Kindle Paperwhite vs Keyboard

I bought a new Kindle. I have a perfectly good Kindle Keyboard but about two weeks ago I bought a brand new Kindle Paperwhite (2013 model) on a whim. It was quite an indulgence to upgrade when there was nothing wrong with the old model, but I’ve been pretty pleased with the new one!

Kindle Keyboard and Paperwhite

If you’re considering a similar upgrade you might be wondering whether it’s worth it. Here’s what I’ve found:

Pros:

  • The backlight! This of course is the biggest advantage the Paperwhite has over the Keyboard. Brilliant, even coverage which is easy on the eyes, and you can turn it off completely if you don’t need it. It’s quite powerful too – I’ve haven’t needed to turn it up any more than 50% so far.
  • The touch screen is quick and intuitive.
  • Navigation, page turns and functions (eg dictionary look up) are much faster and more responsive.
  •  It’s really nice being able to browse your books by cover.
  • It’s smaller and lighter than the Keyboard, but the screen is bigger.
  • The type is darker and clearer. (I read in a forum that some people had compared demo model Paperwhites to their Keyboards and found the type to be blocky and inferior, but I think the demos must have just gone a bit wrong from being handled too much and too roughly in store.)
  • You can get cases that work like iPad covers – open it and the Kindle wakes up without having to press any buttons!
  • It can roughly calculate how much time it will take you to finish the current chapter, as well as the rest of the book.
  • I thought I’d miss the page turn buttons from the Keyboard but you get used to turning pages by touch pretty easily. Sometimes it’s even better than the buttons, eg if you’re eating a sandwich and only have a spare knuckle.
  • You can look at multiple word phrases in the dictionary much more easily now.
  • Collections now appear in alphabetical order rather than recently accessed.
  • Authors are now sorted alphabetically by last name, instead of first name. (Although this could have had something to do with me cleaning up a lot of my collection’s metadata.)
  • The Page Flip feature isn’t quite as seamless as thumbing through a few pages in a real book, but it could come in handy.
  • I haven’t really used it yet but the Vocab Builder sounds like a nifty extra.
  • I scored mine $20 cheaper at Target than Big W (AU$159 vs AU$178 for the Wifi model). :)

Cons:

  • I had to upgrade my firmware to 5.4.2 to get my Mac to recognise the Paperwhite without resetting it every time. I don’t like the way collections are now somehow synced but luckily I haven’t had the grey ghosting issue other people have complained of.
  • The Kindle Collections plugin for Calibre doesn’t work with the Paperwhite so when I was setting it up with my content I had to file everything manually (but you only have to do that once and then you’re good to go).
  • The battery life does seem to be a bit shorter thank the Keyboard, but still superior to iPads.
Advertisements

2012 blogging year in review and two more awards

New year, 60th post, two more awards… I thought this would be a good time for a summary of my 2012 year in blogging!

2012 was the year my blog…

  • hit 5000 views
  • gained 64 followers
  • quadrupled average daily views
  • was temporarily locked by WordPress (for linking to a ferry company’s website!)
  • received its first 3 awards

By the way, I like to make an effort to return the visit of everyone that comments on, likes or follows my posts but this was difficult to keep up while we were travelling last year so I’m quite behind at the moment. I will eventually get around to returning all those visits though! Thank you to everyone that has stopped by!

Top 5 countries my visitors hail from:

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Russian Federation
  5. Canada

Top 5 most popular posts:

Top 5 irrelevant search terms:

  1. cartoon eastern europe restaurants
  2. expensive retro furniture
  3. greenhouse inside underground shelter
  4. temple between skyscrapers
  5. ingredients for prayer biscuits

And now… drumroll…

read on for the awards! »

38 countries in 2.5 years

I added up all the countries we visited in the two and a half years we were away from Australia and the total came to 38. (Or a nicer, neater 40 if you could England, Scotland and Wales separately. ;) Here is the grand rundown!

38 countries - 17% of the world

(Cities listed are those we stayed overnight for one or more nights and don’t include day trips or other places we visited on the way from one to another.)

JULY – DECEMBER 2010

Before settling in the UK we spent almost half a year travelling around Europe. This was something we’d always wanted to do and we thought once we’d achieved it we’d feel a sense of satisfaction and completion – gotten it out of our system, so to speak. Buuut, if anything, it only made us want more.

