Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nikon Coolpix P80 10.1MP Digital Camera with 18x Wide Angle Optical Vibration Reduction Zoom

I've owned this camera for over a year now and have experienced NO problems with it whatsoever. It is jam-packed with settings and options, programmable f/stop, ISO, etc..., battery life is good, picture quality is excellent! I've taken some full-zoom shots of the full moon with this camera that came out stunning and really surprised me that I could get such great detail. If you are in the market for a camera that offers a lot of features you would expect to find on an expensive Digital SLR camera, I suggest you take a look at this one.

The only con's with this camera is that I would have loved a swiveling view screen, this would be handy. Although this is a point and shoot camera, it is styled like a DSLR camera, which makes it a little less portable than your typical point and shoot.

I take a lot of nature shots and this camera does a great job with closeups as well as distance shots. I've also filmed some hockey games with this and the sport mode does a great job of capturing the action and shooting in video mode is great too.

I would not hesitate to recommend this camera to anyone seeking my opinion.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kindle Now Just $189

I never thought I would buy an electronic device to read books, but I saw someone in jury duty have this and I was floored! I wanted it and this has been a pretty good recent purchase so far. And this is going to be the norm very soon. I used to buy hardcover/paperback books, usually from Amazon, but rarely got to read them. I just had a hard time in general with ever getting to them. However, after purchasing the Kindle, I read a book in about three days. With the Kindle, I feel like I read faster and are more interested in reading in general.

It is very cool. I just wish some of the books were cheaper, but they are usually cheaper than buying in paperback so I shouldn't complain. All in all, this is a really cool and efficient item. You will not want to go back to paperback. Why would you? Any book you feel like reading at any given time is right under your fingertips. And the people I asked were right when they told me your eyes won't strain because they don't (I sometimes have a problem with that). I would say the only gripe is no backlight and not much organization with the book lists.

But really...these are pretty minor compared to the overall item. Just waiting for my case now so I can have an even better reading experience.

I would highly recommend this item...more so now that it is only $189!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

First, Gwynne's book booms with rhetorical crescendos, especially the language of super-grandiosity: "most hostile," "most remote, primitive," "most violent and warlike on the continent," "at the edge of the known universe," "a vast, trackless, and featureless ocean of grass." Many of these phrases paint the Comanches or the Quahadis in the most extreme colors. I'm never clear, in the view of the horrid deeds of Anglos, why the Comanches are the "hostiles." Why are they the "savage" ones? Or, if we are all savage, then why use such a meaningless, undifferentiating term at all?

Gwynne's research is extensive, and I appreciate the fact that he has actually walked the earth of which he writes--the Pease River Battle area and others. However, unlike Pekka Hamalainen's The Comanche Empire, Gwynne's book does not reflect the insights of Spanish and Mexican historians and historical records. Though he probes beyond the conventional sources into Comanche life and biography, his tone still betrays an ethnocentric bias reminiscent of Walter Prescott Webb (The Texas Rangers) and T.R. Ferhrenbach (Comanches). This betrayal, for me, occurs most tellingly in his bibliographical note: "[Walter Prescott Webb's] work on the Texas Rangers remains definitive." This is absurd. Webb relies on the Rangers' own accounts to tell their story. Surprise, then, that the Rangers are such tough, resolute patriots. Gwynne should check into the views of Americo Paredes and others before canonizing Webb as the definitive source on the Rangers. The "rinches" were certainly not heroic to most Mexican Americans. And any "definitive" account should, I would think, exhaust all possible perspectives.

Again, I share Gwynne's fascination for the Comanches. I grew up near the headwaters of the Pease River (though the "headwaters" barely amount to a trickle any longer), and I have come to empathize (from reading of them and walking where they walked) with the Comanche life along the Caprock Escarpment and on the Llano Estacado. Too often Gwynne's fascination lapses into grandiose diction, always urging our spines to tingle at the immensities, vastnesses, and horrors. I, too, think the Comanches played a significant role as a kind of "empire" in the southern plains. But the case must be made in clear interpretation and plainsong, not shrill insistence. And I think it's time to stop calling American Indians "hostiles" or using the word casually (with "savage") as an adjective. Any proud people surrounded by enemies and threatened with extinction will become hostile, I assume. And the enemies and their threats of extinction are quite hostile, too.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Overton Window

Getting the obvious out of the way first, I'm a Glenn Beck fan. I definitely enjoyed reading this book because it kept me interested for the majority of the way through it. It got a little tough to read in the middle parts, with the dialogue bordering on preachy. You will recognize much of his rhetoric from his previous books, his show on Fox News and his radio show. Depending on your take of his projected views, you will either like it or it'll set off your gag reflex.

