Friday, January 1, 2010

Sony PRS-505 Ebook Reader

We bookworms love the touch of books; the smell of books. I loved everything about them, the art, the blurb, the colors they give to the walls. Books were not only my favorite things to read, they were my favorite decor! Wall to wall, floor to ceiling--I want a house full of books--made of books! Who would have thought the day would come when ebooks will become the "in" thing?

I was getting into ebooks way before most bookworms thought that ebooks will take off. I used to read on my XDA O2, using microsoft reader. It was cook, in a way. I was starting to get self-conscious about always carrying books around. Reading on an XDA O2 made me look like I must be very popular, since people assume I must be texting.

Now, I own a Sony Ebook Reader PRS-505. I have had it, probably for two years now, going on three. I got it even before I even heard of the Kindle, or the Nook. Most of my books are in PDF format, so my only request would have been to be able to read my PDFs on an ebook reader (I tried on my XDA..I won't even try to explain how hard it was to do!). At first, the only way to read PDFs on the Sony was to set it on horizontal orientation. The text stayed small, and they were still a pain. There was a recent upgrade to the firmware, though, so now, with limitations, I can make the fonts larger.

The main limitations that's very apparent was that the reader would try to reformat / rewrap the text around the screen. So sometimes, it will break a word right in the middle, without any sense. For example, if there is that phrase, "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs," it can look something like this:
The quick brown fox jumpe
d over the la
zy dogs.

That's fine, though. Once you get used to it, you'll be able to read without noticing any of that anymore. The problem would be if you were reading a book with lots of pictures, such as a book on digital photography. It would be splashed on the screen like per column. So sometimes, where the text says, "take a look at the picture on the right," you will find that there is actually no picture on the right, and you can spend a few minutes hitting the arrow keys turning pages, looking for that same picture, if you even figure out which picture it is. But then again, why even read a book on digital photography on the ebook reader? The color rendering wouldn't be so good, and the pixels won't be so fine enough for you to figure out the differences between foggy and sharp.

I love my ebook reader, though. I have read quite a few books using it. My only serious gripe, and it's not so serious, is that there's a barely discernible lag when turning pages. Otherwise I'm very satisfied with it and never regretted getting it. I'm glad I don't have to lug 2 to 3 books around anymore just because I can't quite decide which book to read. Now I can carry lots.

The problem now is organizing all the ebooks I have collected over the years. I must have about 10,000 of them now. I am looking at "Calibre" and "My Ebook Library," both freeware, as alternative (or complementing) solutions for managing the ebooks. I will write on it tomorrow, after I have played with them some more.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Twilight Series

My friend described this series "addicting," and it sure was. Please, don't read this series if you're looking for some literary analysis (although maybe if I think hard enough, I'd come up with something). The series is just fun. All the books on my reading list went down in priority so I can finish the Twilight Series. I read New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn one after the other in the past few days. The books get better per volume.

In New Moon, Jacob's character was fleshed out better. He is a more three-dimensional character than Edward was. He has more warmth to him (too much!) and has more life, as against Edward's being morose all the time. The novel seemed disjointed, though. The first half was happier, I suppose, because of Jacob. The second half, when Edward came back into the picture, seemed too far away, not just geographically, but also in tone.

Eclipse was better, since it played out the love triangle with humor. The novel allowed the characters to bounce off each other. It was the most natural of the novels. The big bad vampire that comes to destroy their happiness, though, was not too too interesting. But that was okay. The novel was fun, and you know that she's saving the Volturi, the big bad guys, for the final showdown.

Breaking Dawn had the potential to be the most exciting of all the novels. The first 1/3 of the novel, I thought, could have been shortened. I'm not interested in the details of the huge wedding, or their fabulous honeymoon in a remote island. It begins to pick up after that, especially when the novel starts being told from Jacob's point of view. It all built up to an ending that was satisfying enough, but promises so much more. There were new characters introduced. The plot continues to thicken.

