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Penultimate 2011 post -- eventually I'll get to 2012!

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I have a little... harem of small electronic devices. Besides my cheap free cell phone, I have an iPod Touch (4th gen I think?), a 3rd-gen Kindle, and an iPad 2. The first I bought myself, and the second and third were presents from my family. 2011 was also the year of the e-reader for me; it was the year I went from primarily a print reader to primarily an e-reader user. (Most of my books are still read in print, but before this year I would complain when I couldn't get them in print and had to use an e-reader, while at this point I am more likely to complain that I can't get them on e-reader.) Here is what I think of them (biased strongly towards my experience with them as a mother of a small child): )


Jul. 18th, 2011 08:10 pm
cahn: (Default)
I just got my spotify invite. This is... really cool. It's like pandora, only way cooler because you can get the songs you want when you want them! And it has a lot of stuff. You know me, I don't do pop music, I was asking it for various operas and oratorio and musical soundtracks, and while it didn't have tons of super obscure stuff it had quite a lot, more than Pandora (which thinks a steady diet of Mozart operas ought to keep me happy, and while I admit that I'd rather have a steady diet of those than any other composer's operas, it's not good enough), and enough to keep me happy for quite a while. Yay Ian Bostridge listening! And the sharing music feature means that [ profile] liuzhia and I are going to go a little crazy, I suspect, if I can convince her to sign on.

It's been in Europe for a while, and just got to the US last week; people can sign up for an invite here.
cahn: (Default)
So for Christmas (yeah, my family doesn't do delayed gratification; we had Christmas presents in September because we all had things we wanted) I got a kindle 3! It is much nicer than the previous kindle iterations; in particular I and my wrists are quite pleased that the page turn buttons are much easier to turn, and for some of my applications (reading while the baby's eating) it is extremely useful that the page turn buttons are almost silent. It is still basically impossible to do anything other than read sequentially through a book, which is lame.

It is registered to my sister's account so I get to read all the books my sister is dying for me to read. She has been into dystopias lately, hence the following:

Birthmarked (O'Brien) - Message (maybe -- there are a number of hints that the author is gearing up to display a rebuttal in the next book): Life is sacred and we shouldn't be killing babies or telling people who to marry, even if they want to marry siblings! Huh. I liked it better than the Hunger Games books, mostly because there is some indication that the author knows that the dangerously naive main character is, in fact, dangerously naive, and doesn't think this is necessarily a good thing. Or maybe I'm too optimistic? This is the first in a trilogy, and I am suspending judgement until the next book as to whether the above message is really what the author is trying to convey. It also suffers from a bit of first-book clunkiness, but not overly so.

Unwind (Shusterman) - Message: The alternative to being pro-choice is killing 16-year-old kids. Huh. I don't quite know what to say about this book. I found it compelling. I did really like it. The writing is quite a bit more transparent and flowing than Birthmarked, in the sense that I never felt like I had to move past the writing to get immersed in the story. That being said, the premise is pretty much incredibly ridiculous, not to mention anvilicious (there is actually a conversation late in the book as to when life begins. Really!), and almost offensive to me, which really hampered my enjoyment of the book. The most offensive to me is the idea of "storking" -- in this book it is legal to stick your kid on a random doorstep. For some reason, probably because I know what my friends had to go through to get licensed to adopt, this really rubbed me the wrong way. But the book also gets points for an extremely chilling scene near the end. So... I dunno... if you're pro-choice and don't mind being beaten about the head with straw men, you might like it. Otherwise, you still might as long as you ignore the anvilicious bits. Of these three I found it the most compelling and the most inspiring of strong feeling -- even though some of these feelings were negative, I think that shows that he got some things right (otherwise I wouldn't care).