The plot was interesting but way out in left field. He makes no secret about making his own efforts to shift the Overton Window in our own minds to help us gain perspective on more plausible outcomes when the government seeks more power over our lives.

I'd say if you're a big Beck fan, The Overton Window is a must read. If you're not, be prepared to roll your eyes all the way though. I know that's what I do when I read the Huffington Post. I recommend reading this book. It never hurts to learn more about your enemies and your allies.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win

Dave & Wendy Ulrich have produced not just a guide for becoming a better leader and organization but they have created a way for all of us to ask 7 core questions of ourselves on our journey to a more abundant life.

The key highlight for me early in the book is when it is written that "When we find meaning in our work, we find meaning in Life". It was then that I realized that this was not just another book that will help me find better balance in my work but in my life. We do spend more time at work than anywhere else and to think that the two can be managed separately is crazy! This book brings the two together in a meaningful and thoughtful way.

Wrapped around 7 key questions makes the book an easy read and perfect road map to happier work and a more meaningful relationships in and out of work. My favourite question is "What Delights Me?". What a wonderful way to identify what we really value and what makes us happy.

I recommend it for reading by business leaders, future business leaders and anyone looking for a more meaningful and abundant life!

Well done Dave & Wendy and thank you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python, 2nd Edition

I picked up a copy of this book and was in all honesty blown away by how easy the concepts of python are introduced to the reader in a clear and concise manner. The fact that you are also making small little games with your programs throughout this book helps with motivation as tasks get harder and harder - it keeps it all fun while learning. I was not completely new to the Python programming lingo and have covered some of the basics through a Java course a few years back, never the less this book is a great resource to brush up on the skills.

I actually ran into some trouble here and there as the first online edition I read wasn't completely up to date with some changes in Python - I e-mailed the author and got great personal help to advance further - that was of course much appreciated as well. Unlike The Quick Python Book which we reviewed last month. We are still waiting to hear from the author despite numerous emails asking him to clarify some chapters for us.

All over I am very satisfied and would gladly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning Python at a light and entertaining pace. To give you an idea of how nice this book is, it is currently ranking at #4 on Amazon Bestseller list in Computing/Programming category.

If you fancy learning a language while programming a game at the same time, then this is the book for you. Besides, this is Python so you won't go wrong.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

In Malcolm Gladwell's second book, Blink, he looks at how first impressions, that within two seconds, our mind has been influenced, as Gladwell says "kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye".

The book investigates what is going on inside our heads when we engage in rapid cognition, in the two seconds, and how we should perhaps go with our intuition, which is often proven to be the correct decision, it is only when our subjective, reasoning mind, comes into play, that we get things wrong.

As always, Gladwell gives examples to explain in an entertaining and informative way, for example in a hospital emergency ward, medical staff are trained to look for less information, in NLP terms to stop "chunking down", for patients suffering with chest pains to hone in on just the few critical pieces of information, blood pressure and the ECG, ignoring everything else, like the patient's age and weight and medical history, resulting in a quicker diagnosis.

He writes about how a fire office's intuition told him that the fire fighters under his control were in a dangerous situation, and ordered them to withdraw, only to find that the building they were in collapsed. How did the fire officer know to issue the order to withdraw? By intuition, which can take many years to instil into the cognitive behaviour, to become implicit, automatic, so that we can react in the blink of the eye.

For people who are PhotoReading, why we should take the first idea or concept that comes into our mind when activating the book.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The new Microsoft Gets Social with New KIN Phones

While its awesome Courier tablet concept got cancelled recently, Microsoft is getting back into the hardware business (thanks to partnership with Sharp) with two new social networking-centric mobile phones. The uniquely square KIN ONE (seen here, you can see why it was codenamed Turtle) is joined by the more traditional candybar-style KIN TWO, and both feature capacitive touchscreen displays and slide-out QWERTY keyboards.

