Review: The Hollow Places

After recently divorced Kara moves into her uncle’s home she discovers through a hole in a wall a portal to an alternate and mysterious reality. This is the beginning to T. Kingfisher’s horror novel The Hollow Places, a story that moves at a quick pace but offers too few spine-tingling scares.

After climbing through the hole, Kara and a friend discover themselves in a concrete bunker. Outside the bunker flows a river, dotted with tiny islands, each holding its own bunker. Against all good judgement, but in the best horror-story tradition, the pair explores the strange land and make a series of unsettling discoveries. It quickly becomes clear there is more to the place than originally met their eyes and a sense of ever present danger lurks below the surface. But what lives in this place does not want to stay put and Kara soon finds hints of the it seeping into her world. She has to act quickly before the dangerous things that live there invade her universe.

While the plot The Hollow Places (digital galley, Saga Press) moves along quickly enough to hold the reader’s interest, for a book categorized as horror it is remarkably short on foreboding and suspense. Tense moments that could have been built up slowly seem to pass too quickly, and thus a little uneventfully. Call it horror-light. Feel free to turn out the lights and dangle your feet off the side of the bed while reading this book.

How to word graduation announcements for commencements canceled due to COVID-19

School graduations are upon us and if you, like me, are ordering announcements you realize a few changes need to be made to the wording due to commencement ceremonies being canceled or postponed because of COVID-19.

In lieu of a commencement date and location you can just say the student will be graduating “in two thousand twenty.” But I prefer the more specific, “at the conclusion of the spring semester two thousand twenty.”

Because COVID-19 is a global event understood by everyone, you don’t need to go into the specific details for the ceremony being canceled. Just leave the focus on the student and their achievement.

Here is a sample university announcement:

The President, the Faculty
The Graduating Class
Auburn University
College of Sciences and Mathematics
Announce the Graduation of
Jane Doe
at the Conclusion
of the Spring Semester
Two Thousand Twenty
with a
Bachelor of Science Degree in
Applied Mathematics

How to find your 2019 Shopify Payments 1099-K

If you use Shopify Payments, you may wonder where to find the 1099-K you need for your business taxes. Shopify does not make it easy to find, but with the help of Shopify’s chat support I was able to navigate to the form. I’ve outlined the steps below to find your Shopify 1099-K.

  1. Log into your dashboard and click on “Settings” at the bottom left of the screen.
  2. Click on “Payment Providers.”
  3. Click on “View Payouts” under Shopify Payments.
  4. Click on “Documents.”
  5. Download the PDF of your 1099-K.

Also important: You’ll also want to find an accounting of all of the fees you paid in the tax year to record as expenses. To do that, on the payouts page export a record of all of the payouts for the tax year. That will include all of the fees you paid.

There you go. Now get to work on your taxes.

Why you may not have a 1099-K

Shopify says that for 2019, “Shopify is required to submit a 1099-K form to the IRS for each merchant who processes more than $20,000 and has more than 200 transactions in a calendar year (or less if they’re in MA or VT states). If you qualify for a form, you will see this by clicking the documents link at the top left of your Shopify Payments payout page.”

If you didn’t earn enough or have enough transactions you will no receive a 1099-K form.

January 2020 Update: Originally posted in February 2018, these instructions still work in January 2020.

March 2020 Update: Added information about why you may not receive a 1099-K form from Shopify.

Friday coffee notes

This is a short review of one of King’s best recent novels, The Institute. The book explores relationships among children with “special talents” held and abused at a secret installation. This is a good-vs-evil story that’s hard to put down.

Brittany Howard is a pure joy to watch perform. Her current tour ends in November and I hope she plans to do festivals next year so I have a chance to see her again live. Until then, there’s an NPR Tiny Desk Concert from this week to hold us over.

I’m working on a longer review of Janis: Her Life and Music, which will be released October 22. But for now it’s enough to say go ahead and pre-order a copy. It’s a well-researched and well-written page turner by Holly George-Warren.

Listen to Janis Joplin before Big Brother & the Holding Company in the 1964 bootleg “Typewriter Tape” recording. Her talent shows as she sings with guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, while his wife types a letter in the background.

It amazes me that there is a subway station in the basement of the Old State House in Boston. It’s not a big building and it’s odd to walk out of the station and see where you are. You can see it here on Google Street View. Here it is the 1906 Old State House with the subway, or East Boston Tunnel, entrance at the back left of the building. And before the subway in the early 1890s, when the basement was occupied by a telegraph office.

Review: I Like to Watch

The last two decades have seen significant changes in TV — from the quality of production to how it is consumed — resulting in vastly improved entertainment options. In I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution critic Emily Nussbaum explores the television ecosystem in an anthology of essays.