The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Pearson) - Message: Stop giving people antibiotics for stupid reasons! I liked it, and of the three the message is the most muted/least anvilicious. Plus which I actually agree with the point about antibiotics. It also has a fair amount about the role of government, which it treats in a relatively nonjudgemental way. Of the three I found it the least problematic and with the best treatment of the issues it's interested in, although not as compelling a read as Unwind.
cahn: (Default)
I got an iPod Touch for, umm, a Christmas/baby-birthday present. It is the most awesome thing ever, not least because right now (and February was really, really bad this way) I spend fairly large amounts of every day in somewhat odd positions where I have one (or fewer) arms free and using a computer would be rather awkward. It was super awesome to have in the hospital.

I have two book-reading programs on it, kindle-for-iphone and stanza. Before I compare the two, I must say that reading on the iPod is a very different experience - because the screen is so small I am forced to read every word. Including descriptions. It's too much trouble to keep turning pages otherwise. This has borne home to me how little of a book I actually read the first time, and is rather embarrassing. D, of course, thought this was hilarious, the same way he thought it was hilarious that when we read Lord of the Rings together a couple of years ago (and I had to read every word because I had to wait for him to finish pages) I was shocked that Prince Imrahil showed up before the Pelennor Fields, at which I had this idea that he had appeared out of thin air. Because everything up till then is only worth skimming, you know?

Anyway. Stanza blows kindle out of the water. It is (almost) everything I feel that e-reader software should be -- the interface is very intuitive, it lets you do everything you want to do easily, turning pages is great, it lets you go to different chapters in an easy and intuitive way, there is a bar at the bottom of the screen that tells you how far into the book you are.

The Kindle software appears not to have been designed by anyone who actually reads books, or, at least, not the way I read them. If there is a way to group books together, I don't know what it is. (Granted, i haven't spent much time figuring it out.) Doing things like changing fonts is rather more fiddly and not as nice. I also don't know how to go to different chapters. Kindle has this weird system of numbered markers that not only bears no resemblance to anything like a chapter, the markers don't show up while you are reading, so it's anyone's guess what number you are actually at at any given time. GAH.

But then, amazon has going for it that it has all sorts of nifty books on it, so I have actually bought one or two from them. But anything that's available epub that I feel like I have to have, I'm totally getting in that format. (So far this has mainly included a lot of free books and only one book I have actually paid for, but, well.)
cahn: (Default)
As a result of Christmas with [ profile] nolly, we played four hands of Fluxx last night; also, our kitchen table features both very cheerful flowers with a butterfly draped over them as well as a gingerbread house with a gingerbread kid named Mary Sue (with violet candy eyes and orange gumdrop hair) hanging precariously from the roof of the house clutching one end of a strand of candy lights. We are very pleased.

Also, I have a bag of shower presents (among other things, the babylet is going to learn to count in binary before base 10... have I mentioned lately we are going to make this one screwed-up kid?) which makes me want to smile and tear up with happy tears at the same time.

Less pleasing was the kitchen mishap we had Christmas Eve, involving our refrigerator having duck blood leaked all over it and my shattering one of the washed-but-previously-blood-stained glass refrigerator shelves on the kitchen floor. D was unhappy but absolutely wonderful at cleaning up (after I broke the glass I got restricted a bit from clean-up duty). However, D is today pleased at the ultimate result, which is leftover pizza for lunch from the resulting Christmas Eve takeout.

Oh, and as another direct result of this weekend, I am starting on China Mieville (I started Perdido Street Station, but my library hold on City and the City came in today, so I'll probably do that one first.)

kindle 2

Mar. 19th, 2009 09:35 am
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Yeah, so, I've been busy with frivolosities, and I'm not going to post more than once more until after the Kid's wedding on 4 April. Meanwhile, I've been playing with gadgets! Just the kindle today so I can get it out for [ profile] julianyap, though I may quickly post on cameras in the near future.