Running on the Verizon Wireless 3G network, they're powered by the new Windows Phone OS for KIN, which creates a flowing magazine-like interface called the Loop that pulls together all of your social networking outlets--including Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. It also provides an innovative way of sharing content by dragging posts, web pages, locations found via Bing (remember, this is a Microsoft product), and more to a colored spot at the bottom center of the phone. Once content is dragged, you can then choose how to send it (email or text message) and its recipients.

TheStreetTV YouTube channel has a pretty good overview of what this new interface is like:

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Passage

"Epic horror" isn't something you hear of very often, unlike "epic fantasy" or "historical epic." But Justin Cronin seems to have done just that in "The Passage," the first book of a new horror trilogy that seems to be equal parts Stephen King and "The Road" -- a gloriously bleak, imaginative book that drags on in places.

It's honestly hard to summarize a book like this, since Cronin hops around between different people, different time periods, and different places. A little girl named Amy is left by her mother at a convent, only for her to be snatched away by a tormented FBI agent. At the same time, the government is attempting a new experiment that might wipe out disease completely and prolong life -- resulting in eleven insectile "vampires."

Of course, something goes horribly wrong. And over the century following that experiment, American civilization is ravaged by packs of vampires ("dracs" or "virals"), leaving the few remaining humans struggling to survive. The one hope for humanity against the vampires is none other than Amy, still a young child who shares a unique tie to the blood-drinking monsters...

"The Passage" is one of the most unique vampire books in years -- it's part military conspiracy, part post-apocalyptic tale, and part vampire horror. And best of all, it reads like a Guillermo del Toro story filtered through the genius of Stephen King -- no drippy "Twilight" romanticism or glamour.

And Cronin's formidable prose is up to the challenge of writing a hundred-year post-apocalyptic horror epic. He writes in a detailed, gritty style that sprawls over several different narratives, sprinkled with moments of poetry ("the spreading darkness, like a black wing stretching over the earth") and lots of ghastly creepiness (oh, the vampires!). The only problem is that with a book this huge, there are times when the story sags and slows down.

And as you'd expect in a true horror story, the vampires here aren't gothic hunks or sparkly bishies -- they're grotesque, glowing, insectile monsters that tear their victims apart. But they're not truly the center of the story -- Cronin uses them as the prism through which we see that mortality isn't that bad, and that the human spirit is indomitable when it has something really horrible to fight against.

"The Passage" is a rare bestselling novel -- an epic, slightly bloated expanse of horror, science and post-apocalyptic adventure that leaves you breathless. Justin Cronin just won the crown.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

To be honest, it's a little hard for me to write an objective review of this book. Why? Because in the spring of 2009, I visited the corporate offices of Zappos and was WOW'ed by Tony Hsieh and the other masters of happiness there. When it comes to happiness, I've seen how Tony Hsieh delivers.

In Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, Tony Hsieh shares his quest for conscious success with authenticity and insight. From his unsuccessful stint as a child worm farmer to the days of "torture" at Link Exchange to the financial uncertainty of the early Zappos days, Tony doesn't pretend that profits and purpose came via a magic wand.

Instead, Tony shows us - in detail - how he journeyed from the land of the disheartening corporation to the promised land of purpose and profits. And along the way, he helps us remember that it's OK to have fun and be a little weird. For instance, in a section of his life where he is trying to figure out what makes him happy, Tony says:

"Pickles make me happy. I'm still unclear why. I think it's just because they are obviously delicious and I enjoy saying "pickles"."

Transparency reigns in Delivering Happiness. One example is when Tony shares exactly where the money to grow Zappos came from as well as the times when they weren't sure if it would come at all. Another example is the company's internal newsletter called Ask Anything. In it, employees are given the opportunity to ask whatever is on their minds - from "Where do you see us in 3 years?" to "How much does Zappos spend on shipping in any given month?" to "Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?"

This book is an honest and compelling look at the journey to conscious success. I highly recommend it to anyone who cares about making a profit while living their purpose.

The Passionate Programmer: Creating a Remarkable Career in Software Development

When I first purchased this book, I was expecting something a little more philosophical. What I ended up with was a to-do list. The book is broken down into 5 parts, and each part has about 10 little sections, each covering something you can do to improve your career as a software developer. These little sections make the book an easy read and the author writes very well - the entire book is very concise and easy to follow.

Some of the topics seem quite obvious (get a blog going, work on open source, etc) but he also covers topics that you may not have considered. Some of the topics I found most interesting have to do with changing your outlook on daily tasks. An example is to view your 8 hours at work as "only 8 hours." What can be accomplished in this short amount of time?

