and other adaptations and commentaries. My plan is that I’ll cover the majority of them  but I’ll see how I go, However I’d like to at least get though the major ones.

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Parallel Importing vs The Economist

Simpson-economistFor the last few years I have subscribed to the online edition of  The Economist magazine. Previously I read it via their website but for the last year or two I have used their mobile app. Both feature the full-text of each week’s magazine. Since I subscribed near 15 years ago I have paid:

Launched Jun 1997   US$ 48
Jun 1999            US$ 48
Oct 2002            US$ 69
Oct 2003            US$ 69
Dec 2006            US$ 79
Oct 2009            US$ 79
Oct 2010            US$ 95
Oct 2011            US$ 95
Mar 2014            NZ$ 400 (approx US$ 300) 

You will note the steady creep for a few years followed by the huge jump in 2014.

Note: I reviewed by credit card bill for 2012 and 2013 and I didn’t see any payments, it is possible I was getting it for free for two years :) . Possibly this was due to the transition between using an outside card processor (Worldpay) and doing the subscriptions in-house.

Last year I paid the bill in a bit of a rush and while I was surprised at the amount I didn’t think to hard. This year however I had a closer look. What seems to have happened is that The Economist has changed their online pricing model from “cheap online product” to “discount from the printed price”. This means that instead of online subscribers paying the same everywhere they now pay slightly less than it would cost to get the printed magazine delivered to the home.

Unfortunately the New Zealand price is very high to (I assume) cover the cost of shipping a relatively small number of magazines via air all the way from the nearest printing location.

econ_nzecon_us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So readers in New Zealand are now charged NZ$ 736 for a two-year digital subscription while readers in the US are now charged US$ 223 ( NZ$ 293) for the same product. Thus New Zealanders pay 2.5 times as much as Americans.

Fortunately since I am a globe-trotting member of the world elite® I was able to change my subscription address to my US office and save a bunch of cash. However for a magazine that publishes the Big Mac Index comparing prices of products around the world the huge different in prices for the same digital product seems a little weird.

Books for Sale – Part 2

I’m doing a book clean-out. The following are all for sale. Remainders will be given away to charity or something. Pickup is from either my house (Dominion Rd/Balmoral, Auckland) or my I can meet during the week near my work in Wyndham Street in the Auckland CBD.

Prices as mark, discount if you want to by more than 5 or so. Links may not match the exact edition I am selling.

If you are interested in any please contact me via email ( simon@darkmere.gen.nz ) or over twitter ( @slyall ). Sale will run to end of April or so.

See Part 1 for more books

Business

Commentary / Opinion / Speculation / Politics

Technical

Travel / Misc

 

Books for sale – Part 1

I’m doing a book clean-out. The following are all for sale. Remainders will be given away to charity or something. Pickup is from either my house (Dominion Rd/Balmoral, Auckland) or my I can meet during the week near my work in Wyndham Street in the Auckland CBD.

Prices as mark, discount if you want to by more than 5 or so. Links may not match the exact edition I am selling.

If you are interested in any please contact me via email ( simon@darkmere.gen.nz ) or over twitter ( @slyall ) Sale will run to end of April or so.

See Part 2 for more books

Science Fiction / Fantasy

Deryni Books by Katherine Kurtz, all paperbacks of used quality unless otherwise named.

  • Deryni Rising – $4
  • Deryni Checkmate – $4
  • High Deryni – $4
  • Camber of Culdi (2 copies) -$4 each
  • The Bishops Heir (Hardback, ripped jacket) – $4
  • The Quest for Saint Camber – $4
  • The Deryni Archives – $4

Science Fiction Short Story Collections

Sci-Fi Novels

Other Fiction

History

Another run in with the Electoral Commission

After already having trouble Electoral Commission banning photography in polling places I now get a threatening email from them.

Yesterday I made this Tweet:

 

and today I get the following email

Subject: Electoral Commission complaint – London exit poll posted on Twitter account

Dear Simon,

The Electoral Commission has received a complaint with regard to an exit poll being taken and then published on the Twitter account of @slyall. We understand that this is your Twitter account.

