In Pictures: Shanghai, China

So I went to Shanghai a few weeks ago, during the mid-Autumn festival, and here are some of the pictures:

shanghai old town2
Shanghai Old Town

shanghai old town1

 

Shanghai river bank

spiral escalator before this one in a Shanghai shopping mall
Are these common outside of Europe? I’d never seen a spiral escalator before this one in a Shanghai shopping mall.
Shanghai river bank3
A literal wall of flowers in Shanghai near the river and bund.

Overall, it was a lovely city, but if you weren’t coming to China to see some other things as well (or at least coming to this corner of the world to visit other nearby countries) I’m not sure it’s worth the time and expense to come only to Shanghai from the US or Europe as a tourist. Definitely a lovely place to go if you’re already within a thousand miles or so, though, and the shopping here is fabulous. There are so many markets and shopping malls that you’re sure to find some nice things while you’re here!

Shanghai also has a recently-opened Disneyland. If/when I get the time/opportunity to go there, I will show you what that’s like, too.

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Review: iPhone SE 16GB

So I decided that I’d review my iPhone, since I’ve had it for a few months now. First, let me start by saying, I’ve never owned any Apple product before in my life. I had no idea what to expect when I bought this phone, and I only went by whether it would do what I wanted it to.

I spent ages looking through phone reviews of Sony, Alcatel, Samsung Galaxy and some weird brands I’d never heard of. The thing was, they were all very, very expensive or the reviews implied they were incredibly crap BY DESIGN. Seriously? Who spends R&D money designing a phone to be awful? The iPhone SE was the only phone at the mid-range price point. I’m not really interested in paying £400 or £500 for a phone, and when some phones were selling at up to £900, they can fuck right off. I didn’t spend that much money on my LAPTOP and that was essential for working.

I bought the 16GB phone rather than the 64GB phone for one reason: Price. The 16GB was £289.99 second hand (unlocked) and the 64GB one was over £400.00 at the time (they’re probably a little cheaper now), so it didn’t make sense to spend so much extra money. If you’re the sort of person who likes to store films and music and whatnot on your phone, you might want to get the bigger phone. I upload my photos regularly and I don’t tend to download many apps, so the 16GB suits me because it’s realtime data (eg. mapping, Facebook and Snapchat and Kindle for iPhone) that I need my phone to handle. The iPhone SE does these things comfortably, without an overcomplicated interface or installation system. I had never used an Apple phone before, and I was amazed by how easy it was to get everything to work straight out of the box.

Another thing I like about this phone is that there are a lot of nice phone cases available for it. I currently have a Cinderella phone case with moving glitter inside that’s like having a snowglobe on the back of my phone. I also have one that has the Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter. I really love that there is so much scope to customize my phone and make it look unique.

The camera is quite good; not as good as my DSLR, of course, but it gets some nice pictures when I just want snapshots of things. The front camera is only 2.1 Megapixel and I thought that would be awful compared to the 8MP camera on my old Huawei, but Apple have done a lot with a little and the camera is better than the 8MP one I used to have, and the colors on things come out much more accurately. The normal camera is 12MP and both cameras have produced decent shots.

I also liked the battery life. People complained about it, but given that I’m used to my old Huawei Ascend’s battery lasting less than a day on a full charge when I don’t even use the internet on it, I was pleasantly impressed that my iPhone lasts 2-3 days on a charge, even though I have Wi-Fi or Mobile Data switched on pretty much 24/7.

The thing that stood out the most though was the commonality of it. When I was choosing a new phone, I literally asked everyone I met about their phones. So many people were cursing the day they spent large amounts of money on their Android phones, but everyone with the iPhone SE was telling me how much they liked it, and showing me how it worked, and so on. Everyone with an iPhone SE was happy to spend the time talking to a complete stranger about how well their phone handled Pokemon Go or how many photos they’d stored on it. I liked that, because I figured that if anything went wrong with my new phone, there would be a hugely supportive and knowledgable community of iPhone users who were able to help me out.

In fact, every time I’ve not known how to do something on my phone, my friends with iPhone SEs have showed me how it works. Usually, it’s because I’m used to everything being over-complicated on my previous Android phone, and I haven’t found a single thing that was harder to do on an iPhone. It’s nice when one little aspect of life is a bit easier. I don’t like overcomplicating things; my brain does enough of that anyway.

So, after 5 months, I’m finally ready to recommend the iPhone SE. If, like me, you want to get a second hand phone, Amazon are selling a few reconditioned iPhone SEs in 16GB and 64GB like this one.