I've already begun doing some of the tasks mentioned in the book and have noticed an improvement in my performance at work. There's quite a bit of advice to follow and it all sounds pretty solid. I hope to try and incorporate as much as I can in my daily routine and so far, so good.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

If You're Not First, You're Last: Sales Strategies to Dominate Your Market and Beat Your Competition

IF YOU'RE NOT FIRST, YOU'RE LAST reads the catchy title of this book and if the reader is not careful about peeking into a motivationally challenging way of looking at success, the subtitle may go unnoticed: SALES STRATEGIES TO DOMINATE YOUR MARKET AND BEAT YOUR COMPETITION. Author/motivator Grant Cardone doesn't dance around issues. He confronts those fortunate enough to purchase this book with the fact that yes, the market is scary right now so gear up and take advantage of the opportunity that while colleagues may be cowering in fear, you can jump into the positive mode of thinking and come out on top.

'Problems are opportunities, and conquered opportunities equal money earned' is just one of the motivating phrases that jump off every page of this book. Topics such as 'An advance-and-conquer attitude', 'Why dominance means disregarding social norms', and 'How to deliver at "WOW" levels' may give an idea of the strengths of Cardone's writing, but at the same time Cardone won't allow his reader to simply buy another self-help book to stash on the shelf: he demands much of those smart enough to jump onto his rocket to success.

How to make use of this slow recession period is for this reader the most fascinating part of the book. Cardone presents schedules of how to manage each day in contacting potential clients, following through in manners that may seem a bit pushy at first reading until Pow! - there is Cardone's result table. 'Don't seek to satisfy; seek to wow. The more you wow, the less you have to promote - because others do it for you!' Citing too much of the information within this book would be unfair to the author and might discourage readers from buying into this book's powerhouse of motivation. Suffice it to say that this is one fascinating read, a book that is easy to digest and stimulating enough to make the reader incorporate that 'Yes I can' feeling.

Towards the end of this book Cardone summarizes his outlook: 'Be outrageous in your thinking, relentless in your execution, and unreasonable in your actions, and you too will advance and conquer. Read this book and you'll become a believer - and a successful one at that. Grady Harp, June 2

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Professional Cocoa Application Security

The first comprehensive security resource for Mac and iPhone developers
  The Mac platform is legendary for security, but consequently, Apple developers have little appropriate security information available to help them assure that their applications are equally secure. This Wrox guide provides the first comprehensive go-to resource for Apple developers on the available frameworks and features that support secure application development.
  • While Macs are noted for security, developers still need to design applications for the Mac and the iPhone with security in mind; this guide offers the first comprehensive reference to Apple’s application security frameworks and features
  • Shows developers how to consider security throughout the lifecycle of a Cocoa application, including how Mac and iPhone security features work and how to leverage them
  • Describes how to design, implement, and deploy secure Mac and iPhone software, covering how user configurations affect application security, the keychain feature, how to maximize filesystem security, how to write secure code, and much more
Professional Cocoa Application Security arms Apple developers with essential information to help them create Mac and iPhone applications as secure as the operating system they run on.

From the Back Cover

Design, implement, and deploy secure applications All applications face security threats, making security considerations an integral part of every stage of the software development process. With this book, Cocoa and Cocoa Touch developers can ensure that their applications provide a secure user experience by incorporating security measures from the start when designing an application. Author and Mac security guru Graham Lee encourages you to acquire a clear understanding of the objectives of your users so that you can conclude which security techniques will be relevant to your application.

He shows you how to take advantage of the many security resources available and provides helpful insight to avoiding security pitfalls and handling unexpected issues that may arise.
Professional Cocoa Application Security:
  • Details why security is important and provides rationale as to why you should secure your app
  • Introduces the UNIX filesystem and examines the Mac OS X-specific filesystem security features
  • Discusses the limitations of the keychain and encryption
  • Reviews ways to look for, record, and fix security bugs in written code
  • Describes the security impacts of different Mac OS X software deployment techniques
  • Explains how to securely deliver software updates
Wrox Professional guides are planned and written by working programmers to meet the real-world needs of programmers, developers, and IT professionals. Focused and relevant, they address the issues technology professionals face every day. They provide examples, practical solutions, and expert education in new technologies, all designed to help programmers do a better job.
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