Under section 197(1)(d) of the Electoral Act 1993, it is an offence to conduct a public opinion poll of persons who have voted (exit polls). Section 197(1)(d) states:

197 Interfering with or influencing voters
(1) Every person commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 who at an election—
(d) at any time before the close of the poll, conducts in relation to the election a public opinion poll of persons voting before polling day

In order to assist the Commission in considering this complaint, could you please provide the following information:

1.         Who conducted the exit poll and when was it conducted?
2.         How did you receive this information?
3.         Any other information you believe to be of relevance to the Commission’s consideration.
4.         How you might remedy this matter.

Can you please provide the above information by 5pm, Friday 19 September 2014. In the first instance, to avoid further complaints, you may wish to remove the Twitter post.

Please telephone me if you wish to discuss this further.

Update

I replied with:

I saw this:
http://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/2gidem/kiwi_did_exit_polling_out
side_london_embassy_note/

and copied it to twitter.

I have no further knowledge of the photo or poll or the people who took it
or even if it actually took place.

and did nothing else. A couple of days later he emailed me with.

Thanks for getting back to us. The Commission understands that the original
tweet in respect of the exit poll has been removed and the Commission is not
taking any further action on the matter.

Thanks again for prompt reply which was much appreciated.

which was a little strange since neither me nor anybody else had removed anything. A little weird and one reason I don’t feel confident with these guys running voting over the Internet.

NZ banning photography from polling places

I just saw on reddit that the New Zealand electoral commission is banning photography from polling places under the grounds that they impeded other voters at the polling and could influence other voters who see the photos. Specifically they say:

Photography in a voting place and sharing photographs on social media

While the Electoral Commission encourages people to take and share photos of themselves with their ‘I’ve voted’ sticker once they’re outside the voting place and unlikely to interrupt or inconvenience other voters, the Commission will be putting up ‘No taking photos’ signs inside all voting places and advance voting places.

The increased interest in voters taking ‘selfies’ inside voting places raises concerns about congestion and disturbance in voting places and can breach other rules in the Electoral Act regarding campaigning on election day and protecting the secrecy of voting.

Voting Place Managers have to ensure that voting proceeds smoothly, that voters are not impeded, and that order is maintained in voting places.  Voting places are for the purpose of voting and people should not remain in the voting place for other purposes.  The increased interest in voters taking ‘selfies’ inside voting places has the potential to create congestion and disturbance and for this reason Managers will be putting up ‘no photography signs’.

Publishing anything on election day that could potentially influence another voter is strictly prohibited, and photos taken earlier in the voting period that are shared, re-shared or reposted on election day could fall foul of the Electoral Act.

If a person posts an image of their completed ballot paper on social media on election day or in the three days prior to election day this is likely to be an offence under section 197 of the Act, which carries a potential penalty of a fine not exceeding $20,000. Section 197 of the Act prohibits a range of activities including:

  • the publication of any statement on election day that is likely to influence voters (section 197(1)(g); and
  • the distribution of an imitation ballot paper on election day or the 3 days before election day indicating the candidate/party for whom any person should vote or having thereon any other matter likely to influence a voter.

It also potentially exposes the voter’s friends to the risk of breaching the rules if they share, re-share or repost the voter’s ‘selfie’ on election day.

As there are risks of congestion and disturbance to other voters and risks with publishing or distributing material that includes a ballot paper, particularly in a medium where material will continue to be published– the Commission will not allow voters to take photos inside voting places.  We will be placing ‘no photos’ signs up in voting places.  Returning Officers will still be able to give permission to candidates for filming in voting places.  Permission for candidates will only be given on the condition that there is no filming behind voting screens, no filming of completed or uncompleted voting papers, and no activities that disrupt voting in the voting place.

I found the reasons they give a little dubious and a complete ban overkill so I’ve written the following to them:

Hello,

I am concerned about the recently published social media policy:

http://www.elections.org.nz/parties-candidates/all-participants/use-social-media

specifically the section banning all photography from polling places.