A really wonderful co-worker let me borrow his kindle 2 for a couple of days. (He's a tech geek, not a lit geek, so only really bought it for travel.) Oh, man, I so wanted to like this. Some of it is awesome. The free web access? Worth the purchase price. The amazon store easy access is both really great and also will make a mint for amazon once I get one of these things.

But. BUT. The buttons are lame, more like pushing a (rather hard) mouse button and not at all like tapping an Ipod button, which is what it should be like. Since I have longstanding struggles with RSI, this was by itself a dealbreaker. If I wanted to push a mouse button to turn a page, I'd read on my computer.

Also, I do not read linearly. I read a page, wonder if the protagonist is going to die, flip to the end, decide I can read further since the protagonist still seems to be alive, realize I may have missed a Clew a chapter back, remember that oh, wait, something that was said at the very beginning was relevant... On the Kindle, you have to access a menu to flip to different parts. A menu! ...No.

And yet... once I gave it back to my co-worker, I missed it. I missed being able to carry lots of books in one package. I missed having (free!) web access all the time. I missed being able to download free sample chapters on practically anything that struck my fancy. I missed not struggling with a huge hardback book on the reading rack on the exercise machine. Bah.
cahn: (ase-blue-tallis)
-lilypond, which is something like LaTeX for music writing. Like LaTeX, there is a distinct and rather annoying learning curve, and once you get past that you're like "wow this rocks like crazy!" It would take me a lot to get back to a GUI-based score program. (Is there a way for me to post pdf's in LJ so I can show off my shiny new SAA arrangement of "Lo how a rose"? Thing is, I get asked to do these things for church but I can't find any arrangements I want, and it turns out to be easier for me just to write my own darn arrangement...)

-Audacity, which I've been using for a while to record lessons but which I just used to record myself singing the three-part arrangement I made in lilypond to see whether it actually worked or not (I think it does).

-Trader Joe's truffle cheese and goat-cheese with honey. I so totally thought they were gimmicky, but since I had to get refreshments for a recital... Turns out they are both my Platonic Cheese! (How can I have two platonic cheeses? Shut up!)
cahn: (Default)
Things I have loved madly recently:

-Pandora. A fairly good selection, actually, of Renaissance choral stuff (yay!), German art songs, and obscure Broadway; and a terrible selection of violin soloists.

-GIMP. Who needs Photoshop?

-Liquid Rescale for GIMP. Wow. Utter coolness.

-LaTeX. Given the necessary evil of proposal-writing, at least one can do it in a relatively painless way.

-Mark Bittman's The Minimalist Cooks Dinner. Really simple recipes that taste delicious-- see below; also, an incredibly wonderful sauce for salmon that involves lightly browning garlic in olive oil and adding dried tarragon and sherry vinegar to the warm garlicly olive oil (basically, to taste, but let's say 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar... if anyone cares I'll try to look up the exact quantities tonight). I have no idea why this is so good-- it didn't sound that interesting, but it's spectacular!

-Frozen raw shrimp (also from Bittman). I have always been scared of cooking shrimp. Now I do not know why. Thaw 1 lb of Trader Joe raw shrimp (he recommends shelled, which I used) in the refrigerator overnight and fry it in a medium-size frying pan under medium heat with 1/8 cup olive oil, a tsp cumin, a tsp paprika, salt to taste, pepper, until pink (and the backs are clearly cooked), turning once, don't overcook too much (though you have some leeway). It is better than ANY restaurant shrimp I have EVER had (though to be fair I don't think I usually order shrimp at expensive restaurants).

-Courtesy of xkcd, Federal Reserve Skateboard: A Short Story. Complete with totally awesome surprise ending! The absolute best thing (perhaps only good thing) to come out of the current financial crisis.

-Sarah Rees Brennan's YA short story "An Old-Fashioned Unicorn's Guide to Courtship." It is no big secret that I read anything [ profile] mistful writes. I'd probably read her laundry list if she decided to post it, because I have confidence that she'd make it hilarious. YMMV; my sense of humor lines up fairly precisely with what she writes.

