Archive for March, 2011

Hoops for the House this Friday!

March 30th, 2011


Come to the Highland High gym this Friday at 5pm to see the staff from HJHS take on GrJHS to raise money for the House of Refuge.

As promised, I will be the tallest librarian on the court.

Amazon Cloud Drive

March 29th, 2011

Don’t you know that all the Internet cool kids no longer use the word Internet? It’s now The Cloud, a representation of all the data floating around our heads 24/7.

I use services like Dropbox to have access to my files wherever. I know that there are a ton of applications out there that serve a similar purpose.

Amazon unveiled their Cloud Drive today. My immediate reaction to the news? Lakitu.

Amazon is leasing out server space to store video and music files. You get the first 5GB free and then there’s a subscription per year depending on the size. I can’t imagine spending $1000/year to store 70 hours of HD video, but whatever. An external USB terabyte drive is $70 on Amazon. Sure, it’s not portable and could crash, but come on.

There’s an Amazon Cloud Player phone/web app. No iOS app yet and my guess is that the Amazon digital download store is the next biggest competitor to the Apple store. (Sorry to leave you out, Zune. I’m sure someone thinks you’re cool.) Anything that can be stored on your Cloud Drive can be played on your Cloud Player.

They do include offers like “download an album and get 20GB free for a year”. The amount of sales revenue and advertisement probably balances out any server costs for Amazon. The 5GB is a good idea to get people hooked. I still don’t think I would pay for more space. This is an interesting jump for the future, though. Imagine a 1TB iPod.

Matched by Ally Condie

March 25th, 2011

Dystopian stories are popular right now. You would think that would make me excited, the abundance of super-controlling societies being overthrown by the underdog. I love The Giver, Uglies, and all their Fahrenheit 451-esque classic cousins.

But once Hunger Games (another of my favorites) made it big, publishers began taking in Katniss clones like they were loveable wizards vampires zombies.

Matched by Ally Condie does follow some of the genre formula. The utopia promises a perfect existence (utopias are notorious for this) and main character Cassia has to break from what she has always known and forge a new path into the larger world around her.

There is the love triangle. One boy, the one the government matches her with to marry, is a childhood friend and a great guy. The other is an Aberration and is only introduced as a matching glitch. Cassia is torn and spends most of the book sorting this out.

It’s told from first-person perspective and I don’t think it would work any other way. There are not big action scenes. There are no hoverboard fights, crazy sled rides, or rats attached to her face. (The rats? 1984. Read it, kids.) The most physical activity from the protagonist is to go on a hike.

What grabs your attention is the person vs. self conflict. Cassia progressively realizes that the government actually has only a tiny thread of control over society. Even though I love books with cool machines, the technology in Matched is very subtle. Like in The Giver, there are pills for residents to take. Unlike The Giver, residents are given a choice. This adds to the suspense since there are some pills that no one has taken before. Cassia risks swallowing a lethal dosage.

The characterization in Matched is great. The parents are believable and work as a good team. My favorite scene is when Cassia realizes just how human and mortal her parents are. This is a big moment in anyone’s life.

Ally Condie did a great job creating a believable world. If you want a romance story with a tinge of sci-fi, Matched is a good choice. Crossed, book two, comes out this November.

3:15 by Patrick Carman

March 25th, 2011

Patrick Carman impresses me with constantly trying to push the ways that traditional paper books interact with digital technology. (See me rant and rave like a fanboy for Skeleton Creek here.)

The new book-ish creation is 3:15, a collection of stories that are in smart phone app format.

So cool!

Here are links to both the Apple and Android app store versions.

I’ll give you my reactions as I experience it:

The app layout looks great and professional, very akin to a Kindle/nook app layout (and what I would expect a Shelfari app to look like if they ever got around to it (hint hint)).

I downloaded the app from the store for free. It then showed me a selection of stories to read. I clicked on the first story and it brought me back to the app store to download it. (I wonder why the download redundancy…) I am appreciative that it doesn’t change too much of my phone’s settings.

Nice. 3:15 is the first app listed on my phone. Yay, alphabetical order!

I like the swiping to change the pages, but I miss the Kindle tap on the side to flip pages. When the phone goes into standby, it messes with where I left off and resets to the first page. A couple of times while I was swiping it scrolled the opposite direction.

There’s also random red letters. I would initially think these were formatting errors, yet I know it’s Patrick Carman and suspect it’s a code.

I got to the end of the story and a video started to automatically load. It had trouble loading; I don’t know if it was my phone that was slow, my network, or other people using server bandwidth for the streaming video.

The Listen Read Watch buttons were a little misleading – I thought I had the option of listening to the story or reading it. The buttons are more of a progression, not nonlinear options.

The story is great, an eerie tale of a delivery boy tasked with carrying out a dying man’s final wish. The boy does not and… I don’t know what happens next because the video won’t load. Buried Treasure is the free story, so I wonder if the ones you pay for load better.

Video took a while, but is SO worth it. Very professional film quality. Nicely done, PC Studios!

Obviously this is brand new and I’m excited for what Patrick Carman has to offer. I’m sure the glitches in the app will work themselves out. (Well, the software techs will work them out. We don’t want a Ghost in the Machine, right?) The key is that the writing is solid and enjoyable.

The first story is written by Paul Chandler, author of Peeper. 3:15 looks to be a promising short story anthology. One is A Night on the Dredge. Fun stuff.

24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley

March 4th, 2011

This one’s been out since 2005, but if you haven’t read 24 Girls in 7 Days, I think you need to. It has a great balance of humor and romance, as well as a realistic protagonist.

Jack Grammar (and he likes words…imagine that) is looking for a date to prom and his friends decide that they’ll help him out. They put a classified ad in the school’s newspaper with his e-mail and make it sound like he wrote it. Jack gets 200 responses and filters it down to 24 girls that he will go on a date with over the course of a week. After a date, he hopes to know which one to go to prom with.

The real appeal of the story is Jack’s narration. His comments on situations, especially when he’s super-nervous, are pretty funny. The opening scene sets the tone well. Jack is psyching himself out before talking to a girl about prom. The girl seems like she’s going to go with him, but then Jack starts talking about the “transgenic forces of springtime” and she freaks out.

Some of the dialogue is strained, acting more as a set-up for a punchline than advancing the plotline, although I still enjoyed it. The romance is interesting as the reader keeps having to guess who he will spend prom with.

If you’re a fan of Gordan Korman’s Son of the Mob or Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries, I think you’ll enjoy the similar 24 Girls in 7 Days.

Read Across America

March 2nd, 2011

Today is Read Across America, a day to, well, read in celebration of Theodore Geisel’s/Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

What am I reading today?

24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley. So funny.


March 1st, 2011

The New York Times had a great article yesterday about Natalie Portman and her scientific achievements (as well as her Oscar win). The article details the accomplishments of Danica McKellar, Mayim Bialik, and even Hedy Lamarr, who all have been successful actresses as well as brilliant scientists.

It’s quite an accomplishment that takes a lot of discipline. Portman, while at Harvard, would turn in her papers early if she knew she had to make a talk show appearance the night before the due date (and, you know, learn lines for movies and stuff).

Check out the article here.