A new children’s ebook

As you may know I am a self-published author of children’s books and children’s ebooks. You can find out all of that at my publishing site – Crimperbooks.co.uk.

The cover of the new Kindle Book

The cover of the new Kindle Book. Superb photo CC:By Dominic Bartsch

I published a short story on there called “Face to face with the gorilla king” on a part by part basis. It’s about a boy who goes to the zoo with his family and suddenly finds himself whisked to another world full of speaking animals who expect him to compete in a battle for them.

The full story has now been published and I just wanted to let you know that you can now get it on your kindle device or app. It’s around 12,000 words which equates to about 40 pages. The cheapest I can offer it for on Kindle is 99p* so I’ve set it as that. You can of course read it for free on the Crimperbooks website as well.


Colour blind: What do you do at traffic lights?

There’s been one of those chain posts going around facebook recently. In it you are challenged to post 7 things people might not know about you. I’ve not been asked and I doubt I could come up with seven (or would want to) but one thing I think a lot of people are not aware of is that I am colour blind. I have one of the more common forms of colour blindness called “red-green”.

An Ishihara test

Apparently this has a “2” in it. I can’t see anything except a load of dots

What does that mean?

First a few myths to dispel:

  • I can see colours, “colour blind” is a misnomer
  • I can see red and green and I don’t get all reds and green mixed up.
  • Whilst I struggle with some red/green combinations those are not the only ones I struggle with
  • I can see traffic lights just fine thanks.

On that last note (and with a nod to the post title) I once was asked so many, frankly, daft questions by someone about my colour blindness that I told them my driving licence allowed me to go through any traffic light regardless of colour (it doesn’t and I don’t but they were getting on my nerves).

My disability means I am unable to consistently distinguish certain colour shades. So whereas a “normal” person might be able to pick out the same shade of red as red regardless of lighting etc. I cannot. As a child I drove my mother mad when shopping for school trousers as I would consistently pick up dark green or navy ones instead of black. When playing snooker once I had to get my opponent to hold his finger over the brown ball as every time I bent down to take my shot the ball “disappeared” into the cushion behind it. My children used to have gresat fun asking me to “pass the orange” crayon and wait for me to pick up the light brown one.

I can’t explain it fully as I don’t understand it fully. I know it has to do with the cones in my eye and the way my brain interprets but to be honest the medical definition won’t help you much unless you understand the medical stuff.

Why am I telling you?

I am telling you all this because I have noticed an increase of text-on-images around the web. When text is text on a page I can adjust my browser to ensure I can see it. When text is embedded in an image I cannot and some of those colour combinations you use are literally making me nauseas. No I mean it. One side effect of my disability is that when certain colours/shades are next to each other my eyes struggle to pick out the dividing edge. The result is my eyes keep trying and failing to focus and this has a similar effect to vertigo or migraine on me. I have been known to vomit after seeing a red-on-blue poster in a shop (I did make it outside) and  I once feinted in a meeting because the person in front was wearing a green shirt with red pinstripes. So if you meet me and I say “Your shirt is making me sick” I may not be kidding or being rude.

I am saying all this to ask you to be more careful about the images you post. At best I (and the 10% of the male population like me) won’t be able to see it. At worst it will make me feel ill and I will either mention it or will just block you if you are a repeat offender. It’s not personal, it’s just that I’d rather not feel sick from reading the web (I make a point of not going to the Daily Mail website for the same reason).

You want examples don’t you. I can tell. Well I’m not going to give you any because to do so would mean looking for poor examples and that would make me ill. What I will do is point you at this website which gives you tips on making design – be it website, posters, flyers or images – more friendly to colour-blind people. I can vouch for the examples they give. Yes it’s American so they spell “colour” wrong :)

Tips for designing for colorblind users

It’s not just colour-blindness

Just for your information it’s not just colour blind people you can and should make allowances for. There are a range of visual impairments which people using the web may have. So posting an image without a text alternative (an Alt tag) will prejudice against some and posting text which has a low contrast with its background will affect others. Nobody is saying you can’t have that “cool” design (although I question whether all of them are indeed cool) but if your aim is for people to read, peruse and browse your work then you will exclude a significant proportion of people by refusing to allow for them. In certain jurisdictions it may be illegal to not allow for those with visual impairment under Disability discrimination acts and the like. Sadly colour blindness is left out of test designed to check against those laws but I am asking you – on behalf of all of us who walk around in a world of grey-shade (or not if you have been paying attention) to please include us or we will exclude you.

Quick survey: How do you feel that “God is watching you”

This is a very quick (3 questions) survey about the phrase “God is watching you”. I’m not asking for contact details, I won’t track you and I won’t pass any of your details to anyone else (mostly because I’m not asking for or storing them). I may compile the results of this survey into a blog post at a later date but for the moment it’s just a bit of anecdotal research for a talk I am giving.

