Monday, July 30, 2012

Computer Joey: Android Tablet Reviews

( #nexus7 #kindlefire )



I did a video review of 3 different android-based tablets that I currently own:
Asus Nexus 7
Kindle Fire
Toshiba Thrive

My intent was to point out the positive features in each rather than expose tons of flaws. If you are in the market for a new tablet, I hope this helps you make a decision.

PS: I have been beta testing more videos on the site the last few weeks, let me know if you like the new media/content.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern

( @justin_halpern )



I knocked out Justin Halpern's "I Suck at Girls" in a few days and it was a very quick and enjoyable read. I haven't read Halpern's previous book "Sh*t My Dad Says" and frankly avoided it after seeing three seconds of the William Shatner TV show...

For Reference:


Forgetting the TV show, Halpern has a comfortable conversational style to his writing and I greatly appreciated the fact that he doesn't stretch his word count to make his publisher happy. The book tells the story of Justin's failed romances leading to the day he proposes to his girlfriend. The stories are endearing and makes you root for a happy ending.

Halpern's father (from the previously mentioned "Sh*t my Dad Says") plays a major role in the book which (I think) holds the book back. The man's comments and insights are humorous and spot on, but the book really didn't need it to tell the story. I would be happy to read Mr. Halpern's observations in the other book, but I feel "I Suck at Girls" didn't need Justin's dad to stand on its own.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Concert Review: Wilco and Avett Bros @ Camden Water Front

( @wilco, @theavettbros )

Opening Act: Dr. Dog
Venue: Susquehanna Bank Center - Camden, NJ
Date: Saturday, July 21st, 2012

NOTE: I didn't take any pictures of video because it just seems kind of stupid to take crappy grainy pictures or poor quality audio. So I will post some quality videos I find on the net so you get the idea.

[Dr. Dog]

Website: DrDogMusic.com


Dr. Dog is a Philadelphia based band that I got turned on to a few years ago. I thought they were good band but honestly never really gave their albums much thought after that first spin. That was a mistake. This band thrives playing on stage. Their material totally popped in the live setting - it was dynamic and LOUD (my chest was thumping during the entire set). I was impressed with their set, but I do wish they could have stepped up the on-stage banter for their hometown audience (but I suspect they had extremely limited time on stage with the other acts).

[The Avett Brothers]

Website: TheAvettBrothers.com


Frequent readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of The Avett Brothers. These guys have been touring non-stop for the last few years and are still pumping out excellent material. The band's live shows are what makes them special: they have a excellent work ethic and they bust their asses on stage. This was the fifth time I have seen the band and they still exceed my expectations (they are not resting on their success).

The band played for about 90 minutes and they were bouncing around the entire time. I am not going to run down the entire set list, but they hit all of the fan favorites with a nice mix of all of their albums. They closed the set with "Kick Drum Heart" but did an epic southern rock style jam at the end which was an interesting (and welcome) new element to their live show.

I honestly feel that The Avett Brothers are the best live act in the country right now. Go see them if you have the chance.

Previous Avett Brother Reviews:

[Wilco]

Website: WilcoWorld.net


It took about 40 minutes for the stage crew to move the Avett's equipment and set up Wilco's stage. They had these pieces of fabric hanging down in long knots (like 20-30 foot lengths) - they were on the stage the entire night and I was wondering what they were for. Turns out the band had images projected on the ropes for a very cool effect during their set.

Jeff Tweedy was not in a mellow mood, the band came out on the stage ready to singe faces. The first 6 songs were very loud. I honestly don't know what the opening song was - wait checking the internet - "Art of Almost" - I am not sure if there was an actual melody to that tune, just sound. Hell of a way to wake up the audience. I appreciated the rocked out/artistic set because it was an excellent contrast to the Avetts.

Unfortunately, I couldn't stay the entire concert because we had a baby to go home to (this was our first time leaving him with a sitter). Fun Side Note: There was a couple that brought their two young children to the show sitting right in front of us, they made it half-way through the Avett's set before they left. Note to self: Resist the temptation to take son to concert until he is potty trained. We cut out during "Hate It Here" which was sad, but I appreciate the band coming to the Philadelphia area and putting a damn fine effort on stage.

Previous Wilco Reviews:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Willis H. Carrier: Hero

( #AirConditioning, #hero )



As we clean off our grills and buy our hot dogs for the coming 4th of July celebrations, I would like to celebrate something SOMEONE else: Willis H. Carrier.

Who the hell is Willis H. Carrier?