"Courtship" has the familiar Brennan traits of general hilarity ("The Dowager Duchess Whyte had skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony and a nose as red as blood, probably because of the secret drinking."), the minor-character-stereotypes-taken-to-hysterical-absurdity, the fantasy romance that's actually kind of sort of based on something, and while I'm laughing and not quite paying attention, I feel an odd shiver and realize she has happily been cutting up my heart into pieces. This, being a short story, didn't really have time to cut it up very much... maybe just a couple of nicks. You couldn't make someone human and let them be hurt.

(Also, an accountant named Miles! Who likes making plans! Was that an intentional reference?)
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I'm finally getting caught up on my entries here. This is something I wrote Memorial Day weekend, when D and I went to Tennessee and I got to meet his mom's family, which was a lot of fun.

D's grandmother is 98 and still totally sharp. She still whupped all of us at Scrabble. Boy, I hope he got some of those genes. She's also an advertisement for having lots of kids-- she had six. It was fantastic to see her grinning, surrounded by loving family, lots of them. All true wealth is biological-- for the first time I really viscerally got that. It also worked out very well practically-- three of them moved away, but three are still living near her and help her a lot so that she can live independently like she wants. (They'd actually be willing to help her more, but she is independent enough that she doesn't want to ask.) Of course, from all accounts she was Super-Mom, which I am pretty certain I will not be. But most of the people I know (as usual, I have to put the caveat: except the Mormons) aren't really planning to have a bunch of kids, so it's neat to see someone for whom it really worked very well.

So D's immediate family is ultra-normal-- like, Norman Rockwell WASP normal, so normal it's actually kind of weird; family dinners and long car trips to national parks when they were little and packages of cookies sent to the kids on their birthdays. I don't think I know any other families that are that stereotypical normal. I always kind of wondered how D came out of that family; it's not that he isn't normal... well... okay, maybe it is. Although he's far on the normal end for how geeky he is, and he looks like a perfectly normal sort of guy, he is definitely waaaay out on the geeky end. Like, he works math problems (old USAMO tests) in his spare time. He knows more about The Lord of the Rings than I do. ([personal profile] nolly knows how many copies we have between us. It's a little embarrassing.)

But now that I've met his mom's family, I understand better where D came from. They are all super nice and really cool people, but all a little weird as well-- all obsessive, like D is about math/physics/Perl. One of the brothers is totally obsessive about an engine that he has a patent on. At least one of the other ones is obsessive about physics in general. One of the sisters is obsessive about crafts. D's mom, now that I think about it some more, is obsessive about languages (I think she speaks all the Romance languages, well enough to teach them to high-schoolers) and doing family things (photo albums, reunions, etc). The guys in the family are all engineer types; I don't think I can really call them geeks because they're too old, but they are definitely prototypes.

I also found out that D and his brother and sister all know the Greek alphabet in order, even though his siblings aren't in technical fields now. (His sister was at one point but is now in medicine.) This made me feel totally inadequate in my geek credentials. In fact, although I know all the Greek letters, I don't have a whole lot of idea what order they go in-- that's not usually necessary for physics problems, darn it!
cahn: (Default)
Were I still in academia, I could have published this paper I'm writing with my friend/colleague KB today on the preprint server. Since it has to go through various levels of corporate and governmental approvals, even though it is a physics paper and no one on the approval committees will understand enough of it to know whether it should be impounded (it shouldn't), it will take at least a month. ARGH.

I'm particularly annoyed because we were kind of scooped, and each day that passes makes it a little harder for the defense of "We did it independently!" to ring true. And it is true. It's not a disaster, because our analysis is better (not that I'm biased, or anything), and once their paper came out we were able to answer some of their "unanswered" questions, which always feels good. But still.

KB's been awesome about it, though. Even though neither of us is getting paid for writing this stupid paper, which is starting to become really annoying for both of us.


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