I appreciate some of the questions may be a bit deeper than the simple answers I give but this is not a deep discussion just as quick survey on your gut feeling. I won’t be using this to suggest that “people” feel one way or the other but I will be using it to suggest that people who responded here answered one way or another. :)

The poll is now closed. Thanks to all those who responded. I will post results here soon.

Crimpertoon – Pumpkins

Crimpertoons began with a Hallowe’en toon so I feel obliged to do one each year. This one is about what to do with the unsold pumpkins your local supermarket will throw away.

Usual CC:By-SA-NC licence applies.

Cartoon: Various uses of unsold pumpkins incorporated into a church service: font, thurible, hymn board, drums, offertory plate

As ever you can save this image by right-clicking it and selecting “Save image as” or similar.

Crimpertoon – plans

There’s a new Crimpertoon about plans out – usual CC:By-SA-NC licence applies.

Depiction of God as a search engine with the question "what are the plans you have for me"

As ever you can save this image by right-clicking it and selecting “Save image as” or similar.

A new book – Do not feed the Troll!

The cover of my latest children’s novel

If you haven’t heard by other means already I am pleased to announce my latest children’s book Do not feed the Troll! has been published.

It’s book two in what has become The Roboteers series (book one being Sugar the Robot and the race to save the Earth) and is about a family who move to a new house and discover a trapdoor buried under their back lawn. The trapdoor has a sign which reads “DO NOT FEED THE TROLL!” and inside they do indeed find a troll. What happens next is a hilarious adventure as the troll begins to take over their garden and their lives. The book is, like the first one, illustrated with fantastic drawings by my own children (thanks guys!) and aimed at 6 to 11 year olds.

As with all my books you can get this as a free eBook in various formats under a Creative Commons CC:By-SA licence. You can also buy it in paperback and on eReader devices such as Kindle.

As ever all other details are on the Crimperbooks website, Twitter account, Google+ page and Facebook page.

We have a vengeful God – perception

Personally I don’t believe we have a vengeful God but that’s not what this post is about. I watched a TV documentary on Amazon earlier this week. As part of it they examined the effect of Amazon’s e-book self-publishing arm on others in the publishing industry as a whole. (It’s a fairly interesting programme which manages to only occasionally become a licence-fee paid for advert.)

The video below should start at what one publisher says his industry feels about Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos:

If it doesn’t start the right point it’s at 40 minutes in and lasts for about 23 seconds. Either way here’s a transcript:

  • Publisher: “Publishers think about Jeff Bezos sort of like they might think about God: as a kind of very distant, inaccessible figure who is all-powerful and all-knowing.”
  • Interviewer: “But God loves us?”
  • Publisher: “Yes but God is vengeful.”

A distant, inaccessible, all-powerful, all-knowing figure who may be loving but is vengeful. Would you like somebody you love to be described like that?

Yes, it’s one person’s view. Yes, they do not represent or claim to represent anyone else but, whether we like it or not, the only reason anyone may have that perception of God is because we – his representatives – gave it to them.

We have much work ahead of us.

Crimpertoon: WWJD

I’ve had this WWJD cartoon in the queue for a while. For some reason I felt today was a good day to publish it. Sometimes how we respond to each other says a lot about how we feel about the rest of the world. Usual CC:By-NC-SA licence applies.

Cartoon with one sheep admonoishing another for rescuing a drowning dog. Caption "I'm pretty sure this is not what Jesus would do"

A Christian country? No thanks.

On Monday 14th April, David Cameron made a statement that the UK is a “Christian country”. This, following on the back of his claim to be continuing the work of Jesus, created considerable fuss in the traditional media and, of course, social media. Apart from the fact that we seem to be in a rut of measuring the worth of everything by how much is Tweeted about it the fuss is quite interesting, not least because it’s not the first time our illustrious First Lord of the Treasury has said something like this.

Facts like this are often used to back claims of being a Christian Country but are they worth anything?

“Facts” like this are often used to back claims of being a Christian Country but are they worth anything?

There was first the inevitable cries that Mr Cameron was in danger of creating division and alienation by promoting one faith above others. This was swiftly (and equally inevitably) countered by those saying he was simply speaking about the basis of our country’s structure and constitution. Of course nearly all of the arguments neglected to define what they meant by “Christian” or even “Christian country”. Oh they threw around words like “establishment” and “history” and muddied the waters with “facts” about church attendance but in the large they neatly avoided a definition. This is mostly, I suspect, because there can be no such thing.

No such thing as a Christian Country?

