Monday, February 28, 2011

Modern Perl

I really like this book for many reasons:

First it is about Perl and how to make most out of Perl. Perl 5 has been blessed with some great additions in CPAN, which are not covered in most other Perl books (at least not in those I read so far). This book explains those additions and some concepts behind them. It is interesting and informative.

Second it was written in the true Perl spirit which is in the open, i.e., you could go to the books website and get the chapters still in draft. So there is feedback and improvement already in this first edition. With other books you have to wait for the second edition to have those things.

Third it shows that Perl 5 is not an old-fashioned language that cannot compete with the new hip languages, but Perl 5 still has a future. You just have to write the right kind of Perl code and the book explains how to do this.

In summary, if you like Perl 5, I'd say you will like this book.

Modern Perl

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris

The book is set in the later forties in Glasgow. Douglas Brodie is drifting in London after leaving the army when he gets a call from his old friend Hugh (Shug) Donovon. Hugh is in prison, destined to hang for murder. Brodie travels north, reluctant to help because he and Hugh fell out before the war, over a woman. Brodie is rapidly drawn into a world he thought he had left behind as his roots overwhelm him with memories, and also a new world of murdered children, drug dealers and the underbelly of Glasgow criminal life.

Brodie meets Samantha Campbell, Hugh's defense lawyer and is persuaded to help her attempt to clear Hugh. Their efforts involve them with the Slatterys, hard men from Ireland who control the drug trade with a rod of iron and the threat of death, frequently more than a threat. A cast of crooked policemen, reporters and figures from Brodie's past jostle on the stage.

I have read mixed reviews of this book. All praise the writing, which I can only do as well. It is clean and tight and the descriptive passages and train of thought of a man coming to terms with what happened to him during and after the war, and what is happening to him now are striking and vivid. Gordon Ferris bring to life Glasgow, its sights and sounds and smells.

Some reviewers seem to be uncertainty about the reality of IRA gun-runners in the late 1940's, and whether the IRA were active at that time. As the child of a man who trained in Ulster in the early forties and told me that the only time he ever knew he got shot at during the entire war was south of Belfast, I can vouch for their presence. And the IRA link is not overdone in the book - it is a convenient means of sketching in the bad men, who are very bad indeed.

Overall I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys tough, hard edged thrillers. I am not always a big fan of books set just after the Second World War, but the strength of writing and vivid characterization, not to mention the twists and turns of the plot make this one of my top reads of the last year.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Collector's Edition

I'm not sure what some of the negative reviewers were expecting. We got a taste of "The Tales of Beedle The Bard" in "Deathly Hallows". For me, there was no confusion about what this book was going to be, as we got to read one of the stories(The Tale of the Three Brothers) in "Deathly Hallows". The story is also situated in the book perfectly- there can be no doubt about the fact that it is a FAIRY TALE and that is all.

Anyone who was expecting an 8th instalment to the Harry Potter series obviously wasn't paying attention.

That said, this is a delightful little book of fairy tales that gives us some more insight into the world of Harry, Hermione, Ron and friends.

The fact that Rowling is able to create perfectly crafted fairy tales to me is just baffling. Even as an English teacher who has spent many college and professional years writing both for work and fun, I can't IMAGINE being able to do this. Try it. It's harder than you would think to come up with a Grimm's-esque tale. It has to have the right mixture of magic and morality, and Rowling gets it just right.

The foot-notes by Hermione and Dumbledore are cute and amusing, and give devoted fans another small dose of the Harry Potter world they've been missing.

Is it an instant classic? In my home, yes. Around the world, no, probably not, but she wrote it as a fun gift for a few friends, and it ended up being published. They're selling the thing for 10 bucks a pop, and donating the proceeds to isn't going to be bloody Shakespeare.

Learn Objective-C on the Mac (Learn Series)

After first reading a Wiley Publishing book on this topic, and getting lost in all the errors and the rapidity of the code (tell me if you got totally lost on Chapter 8 like I did?), my next book on the subject was this. WOW! While this book won't get you up and coding full-blown applications in a day, I truly believe that this should be every future Mac OS X developer's FIRST book on Objective-C. Only then should one move on to meatier things. While the other books get you building pretty apps, and you follow along as best you can, not fully understanding what every line of code means, and *maybe* you could rewrite the example code by memory a day after, this book gives you the confidence to tackle big projects, by building a solid Foundation(.h) of the basics, explaining the basics, and especially drawing attention to the differences between C and Objective-C while you're going along.