  • SINGAPORE
  • THE UK: London, Bristol, Wales
  • THE NETHERLANDS: Rotterdam, Amsterdam
  • BELGIUM: Brussels, Bruges
  • FRANCE: Tours, Toulouse
  • SPAIN: Barcelona
  • PORTUGAL: Lisbon, Porto, Faro
  • SPAIN: Seville, Granada
  • GIBRALTAR
  • MOROCCO: Fez, the Sahara desert, Dades Gorge, Marrakesh
  • ITALY: Milan, Levanto, Rome, Sant Agnello
  • CROATIA: Zadar, Mukinje, Split, Dubrovnik, Zagreb
  • MONTENEGRO: Kotor
  • BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Mostar, Sarajevo
  • HUNGARY: Budapest
  • AUSTRIA: Vienna
  • CZECH REPUBLIC: Prague
  • POLAND: Krakow
  • GERMAN: Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg

(flickr collection)

Total travel time: 21 weeks
Total cost including all transport, accommodation, food and expenses: ~AU$16,000 per person

2011 – JULY 2012

We then lived and worked in London for 19 months but we tried to squeeze in travel whenever we could. After all, it’s easier to pop over to Paris for a few days from London than is is from Melbourne, so we had to make the most of it while we were over there! As well as weekends and day trips to various towns around the UK (and a week each driving around Scotland and Cornwall) we also visited:

JULY – DECEMBER 2012

By this time I’d started this blog and did my best to post at least once for every country we visited. If you kept up on this second trip by travelling along virtually with us via this blog, thank you and I hope you enjoyed the ride!

(flickr collection)

Total travel time: 20 weeks
Total cost including all transport, accommodation, food and expenses: ~AU$18,300 per person

(I feel like we actually travelled more cheaply in 2012 than we did in 2010 but I think the reason we spent more money is because the second trip included some particularly expensive countries (Scandinavia, Japan, etc) and the Trans-Mongolian leg cost a lot because it was privately organised tour and we also had to secure three pricey visas to undertake it.)

occasionally asked questions »

Return to Aus

We landed back in Australia on the 10th of December 2012, setting foot on home soil for the first time since we left on the 20th of July 2010.

To stretch out our travel time for as long as possible, we flew into Brisbane where we caught up with friends and family before hiring a car and driving down the east coast to Newcastle over the course of a week. We stopped off at various places along the way and spent a couple of nights each in Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Tuncurry. It was the first time I’d been to any of those places and we were particularly impressed with Byron Bay. We knew it was popular and expected it to be packed out, but luckily we must have beat the main summer holiday rush because it wasn’t busy at all. The town has a nice laid-back vibe and the many beaches certainly are beautiful: some of the nicest, clearest water I’ve seen at an Australian beach.

Clarke's Beach, Byron Bay

Alex stayed on in Newcastle to be with his family over Christmas and I ducked down to Melbourne to spend it with mine. It was wonderful to see them again after so long! My dad came over to visit while we were living in London but I hadn’t seen my mum since we left Australia so it was particularly nice to see her again after all this time.

And, much to my delight, our cat Jonty (who has been living with my parents while we were away) remembered who I was! (And he didn’t hold our extended absence against me as I’d feared he might.)

Reunited

So what’s it like being back in Australia after all this time? It was a bit strange at first, mostly because we didn’t go home straight away. Spending our first week and a bit travelling through parts of Australia that were new to us gave us the strange sensation of things seeming both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

The main things I’ve been struck by since our return are things I used to know but had forgotten in the meantime. Some random observations and impressions…

  • Houses and property that locals consider small seem almost enormous to us after living in apartments for so long.
  • Likewise, pet dogs are often bigger than we must have been used to!
  • People seem to apologise more than they do in London, just for the sake of being polite. It’s refreshing – I don’t think people do it as much in London because for fear of inviting blame.
  • Some chains commonly seen in Britain have made their way to Melbourne – spotted Zara and WH Smith in the city. Bring on H&M!
  • People in retail shops are too friendly. ^_^; I don’t really want to respond to two or three “hello”s and “how are you”s when I’m just sticking my head in a shop for a quick browse. I used to work in retail myself so I know they’re required to do it, and it’s really just a common courtesy, I guess I just got used to being ignored in shops. :P
  • Eating and drinking out is so expensive – up to $40 for a main meal and up to $20 for an alcoholic drink! Of course it’s not always as bad as that, but it is pretty bad in general…
  • Internet is painfully capped and expensive to boot.
  • Petrol is cheaper than in the UK though!
  • Dan Murphy’s has an excellent range of international beers that we can enjoy while reminiscing about our travels (as long as we don’t compare the price between here and where it comes from).
  • James Squire seems to have overtaken Coopers as the Aussie beer de rigueur.
  • Also, alcoholic ginger beer seems to have become quite popular in Australia (yay!), as have flavoured ciders.

Otherwise it’s been strange but nice seeing familiar sights again, especially with fresh eyes. I also noticed a lot of changes around Melbourne – new shops and restaurants, and a lot of the ones that are still there have been rebranded. (Looking good, Commonweath Bank.) I went on a bike ride with Dad on Boxing Day which culminated in a view of the city skyline from the bridge near the MCG. Every time I come back to Melbourne after time overseas this sight brings an automatic big smile to my face: that little handful of skyscrapers – so small compared to so many other cities, but it’s home.