In the past two elections I have taken photos of the polling place I attended and my unmarked ballot paper and uploaded these to the Wikipedia. These photos (and similar ones) have been used to illustrate photos about elections and even cardboard furniture as well as being used on other sites. Even the official blog of the NZ ambassador to the Philippines used one. http://blogs.mfat.govt.nz/andrew-matheson/elections-theyre-important.

I am thus concerned that there appears to be a new policy that bans all photographs except limited ones by members of the media. This seems to go against the openness of our electoral process and the grounds that are given for the ban are very weak.

The matter of influencing other voters can be dealt with by requesting that photos only be published after voting has closed. Similarly I’m sure there are already rules to handle people who take too long to vote when there are long lines. A specific rule against photographing filled out ballots will also address concerns about voters proving to others they have voted a specific way.

In summary I very much hope you can replace a ban of photography with a more targeted rules against specific problems.

Simon Lyall

 

I receive a reply back from the Electoral Commission:

Dear Mr Lyall,

Photography in the voting place has only ever been allowed with the prior permission of the Returning Officer, but the number of photos being
taken without prior permission has increased hugely this year.  I understand that you feel that people could be allowed to take photos but be
advised not to publish the photos until after 7pm on election day – but unfortunately this is not what voters were doing.

Photos within the voting place, and particularly those taken of marked ballot papers and behind voting screens, have generated a large number of
complaints to the Commission already, and as a result we have re-looked at our rules around photography.

Voting Place Managers have to ensure that voting proceeds smoothly, that voters are not impeded, and that order is maintained in voting places.
Voting places are for the purpose of voting and people should not remain in the voting place for other purposes.  The increased interest in voters
taking ‘selfies’ inside voting places has the potential to create congestion and disturbance and for this reason Managers will be putting up ‘no
photography signs’.

Returning Officers will still be able to give permission to candidates for media or campaign managers to organise filming in voting places.
Permission will be given on the condition that there is no filming behind voting screens, no filming of completed or uncompleted voting papers,
and no activities that disrupt voting in the voting place.

We absolutely encourage people to take and share photos of themselves with their ‘I’ve voted’ sticker once they’re outside the voting place and
unlikely to interrupt or inconvenience other voters, however people taking selfies while behind the voting screen is not a good idea.

 

 

Wikipedia vs Mana Party

Local elections are happening in New Zealand in a few weeks. As part of it people from the parties are active online.

On September 6th a wikipedia account called “manamangerecreated a Wikipedia page for James Papali’i who is standing for Auckland city council seats on a Mana-linked ticket (Mangere is the suburb of Auckland near the Airport).

However a regular New Zealand Wikipedia editor made this edit to the article who linked back to a 2006 conviction that Papali’i had received for fraud.

“manamangere” is now asking that the article be removed since if it includes the fraud conviction it does more harm than good. In reality it will probably be removed since Papali’iis below the level of fame that usually gets an article.

 

Idea: Cafe magazine club

I was in a cafe last night that had a a magazine I used to read and I realized how much I missed reading magazines.

Up until about 5 years ago I used to spend about an evening a week at the local Borders working my way though around a dozen magazines in a row. Most of these were from the US/UK and had sticker prices of $20-$30 to buy so I couldn’t realistically afford them. However I changed jobs and Borders closed so I’ve gotten out of the habit.

These days the only magazines I regularly read are the Fortune and Time magazines that my local cafe has (they also have 2-3 other magazines I don’t follow plus the local paper). In fact since I have a choice of about a dozen cafes I can eat lunch at one of the reasons I choose that cafe is their magazine selection.

It occurs to me that reading matter is a big part of the cafe experience for some people, however investing in them is a big expense for cafe owners. So my idea is that customers could pay directly for magazines in the local cafe. One possible way would be to have a subscription, I pay say $5 per week and I am allowed to read the magazines that are on offer. I can also vote to help decide what magazines the cafe should subscribe to (I’d suggest STV for any fellow voting geeks out there). Casual readers might pay a $2 pass with their order.

Any resemblance to the Diogenes Club is not entirely accidental

 

Links: 8bit T2, IQ, Baby names, Low Power computers