After completing the book once, and returning to the Wiley Publishing book, I was able to fully understand the examples in that book, and was able to even rewrite the examples to make more sense to me. I even had a good idea on how to formulate my Classes ahead-of-time, from looking at the purpose of the examples.

If you want to code the next lame Mac OS X or iOS program people won't download even though it's free, go ahead, choose a different book. If you want to make Cocoa/Objective-C your career, and give you the confidence to aim high, start with this book. I'm glad I did.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through

I was familiar with inspirational speaker, author, and spiritual leader Iyanla Vanzant from her Oprah appearances and catching her life coaching on Starting Over from time to time, but I didn't know much about her life story. My mom checked out Peace from Broken Pieces from the library, loved it, and recommended it to me. I must say it's well written and insightful.

Iyanla starts off the book by reflecting on the Christmas morning her daughter died in 2003. She'd succumbed to a year long battle with a rare form of colon cancer and left a young daughter behind. As if burying your own child isn't traumatic enough throw in marital issues, financial problems, and just feeling like your whole world is crashing down on you. Something's gotta give!

It took Iyanla about 3 and a half years to pen this book because of fear. She was a best selling author of a number of self-help books and alot of people looked to her for spiritual guidance. Secretly, she felt like a fraud. Her personal life was barely holding up and she was afraid people would turn on her if she opened up about what was really going down. After much prayer and self-reflection, she took a good look at her life and the patterns and behaviors she'd been taught since childhood.

Although she lost her mother to breast cancer at the age of 2, Iyanla had made many of the same mistakes her mom did. She talks openly about her downright mean grandmother who subjected her to brutal beatings, but treated her older brother with only love and kindness. The father who abandoned her emotionally and one time nearly killed her after a savage beating. The uncle who raped her and the aunt who looked the other way. The husband who would disappear for days at a time and physically abuse her when he felt like it.

Even after raising 3 kids, getting off welfare and moving her family out of the projects, and making a name for herself, Iyanla was still Ronda Eva Harris, the abused little girl who never felt like she was good enough. The child who was always put down and mistreated and felt like she deserved it.

The death of her daughter was only one tragedy that lead Vanzant to a breakthrough. She writes candidly about her time with Oprah (who was very fair and kind to her) and the mistake she made by hosting her own short-lived talk show. I've always gotten a bad vibe from Bill Geddie, aka the "View Master", and the descriptions of his domineering chauvinism and disrespectful behavior didn't surprise me at all.

Kudos to Iyanla for finding her inner warrior woman and kicking all the crap to the curb in order to be her authentic self. Another big lesson from the book is the importance of addressing familial cycles of dysfunction and abuse in order to heal. It has to stop. Peace from Broken Pieces is a highly recommended read.

Go for it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Sims Medieval - Limited Edition

The Sims Medieval is a brand-new direction for the popular single player Simulation game franchise, as the familiar gameplay mechanics of The Sims are blended with light Role-Playing (RPG) elements in a Medieval European setting. In this new incarnation PC and Mac players must both assure the happiness of their Sims on a day-to-day level, as well as support the aims of the kingdom they build and engage in all manner of quests which Sims can take on singularly and in groups up to three. New features include: a wide range of available Sims hero types associated with buildings constructed, each with a fatal flaw to overcome; a levelling system for characters based in replayable quests; and an overall player-chosen goal for kingdoms.
The Sims Go Back in Time and Get Medieval

The Sims Medieval takes The Sims franchise into the Middle Ages with all new features, new graphics and new ways to play. For the first time, players can create heroes, venture on quests, and build up a kingdom all their own. In an ancient land of adventure, drama and romance, players will be able to get medieval like nobody could ever have imagined. 