Melbourne skyline

I came back up to Newcastle to join Alex and his friends for New Year’s eve and we’ve been up here since then.

We both officially return to Melbourne on the 10th of January.

So, the next task is to settle back into Melbourne and return somewhat to The Real World. I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions but I do want to get back into swimming, cycling, cooking, baking and knitting, most of which I neglected while we were living in London. My Mum also recently introduced me to Zentangle which I’ve played around with and find inspiring. Then there’s that wedding to plan, and I’m sure our travelling days aren’t over. And I’d like to keep blogging, of course – I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve. :)

One Lovely Blog Award

Many thanks to Fae of Fae’s Twist & Tango for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award! Fae has a fascinatingly international background and is an avid foodie and traveller. Her blog is filled with recipes and photos of delicious dishes from all over the world, and when she’s travelling she also writes about the places she visits with photos and notes about her experiences.

This is the first award I’ve ever received for this blog and I’m very touched!

One Lovely Blog Award

The rules of the award are:

  1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you
  2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back
  3. Share 7 random things about yourself
  4. Nominate 7 blogs and notify them on their blogs
  5. Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere

7 random things about me:

  1. Ginger and mint are my favourite two flavours.
  2. I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to have just dessert for dinner if you’ve had a really big lunch.
  3. One of my favourite things about travelling in countries I haven’t visited before is browsing their supermarkets.
  4. I’m a little bit afraid of butterflies and moths (although not as much as I used to be).
  5. I played piano and flute for 10 years but it’s been 10 years since then that I touched either one of them.
  6. I would do almost anything to avoid taking a taxi.
  7. I’ve kept a handwritten journal every day since I left Australia on the 20th of July 2010 (it’s currently up to volume 6).

I would like to nominate the following bloggers for this award!

Joy and Eva – I met one half of Joy and Eva while travelling across Siberia on the Trans-Mongolian train and I’ve enjoyed many of this duo’s posts since then, especially the ones that remind me of similar shared experiences.

Jen Maan in Amman – Jen’s blog about living in Jordan after moving there from the US offers a fascinating perspective on life in a completely different country. Her time in Amman has just recently come to an end but her blog continues and I recommend reading back over her previous posts.

Snaps and Blabs – I’m incredibly impressed and inspired by this record of a couple travelling long term around the world with their three children – 645 days so far and counting! Her photos are vibrant and lively and always capture the spirit of the locations that make up this journey of a lifetime.

Have Bag, Will Travel – Andrew is an extensive and avid traveller and I enjoy comparing notes one the places we’ve both been as well as being inspired about the places I haven’t. He’s also been following my humble blog since its beginning which I find very flattering!

Margaret’s Miscellany – Margaret is a freelance journalist but in her personal blog she writes about all the other things she does with her time, especially travel. I particularly like her themed posts where she ties together photos and countries she’s visited with a common thread such as irresistible food or bicycles.

Ms Elena on Traveling – I know Elena has already been nominated for this award in the past but I felt I had to include her in my list because the stories of her absolutely free-spirited, adventurous and completely unpretentious travels are simply a delight to read.

Canadian Hiking Photography – Patrick’s blog showcases his absolutely stunning photography skills with a particular focus on breathtaking landscapes, but also including the kind of portrait shots we all wish someone would take of us because they seem to really capture the essence of the subject’s personality.

Travel update

I’m writing this from Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan. To quickly bring you up to speed, after China Alex and I travelled to South Korea by ferry. We really enjoyed our short week and a bit (18-26 October) in South Korea and I’ll write more about it as soon as I get a chance. From Busan we took another overnight ferry to Japan, which is where we’ve been for the last three weeks.

Tonight is a bit of a turning point in our five month world tour. We flew out of London to Croatia on the 24th of July this year and tonight will be our first flight since then. In four months we’ve travelled all the way from Croatia to Japan by surface transport only: rail, bus and ferries.

Our route took us up through the middle of Europe, across Scandinavia and the Baltics, then we had our Trans-Mongolian adventure across Russia and Mongolia, ended up in China, and from there we took the ferries described above to end up in Japan. Whew!

So where do we go from here? We have about a week and a half in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur and Penang), a week in Sri Lanka (Colombo and Galle), then a few days in Singapore before we finally fly back to Australia. By the time we get there we’ll have been away from our home country for nearly two and a half years.

And it doesn’t end there. ^_^; We’re not flying straight back home to Melbourne but into Brisbane where we’ll spend a few days with friends and family before hiring a car and driving down the east coast to Newcastle. It will take us about a week, stopping off in Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Seal Rocks along the way. We’ll have Christmas with our families (Alex in NSW, me in Vic), then New Year’s and some beach time in Newcastle, before finally returning home to Melbourne on the 10th of January 2013.