If you already have an iPhone SE, I highly recommend the Kindle for iPhone, because it lets you read all your ebooks on your phone (and if you don’t own a Kindle, I also recommend the Kindle for PC free app from Amazon to read ebooks for free).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Magic

This week’s photo isn’t magical in and of itself, but the editing that I did to it feels like some sort of voodoo magic that produces amazing pictures. It’s for the WPC found here

I edited this picture with GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) a free program that’s just like photoshop. I know a lot of people probably already know how to do stuff like this, but this is the first time I’ve done anything so complicated and I feel really excited by the result! What do you think? Old hat or still a fun technique?

black white red monochrome color isolation GIMP photos picture example rose
It’s not a “true” color isolation, as there’s yellow in with the red, but I really like this effect.

Review: Why you need to see The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime

I was left stunned after former Top Gear presenters, Clarkson Hammond and May’s new car show came out today. The first episode of their new show, called ‘The Grand Tour’ (I saw what you did with the title, Jeremy Clarkson), made its debut on Amazon Prime today. We took out a free trial of Prime (get yours here) to see how good it was.

Here’s the (spoiler free) as-it-happened review and commentary of my unfiltered but occasionally sarcastic thoughts on how this first episode of The Grand Tour went (and because I don’t work for a nameless TV show, I even mention the words ‘top’ and ‘gear’):

  • Couldn’t get Amazon Prime to work. Switched to Netflix and watched Luke Cage instead. Luke Cage is phenomenal. I think more people should be talking about Luke Cage, which I’m going to do in a future article once I’ve watched the whole season.
  • [An hour later] After dinner, my Dearest got Amazon Prime to work and put on The Grand Tour.
  • [Some minutes later] Intro was pretty low-key. Thought it could have done with some hot air balloons and kangaroos.
  • [Some minutes later] Not one iota of copyright infringement and still got more Top Gear than Top Gear.
  • [Some minutes later] Capitalizing on the online-only platform big time. Nice that they don’t have the same constraints that some other car show had on a TV network.
  • [Some minutes later] The lighting is fabulous.
  • [Some minutes later] The cars are at incredibly reasonable price-points. I don’t think you can get a higher-spec McLaren for that sort of money.
  • [Some minutes later] “This is a missionary position car…”
  • [Some minutes later] Captain Slow is driving a fast car.
  • [Some minutes later] …That was the weirdest drag race ever.
  • [Some minutes later] Loving the sheep by the racetrack. Good incentive not to veer off-course.
  • [Some minutes later] NotTheStig drove the car around a racetrack.
  • [Some minutes later] Maybe it wasn’t wise for three British blokes in a room full of Americans to say what they just said.
  • [Some minutes later] The star is not in a reasonably priced vehicle. This is highly irregular and further goes to show that this show is definitely not Top Gear.
  • [Maybe 30 seconds later] I think someone just died.
  • [Another minute at most] They seem to be having a spot of bother with their segment…
  • [Not long after] Oh good commentary on 2016! Nicely done.
  • [Some minutes later] The landscape shots…. oh wow they are to die for. The camerapeople have amazing camera skills. Visually everything about this show is stunning.
  • [Some minutes later] OhmyGod they just compared shoes…
  • [Some minutes later] Different NotTheStig drove cars. That was interesting.
  • [Some minutes later] “That was a sensible bet,” said nobody ever.
  • [After end credits] …That was bloody brilliant. Well worth spending the time on when I should have been writing two essays.
  • The time in question… Episode 1 was over an hour long. I believe it was 1 hour 11 minutes in total. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Final comments: I really liked The Grand Tour. I think this will be my new favourite car show. I particularly liked the presenters, the cars, the settings, the lighting, the humour, the international focus, the races and all the stunning visuals and incidental music. It’s better than any car show I have previously watched, and I have watched a lot of car shows because as you know, I am passionate about cars (I even owned one once or twice!!!!!).

What did you think? Have you seen The Grand Tour yet? Are you going to? I am so excited to see more of this show, I can’t wait!

This was Blackadder Village.
My first car, a Corsa, from my article about the village of Blackadder. Because this article needs a picture that I can use without copyright/trademark infringement, and I don’t own a McLaren so we’re going for pseudo-irony because it’s more fun than trying too hard with a pic of one of my better cars. Technical details: I took this with a disposable camera, fixed focus 35mm, celluloid film.