Nussbaum, a Pulitzer Prize winning critic for The New Yorker, has great admiration for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Norman Lear and The Sopranos. Topics that have recurring rolls in her essays. I found myself agreeing with her more than half of the time and questioning some of her conclusions the rest of the time. But that’s understandable, as the best critics challenge our thinking and cause us to question, or at least justify, our own preferences.

I Like to Watch (digital galley, Random House) does read like the loose collection of essays that it is, without a unifying theme. And the collection fails to satisfyingly explore the impact streaming services have had on the quality and quantity of programs available.

If you share her sensibilities you’ll likely find yourself nodding your head in agreement as you read this book. If you don’t, you will still come away having learned something about your own preferences. But the book will help everyone become more critical and informed TV consumers.

Coffee notes for July 18, 2019

Self-driving cars are way in the future: “Several carmakers and technology companies have concluded that making autonomous vehicles is going to be harder, slower and costlier than they thought.”

Gmail spam filters have gotten worse. They used to be so reliable I could simply ignore my spam filter. Now I have so many false positives my spam has to be reviewed every day. Many of the emails sent to the folder don’t have any obvious spam qualities and clicking “not spam” does nothing to keep subsequent emails from the same sender from being marked as spam.

Despite recycling the same monster and general plot, season 3 of Stranger Things is my favorite so far. It may be because of all the 80s movie references.

Tuesday journal

Daniel Milnor posts a thoughtful essay on “competitive travel.” I don’t agree with everything he says, but this should get you thinking about what motivates you to travel. Related: Travel photos are underrated.

The study claiming Google made $4.7 billion from news is incredibly flimsy.

Cory Doctorow says regulating tech companies only makes them stronger. He suggests fostering competition by making it legal for third parties to interoperate with big-tech data.

Every HBO show ranked. Last place is 1st & Ten. First place is The Sopranos.

With the festival just a few days away, here is a list of printable Bonnaroo schedules. This year is supposed to be the first to sell out since 2013. Related is this story from the UCF magazine Pegasus: Why I am a festival kid.

Elspeth Diederix’s photo exhibition When Red Disappears explores life on the seabed of the coast of the Netherlands at depths where the color red begin to vanish from the visible spectrum. The photos resemble oil paintings.

Designed to imitate the look of park signs carved using a router, the National Park Typeface has a clean, retro look. And it’s free.

Using RapidWeaver to rebuild a site

I rebuilt the Historic Stock website today using RapidWeaver 8. The site isn’t big enough to warrant a full blown CMS like WordPress or Drupal. But manually coding every time I wanted to make a change was going to be a pain. RapidWeaver allows me to periodically tweek or add content without too much heavy lifting. The learning curve wasn’t too great and can be applied to other projects.

When I bought RapidWeaver it was $24 cheaper to purchase through the Mac App Store, rather than directly from RapidWeaver. So be sure to check. And you will need to purchase two addons to get the full benefit of the program. Both Stacks and Foundry are necessary to give you full design control. But with all of those components in place I should be able to publish any design I’d like without too much hassle.

You can no longer share Audible audio clips

The share option has disappeared from Audible audio clips.

Audible has an option that allows listeners to select and save a 30 second clip like a bookmark. Back in March 2016 there were a number of stories online touting the ability to share those clips on social media. It’s a nice little feature and I would think a good way to help market audiobooks. There is even an Audible video showing how to do it.

But while trying to share an audio clip today I went around in circles looking for the share option. Searching online and Audible’s help files turned up nothing but mentions of the mysterious ability to share. As it turns out, sometime between March 2016 and now that ability quietly slipped away and is no longer available in the app.

I confirmed with an Audible support representative that audio clips are no longer shareable: “I am sorry, currently this feature is not available. You can only save them but cannot share them.” Too bad.

While Google and Facebook have siphoned ad dollars away from all publishers, local news publishers have been the hardest hit. The tech giants suck up 77% of the digital advertising revenue in local markets, compared to 58% on a national level, according to estimates from Borrell Associates and eMarketer.

The Wall Street Journal

Friday afternoon coffee reads

A regular roundup of interesting stories to enjoy with your Friday morning afternoon coffee.

  1. Haruki Murakami’s new novel declared ‘indecent’ by Hong Kong censors.
  2. Why are there so many suckers? A neuropsychologist explains.
  3. Every law is violent.
  4. Audience member steps in to save performance of La Boheme at Royal Opera House.
  5. Five grammar mistakes even the best writers make.
  6. Reflecting on 9 years living in China.
  7. Billy Joel may never write another song.
  8. The 50 highest-paid musicians.
  9. Stephen King is going through a cinematic renaissance, thanks to directors who grew up as fans.
  10. Mel Brooks at 92.