Finding my perfect engagement ring

Before Alex asked The Question I had hinted rather heavily that – should he ever propose ;) – I would prefer to be able to choose my own ring as I am, to put it politely, quite particular. It wasn’t that I had something specific in mind, but I had some pretty specific ideas about what I didn’t want: nothing showy or ridiculously expensive, and certainly no giant flashy diamond. (I’ve read that some people have engagement rings that are so expensive they get cheap copies made just so they can wear them on holiday! No offence intended if this is you or your fiancée/wife, but that’s not me at all.)

Alex proposed after we had been together for more than six and a half years on the 15th of July 2012 (my dad’s birthday, coincidentally) at Rhaeadr Nantcol Waterfalls in Snowdonia National Park, during our farewell tour of the UK. Our big 5 month journey back to Australia was due to begin later that month and we thought it would be such a wonderful souvenir if we found my engagement ring on our travels: not only would it be the usual symbol of commitment but it would also forever be a reminder of what has been the biggest adventure of our lives (so far!).

Just after I said yes :)

I was quite taken with the idea of finding something in Scandinavia as we’re both big fans of good design and the
Scandiwegians are very good at that indeed, but we decided to keep our eyes open in the countries leading up to the Nordic leg of our trip as well. If I was looking for anything in particular it was something modest, contemporary, and ideally with a green stone – I’ve never been too keen on emeralds but was intrigued by the idea of a green sapphire or amethyst.

It took one Croatian jewellery store to realise we weren’t going to find what I was after there: too old fashioned and ostentatious. (There may very well be some great contemporary Croatian jewellery designers out there but unfortunately we didn’t find them.) I can’t remember browsing any jewellery stores in Germany… we may have been too busy drinking beer. (Although a quick Google search has revealed some lovely pieces by Oliver Schmidt.)

We started seriously looking in Denmark. We saw some interesting handmade rings at a craft market in Odense but nothing really suitable for everyday wear. We found a really lovely studio in Copenhagen where one of the designers personally talked us through the concepts behind each of their beautiful designs but they were unfortunately just a little out of our budget. (i.e. more than I was happy for Alex to spend!) I’d admired Efva Attling’s rings online but they were another step up in price again. Nothing else really jumped out at us in Norway or Sweden and before we knew it we had finished our travels in Scandinavia.

Next on our itinerary came the Baltics, famous for their amber. We saw some beautiful pieces of green amber and I rather liked the ancient connotations of fossils (and dinosaurs ;) but the perfect ring design didn’t present itself in combination with green amber.

I think Alex was starting to get a bit concerned by this point, but I had a good feeling about our next destination: Helsinki, World Design Capital 2012. Central Helsinki is packed with design shops which we would have browsed anyway, but we had that ultimate goal of finding this elusive ring powering our browsing as well.

The very first store we walked into was that of jewellery designer Anna Heino. After a cursory browse I spotted the first ring that has really held my attention since we started searching. It stayed with me throughout the day and we returned that afternoon to ask whether it would be possible to customise the stone (from memory I think the one on the shelf used aquamarine). Anna expertly talked us through the pros and cons of the different green gems available and showed us some that she had in stock: an emerald, a green sapphire, and something I never even knew existed: a green diamond. The green diamond stood out from the other two by a mile for its colour and sparkle.

We went away and thought about it for a day and the more I thought about it the more perfect it felt. We decided this was the one and went back yesterday morning to commission our own version of the ring using the green diamond. Anna took my measurements and we discussed customising the width of the band and other details. It was going to take four weeks to make but as we’re only in Helsinki until Sunday we asked if Anna could look into how much it would cost to ship the finished item to my parents in Australia. We agreed to meet again later that day to finalise the details.

We returned shortly before closing and Anna said there was good news and bad news. We asked for the good news first but we should have asked for the bad: I’ll deliver it to you first for the best dramatic impact!

The bad news was it isn’t possible to send precious metals to Australia by any means, including registered and insured post and international courier.

Argh…

But the GOOD news was, because she saw how much we loved the ring and she wanted us to be happy, she had as an exception and ever so wonderfully made it for us that very afternoon!! It was a huge favour which we deeply appreciated and the ring is perfect: I’m absolutely delighted! Not only is it the perfect memento of all our European travels, from a city we enjoyed from the moment we arrived, it’s exactly what I wanted: something simple but elegant, no big gaudy rock but a beautiful diamond nonetheless, and one that’s my favourite colour at that. Designed by a lovely Finnish jeweller and handmade specifically for us, there isn’t another ring like it in the world. I love it. Here it is!

My engagement ring

My engagement ring

My engagement ring

So of course, if you happen to find yourself in Helsinki do stop by Anna’s shop to admire her work. Many thanks again to Anna for completely making our day (week? month?) and of course much love and thanks to Alex who I am lucky enough to be able to look forward to spending the rest of my life with. ^_^