There's a promise of so much more. To end the series here will shortchange all its followers. It will be a shame if Breaking Dawn was the last novel (Midnight Sun doesn't count, since it's just Twilight written from Edward's point of view).

I wouldn't say this is the best vampire series I had ever read. Others, and I'm thinking of the Anne Rice novels, had much more layers; more ideas to ponder; had more intricate plots and mesmerizing characters. Don't try to look too closely at these novels, or you'll find the cracks. And if you do, you'd just be denying yourself the fun and entertainment the novels can provide on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Friday, December 4, 2009


I have to make up for those years of skipping piano practice. I really regressed, but, since I've been playing a bit more often the past month (I must have been doing something when I'm not blogging!) I kept playing the pieces I used to play a long time ago. Some, I had trouble playing again (my fingers had lost its old dexterity and agility). Happily, I'm regaining a bit of it back!

And as I continue to play, I find myself going crazy over Debussy. I haven't been practicing my Mozart Sonatas, not even Bach inventions (they used to be my favorites). Now, I just want to play the Debussy tunes one at a time!

First, I did Golliwog's Cakewalk. I heard it a long time ago and couldn't make heads and tails of it when I tried to play it, so I gave up. I forced myself to learn it this time around, and now, I realize it's so much fun to play! It makes my heart dance with it.

Second, I finally played Reverie from start to finish. When my piano teacher let me play it in my teens (or was it twenties?), she said it was too hard for me, but we'll try it anyway. It blocked my mind, and I kept thinking I couldn't play it. After forcing myself to sit through it and analyze, I finally got it! Yay!

Now, I am working slowly through Clair de Lune. I can play the first part now, the second part, slowly...and third part, hands separately right now. It's ok, though. I'm becoming more patient and am quite confident that I should be able to work my way through it.

Debussy's music to me, is like romantic watercolor in music. Whether it is the playfulness of Golliwog's Cakewalk, or the quiet tones of Reverie. His music has been described as impressionist, and I can understand why (though cannot explain it). When I play Debussy, my heart paints melodies in color. Emotions run away with my fingers. I never appreciated music as much before. I am in love!

I'm amazed at how I can learn on my own now. Of course, I had piano lessons when I was younger, for years. It seems that I've matured enough to play or learn with more patience. I am also reading some books on piano playing and piano technique, to supplement the practice.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer

One whole month has gone by, and not a single blog posting! Time really flies!

I finally read Twilight. I can understand why it's so popular. Stephenie Meyer uses simple language, fewer descriptions and a lot more dialogue. The book is easy reading and can appeal to women of any age, mostly teenagers, I imagine. I like how she can evoke the atmosphere in Forks, the rain and the dreariness.

I find her characters a little bland, though (maybe caught in the dreariness of the atmosphere?). Bella is always supposed to be unpredictable...but she seems to be predictably bland (and of course, at times, in love) to me. Edward is always either being furious, or chuckling, or amused, or in anguish. He "chuckles" at the weirdest times, too. So, since Bella thinks she's bland, it is told from Bella's viewpoint, ergo, the characters seem a bit bland. So it all works together.

Three-fourths of the novel just sets mood, the rest races to a satisfying conclusion. It's good light reading. I'm looking forward to the sequels later.

My reading list is full. I'm getting confused what to read next.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When I first decided to get back into photography, it was because I wanted to appreciate the beauty of the things around me. It's very hard to break away from "the grass is always greener" mindset. That's not something you can do with photography. Photography is snapping present moment. You can wait for the shot, but what you get is what is there.

I had started taking pictures of parks and places nearby. Photography forced me to go out into the sun and find memories. I'm really not good yet, and I always forget to switch some setting or other. To my surprise (and much happiness!) one of my photos got picked for an online DC guide.

I didn't get any royalties for it or anything, but it was good to be featured somewhere. It's great encouragement!