Gameplay: Kingdoms, Heroes and Quests

As with all The Sims games, The Sims Medieval is primarily a Simulation game where the player is responsible for all aspects of their sims' lives. But The Sims Medieval expands on the classic The Sims gameplay formula by affecting the focus of players and their Sims via a change of environment and game mechanics. The game adopts a "what if" scenario, placing your sims in a Medieval setting, complete with castles, monarchs, knights, peasants, intrigue between kingdoms, etc. Thus the question is: What if a The Sims game was set in a Medieval European time period? The answer to this is that although the player must still be very concerned about the day to day happiness, or unhappiness, of their Sims, there are also other concerns appropriate to the time period, or at least the game's interpretation of the time period. This equates to the three-tiered approach to gameplay centered around: kingdom, heroes and quests.

Life in the kingdoms of The Sims Medieval revolve around castles and the other buildings and facilities that are added to a kingdom. As a kingdom is established players codify the overall ambition of their kingdom. These ambitions can reflect a variety of concerns, including political, military, economic, etc. and will serve as a sort of mission statement for everything that transpires among the Sims that populate a kingdom. In the end this initial decision affects both Sim happiness and the overall fate of your kingdom.

With each building that is added during the game players gain access to specific hero character types associated with them. These range from lofty roles like rulers, knights and wizards, all the way to the more humble physicians, craftsmen, etc. These different types of Sims can be customized in ways familiar to players of earlier games, including apparel and temperament, as well as the new fatal flaw customization, which must be worked out if players choose to work towards their sims prospering. The cumulative experience of this customization makes up the building blocks of a Sim's day-to-day experience, actions in the kingdom and happiness. Once the player's Sims are established, the game opens up into an additional crucial gameplay area, quests.

Quests in The Sims Medieval contains a certain level of role-playing game mechanics, which is new to The Sims franchise, and which offers players the opportunity to earn skill points, experience points and kingdom points. Following standard RPG game mechanics, points allow for leveling up of Sims characters and kingdoms. Thus, quests are also a crucial element of the game that drives the story of the game forward, depending on their success or failure, the temperaments of the participating Sims and the goals of the kingdom.

Simple quests can be taken on by a single Sim while more complex endeavors can require up to three Sim heroes. All quests contain multiple paths towards completion, which are further varied by the fact of the differing strengths and weakness of your chosen heroes. This type of flexibility in quests allows for maximum replay value of the game, as the outcome of quests can vary widely depending on the Sim heroes utilized.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel (Maximum Ride: The Protectors)

Ok I loved the Max Ride series, probably the best I've ever read, but I think it should've just stopped at MAX, because I loved the whole Fang x max thing(Even though at times I found Max annoying, call me a critic...)And I immediatly fell in love with Fang(I mean c'mon who doesn't love the dark mysterious type!)

Then with Dylan along now and Max's "perfect other" It was hate at first sight.I knew there was going to be a love triangle sort of thing and I was cool with that, you know, adds to the plot. But when I finished FANG I was like "NO! THEY CAN NOT BE TOGETHER!" (If you havenot read ANGEL yet please do not read on)And with Max and Dylan getting cuddly with eachother I wanted to rip the book apart, and practically exploded when Maya came along.

I had honestly been hoping fang and Max get together and Dylan leave. For good. But now the chances arn't so high since we are at the end. But still waiting impaitently for the next book in 2012 and fingers crossed for The Dylan X Max to be over. But otherwise great plot!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Harry Potter Years 1-6 Giftset (Widescreen Edition) is the best book in the Harry Potter book series and one of the best books I have ever read. Likewise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 is (so far) the best movie in the Harry Potter movie series. As of this writing, I am confident that Part 2 will finish the saga nicely, and it will join the ranks of Part 1, to be better than all of the other 6 movies.

(Whether Part 1 or Part 2 is better than the other is less important.) But my main complaint right now is:

Why is the DVD of Part 1 being released before Part 2's theatrical release? I expected and hoped that Part 1 would not be on DVD until Part 2 was also ready to be on DVD, and that the two would be released in one DVD as "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," without it having to bother with a "Part 1" or "Part 2," or maybe with some minor note mentioning "Parts 1 & 2 together."
Either way, I will not own any Harry Potter DVD until all seven episodes (all eight movies) are together in one consistent DVD collection (hopefully including both parts of HP7 in one case within the collection).
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