He invented the modern form of air conditioning. Do I even need to say anything else? How is this man's name not celebrated with Bell, Telsa, and Marconi?
The Cornell grad's July 1902 innovation at age 25 helped a Brooklyn printing company deal with vexing humidity and temperature issues. By the Roasting 1920s, trains, theaters, department stores and even Congress (never short on hot air) began installing air-conditioning systems made possible by the steady flow of Carrier's work.
People who enjoy taking shots at my home state will be saddened to know that the first commercial air conditioning factory was established in Newark, NJ (by Carrier and a group of friends). Due to the Wall Street crash of 1929, Carrier's company had to merge with a few others (with Carrier taking on the Chairman position), but eventually the company recovered and grew. The economic boom of World War II brought air conditioning into American homes.

It should be noted that a man named Stuart H. Cramer actually came up with the term "Air Conditioning" for a process he developed to keep humidity out of yarn in textile plants. Carrier called it "treating air". He also did not create the first means to cool the interior of a building, but his methods and patents were the first safe and successful methods. Carrier's formulas still stand today as the basis in all fundamental calculations for the air conditioning industry.

Every American should know the name of Willis H. Carrier and thank him every time the sweat behind their knees fades away.

Read More:
Wikipedia
NPR: Too Hot? No Cooler Time to Honor the Steve Jobs of AC

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Book Review: Blackout by Mira Grant

( #newsflesh, #blackout )



I wasn't sure if I was going to read the third and final book in Mira Grant's "Newsflesh" trilogy, but then Anthony Bourdain's tales of kitchen mishaps had me seeking shelter from reality. I did not react favorably to the 2nd book ("Deadline") but I decided to give Grant a chance to see if she ended on a good note.

WARNING: There will be spoilers about the trilogy in this review, read at your own risk...

"Blackout" is better than "Deadline" but does not deliver on the potential that "Feed" established. The plot has some problems. Grant fully commits to the concept of "Cloned George". I didn't like the decision to bring the character back, but Grant fully commits to the idea and concept which I respect.

The first 50% of the book essentially makes the events of "Deadline" somewhat pointless. Grant makes references to the second book, but outside of revealing George was cloned and a larger CDC conspiracy at play, nothing else really carried over. Most of these pages are spent trying to get the reader to accept "Cloned George" as the real deal. Grant makes the character doubt her own authentication as a means to endear her to the readers, but then has every character say "oh, we accept you now after three seconds of doubt - GLAD TO HAVE YOU BACK!".

The reasoning for her cloning is weak... something about making America trust the news she is saying even though she is a clone and the big reveal is backed up by all the other characters having multiple cameras filming the entire exchange. At the start of "Blackout" Shaun's crew have two clear missions:
1. Get Alric's sister out of Florida (which has a massive zombie outbreak due to artificially created insects that now carry the virus).
2. Get fake IDs from a character named "the monkey"

The main characters don't accomplish either task and I feel like there was a lot of pages wasted to conclude those points. I would not mention this if Grant was above using short cuts in other sections of the book. Shaun finds "Cloned George" completely by accident. There was no way that could or should have happened. It would have been easy for Grant to modify a few points to make Shaun end up at the Seattle CDC with more purpose.

Then there is the whole reveal that George and Shaun (adopted brother and sister) are hooking up. Yes, while reading the first book, I definitely got the vibe that something was going on, but Grant didn't push it. That was the right call. I feel like she succumbed to pressure to put those two characters together. She could have left it vague and let the readers decide for themselves. There is also issue of Shaun's immunity to the virus due to his "interactions" with George v1.0.

On the positive side - Grant downplays the zombies in this book in favor of character development, which I totally agree with. The zombies are a background threat at all times (and useful plot devices to add danger), but she allow her previous work to set the stage and focused on finishing the story. I also appreciated the fact that there is a conclusion to this story. A clear conclusion. If you factor out the major weaknesses that I just brought up, the story actually comes to a satisfying end. This in itself caused an issue: the story's beats fell exactly where they should have so the "big reveal" was a little flat, but organic. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" pretty much sums it all up.

I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the voice in Shaun's head. I called this out in the last review as a writer's crutch, but when "Cloned George" shows up, things get weird as Shaun has conversations with the George in his head and also the clone. Then the voice goes quiet for a while but starts to get loud again towards the end but gets all possessive and suicidal - and then never gets mentioned again.

This review is a little more critical than I intended it to be because I liked this book much more than the 2nd installment, I just feel that it could have been better. It also confirmed my comments about "Deadline" not really needing to exist. "Deadline" and "Blackout" would have been much better trimmed down and presented as one book, but I don't fault Grant from needing to make a living.

My recommendation is to read "Feed" and then skip to this book. Anything you need to know about "Deadline" you can find out within a few chapters. Grant's attempts to stay ahead of the readers by setting up missions that completely get derailed are commendable but sloppy. Ultimately, she does a decent job at finishing what she started but never quite lives up to the promise of the first book.