Chaos: Weekly Photo Challenge

I think this weekly photo challenge, ‘chaos,’ fits the week rather well, and that’s why I chose this picture. The chaos theory is one of those scientific ideas that resonates with a lot of people who don’t need to understand the underlying mathematical justification (it’s complicated) to see the validity of the concept. If you’re unfamiliar with chaos theory, I think it can best be explained by the phrase, “things just happen. What the Hell.” Or there’s a whole analogy of a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world, which through a series of knock-on effects causes a tornado on the other side of the planet. Take your pick.

Here’s my photo:

The remains of a life lived in chaos. This was a suitcase I found in my dad's flat just after he died, and I found it again a couple of weeks ago. Photo taken with 18-55 f3.5 Canon EOS 650D set at ISO 3200.
The remains of a life lived in chaos. This was a suitcase I found in my dad’s flat just after he died, and I found it again a couple of weeks ago. Those are cat pictures stuck to the inside of the case. Photo taken with 18-55 f3.5 Canon EOS 650D set at ISO 3200.

What actually happens when a content farm steals your handmade content

Today I want to talk about something that very regularly affects writers, beauty bloggers and photography bloggers, and occasionally affects travel bloggers too: Content theft. How does it happen and what can you do about it?

I am a moderate traffic website; according to both Amazon and Alexa, I am not yet in the big leagues (I’m in the top 1,000,000 websites, but so are 999,999 other sites). I do have some very good SEO, however, and I score first result on the first page of Google for at least 10 different search terms, because I work very hard to make my content relevant to what people are searching for. Because of this, I’m not blind to the crappy games some other sites play so they can rank higher in Google.

The past two days, however, my single most popular article has taken a nosedive. My traffic has plummeted and I have lost more than a hundred visitors a day. When investigating this, I discovered that a content-farm type website has basically stolen my top ranking article, reworded it and dumbed it down, and posted it on their site. They aren’t ranking above me, but they’ve got enough relevance that they’ve taken some of my traffic away. The thing is, despite the fact they’ve directly paraphrased my article, and added in some photoshopped snazzy pictures (that they also haven’t attributed), they’ve not actually said where they got it from. And they haven’t asked me if they could steal my stuff.

content theft statistics
Picture showing my most popular page; this page was most popular, day in day out, for months.
content theft how to tell
The stats for the blue circles page have increased, proving this shouldn’t have been a “quiet day.” It’s only my most popular page that’s been affected, and all the other stats were just the usual day-to-day fluctuations. That’s how I knew it was probably a content theft issue.

I get by solely on my income from this website and from the books I write (on my author website). This website (Delight and Inspire) generates 20-100% of my income on any given month. Needless to say, I don’t make much money. So when someone steals my personally researched and written articles, changes a few words to get past Google’s duplication penalties, and, by proxy, prevents visitors from finding my site, it makes me feel worried. If people took every article from my site and did that, I’d have no income. It would be like someone putting the PDF of my books on torrent sites, and it’s obviously not a nice feeling.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about it because they haven’t just copied and pasted my work. So this is an exercise in pragmatism more than a solution. I am usually not remotely precious about copyright, and when people email me, asking if they can, for example, translate my articles into Italian, I am usually happy that the information is getting shared. But that’s the difference. The cool Italian guy asked, and I knew they were using my content in that way, and I’m happy with the result, which is that Italians can now read that information in their own language. I now get 1-2 emails a week from Italians trying to cross the Bering Strait (true story). Generally, I think sharing information is the way forward.

When someone does it without acknowledging the source material, however, they’re just trying to make themselves look good with other people’s hard work. And that’s not ok. I would bet money that the person who stole my content was paid by the content farm for “creating” my content. But since half the internet is run by automatic bots and computers these days, with little user generated interaction on sites like Livestrong (a content farm), there’s no-one I can contact about this issue (normally, you can contact someone and ask for the page to be taken down or attributed).

So after the initial infuriation has worn off, I am left with the truth of the situation. Someone stole my stuff, they fooled Google (and whoever paid them to “write” it) and my income has been affected. I cannot do anything about it, so I can either go crazy (crazier) with rage and fury at this daylight robbery and turn into a pathetic dribbling ball of tears, or I can choose to let it go.

Imma let it go, and looking to the future, I’m going to try to ensure that I keep producing fresh, relevant content for my readers that ensures I always rank first on Google for other things. Like my lip plumpers review or my eyelash serum comparison reviews that I have written.

How have you dealt with copyright theft? Let me know in the comments!

Oops Button: Weekly Photo Challenge: Rare.

This is for the weekly photo challenge: Rare
So I found this actual key on a keyboard from an old computer at the Jim Austin Collection:

oops button real keyboard
Top row, fifth key across, unedited photo.

Let me know if you’ve ever seen this before or worked with a keyboard like this; I’d love to know more about it!!