Take “Christian” for example. What is a Christian? A follower of Jesus? A baptised person? A believer in God? A church-goer (which type of church)? Someone who has accepted Christ as their Saviour? All of those? Any of those? None of those? This is the problem, Jesus did not lay down a definite article of what constitutes a Christian. Actually he never used the term so he wouldn’t have. He did, however, talk about how those who followed him should behave and act. In Matthew 7 he spoke about how we can determine a false prophet by their “fruit”. It is the way we act and what we do that show who we are rather than what we may claim to be. Given that, how can we determine if a nation is Christian: by what it does? Possibly but that’s equally hard to determine.

If we have such a wide definition of what constitutes Christian behaviour how can we determine if a nation is behaving in a Christian manner?

If we say a Christian must one who has accepted Christ as Saviour, how can an entire nation do that? If we say that a Christian nation is one where most of the people are Christians how do we determine that number? The truth is we can’t. We can’t accurately determine how many people are Christians unless we agree on what a Christian is. Using National Census data and surveys may be a start but then you get down to the problem of whether self-identification as a Christian is “enough”. To be clear, I’m not saying people must be discounted as Christian simply because they call themselves that. I am saying that if we allow people to self-identify (and we should) then we cannot accurately use that as a way to count how many Christians we have in the UK or whether that number makes this a Christian nation.

Is a country a Christian one simply because the Prime Minister (or anybody else) says it is?

I think, to be honest, that labelling any nation as “Christian” is a non-starter. As an example let’s look at our foreign policy. Is it the Christian thing to do to send troops to a troubled nation or is that a bullying tactic because we don’t like how their ways differ to ours? Of course we say it depends upon the nation, the timing and the mission of the troops and we’d be right.  That’s just one, simple, example so how do we determine if the UK is acting in a Christian way? Is a country that gives millions of pounds worth in foreign aid and yet also exports millions of pounds worth of weapons, a Christian nation? Is a country a Christian one simply because the Prime Minister (or anybody else) says it is? I tell my children regularly that just because somebody says you are “stupid” does not make it true. Can we say the same about calling somebody, or a nation, a Christian?

When we start calling things that are not people "Christian" we end up here.

When we start calling things that are not people “Christian” we end up here.

Those who know me will know that I really dislike stereotypes and labels. Using the word Christian as a label is fraught with problems. I’ve covered the problems with determining how we apply such a label above but beyond that there’s the expectations that come once it is applied. When somebody declares their – for want of a better term – secular business to be a “Christian” one I start to wonder why they are at pains to make that distinction. I honestly can’t see why slapping a fish on your van makes you a better plumber. Sometimes I’ve ask the business owners why and usually get a response that they feel it shows they will treat their customers fairly. Interesting decision, given the bigoted, judgemental reputation the Church is too often associated with. Anecdotally, I have, in the past, asked some Christian and non-Christian friends about what they think when they see a “Christian” business. The non-Christians said they felt it meant that business would treat Christian customers better than others. The Christians pretty much said they’d expect to be either ripped off or that putting a label like that means as much as a preacher removing their watch at the start of a sermon. When you transfer the label “Christian” to a nation it has a bigger effect. So often I hear (as I did in the case of Mr Cameron) the phrase “Christian Country” embedded within an argument for enhanced rights for Christians, a cry that the church is being “persecuted” or – more commonly – a militant we-need-to-stand-up-for-ourselves rant. For the record, the Church is not persecuted here and we should be more worried about our responsibilities than our rights.

If we consistently tell ourselves that the Church is the people and not the building or the organisation then shouldn’t that apply to the country? We may have been a country where many people attended church regularly but I think we can all safely say that church attendance is by no means a safe measure of what makes one a Christian. We can determine if this is a multi-cultural nation from statistics but I’m not sure we can determine if this is a Christian one.

To be frank I think I’d prefer it if the UK were not described as a Christian country. As Mr Cameron has discovered it is unhelpful, antagonistic and jingoistic. Don’t get me wrong I long for my friends, neighbours, colleagues and the wider populace to discover Christ as Saviour and I rejoice whenever I hear of God’s work being done within the borders of my homeland but even if every single person in the UK described themselves as a Christian, I still wouldn’t want us to call ourselves a Christian Country.

Countries don’t make people Christian and people don’t make countries Christian but a country where people follow Jesus and do his work (by the way that’s not what you think it means, Mr Cameron) sounds like a place I’d like to live.

Jesus and culture

I’m at Spring Harvest this week. One of the challenges we have been given today is to think about Jesus and our culture. Specially by how we would describe Jesus to someone in a sentence.

I’m not sure I can do that but thinking about Jesus and our culture led me to produce this drawing.