I have to start editing my other photos next! It's just so much work sometimes, though!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Not So Big House - Sarah Susanka

I borrowed this older edition from the local library, which I visited for the first time the other day. Even if I'm not an architect and have no experience at all with construction, building houses, or designing houses, I really liked this book and found it to be very informative and interesting.

We moved into our home last year. The home we bought is a typical colonial style home from a reputable builder. The house is built from a pre-made design, built exactly like our neighbor's and my neighbor's neighbor, ad infinitum . I know what the inside of the house right across the street, and at the end of the street, and on the house at the end of the block looks like.

Certain features of our home, I thought, were useless. Having lived in Japan, I liked smaller areas which utilized space well. Less walking ;p Here, we have a formal living and dining room area, which I thought were useless and considered converting into a library. It's still pretty empty right now, no shelves, no books. But we did put a piano where the formal living room is supposed to be, and that's about it.

It was interesting because Sarah Susanka wrote the same exact thing. There were some things I learned about homes in the U.S. First, formal living and dining areas had been left over from the traditional Victorian ethic. I completely agree with her. I think homes should be just the right size for a person's needs, to cut down on energy costs, too, and allow a better quality of life. I have seen homes with 10 different places to sit. What for?

Second, I learned that colonial type houses were cheaper to build. No wonder our house was so cut and dried! The more corners on the exterior, the higher the cost. It's interesting that a "not so big house" will cost just as much as a McMansion box! And no wonder more people would buy the McMansion. Who can really afford the luxury of having something so creatively and distinctively designed and customized? It's really a shame. I know I wish I could have a home like that, but I'm not creative enough to fix up our boring home to look like "me".

There are other interesting thoughts to ponder from her book. How we need both public and private spaces in our homes, how some couples fight because their homes have no privacy. It was all very enlightening.

I would recommend this book for anyone who loves homes, whether or not they are up for buying a new home, designing their own home, or just trying to figure out what their style is (like me), since I don't even know where to start from! This points out things that you only vaguely knew, but couldn't verbalize. You read it and nod and nod and agree, and realize that all this time, she says what you already knew in your heart to be true.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

O.A.R. @ Merriweather Post!

August 7, 2009. HS and my other friends went to Merriweather Post in Columbia, MD to watch the O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) "This Town" concert. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people there that night. We got V.I.P. seats, with backstage passes. Our seats were so good, in fact (first row on the platform), that we were able to watch the whole concert sitting down, even though everyone else in front were all standing up and dancing! I danced my seat. That's for shyer, more inhibited people who can just sway a little and bounce their heads up and down with the music.

The music sounds even better live than on CD. I particularly liked the drums interlude during "Lay Down," where Chris, Jerry, and Mike went at it for at least 3 minutes. Jerry is really impressive. He was, at different times, playing the saxophone (it has become one of my favorite instruments!), the drums, and the guitar, as needed. Richard sometimes switched from the keyboard to his guitar. The fans favorite, of course, was "Crazy Game of Poker," which everyone recognized immediately. Everyone jumped up and danced wildly. You can't help it, especially at the fast, almost country inspired part of the music. It wasn't just my head bobbing then. My shoulders would sway back and forth a bit, too. What an achievement!

The O.A.R. guys are a bunch of cool guys on stage. They wear ordinary jeans and t-shirts. They walk around casually, without any fancy blocking or choreography that reminiscent of the Mickey Mouse Club. They're relaxed, they don't try too hard. The only thing that comes out from them is their music. Their talent is what draws the crowd's attention, not looks, not choreography, not the set.

Supposedly, O.A.R. is one of the oldest bands in the industry. They've been together since 1996. I haven't seen many concerts, but I do know that when it comes to bands, only the lead singer becomes popular. For example: Tony Hadley and Spandau Ballet; Sting and the Police...the list can go on and on. For O.A.R., though, each member has their own time in the spotlight. Richard gets his own guitar solo, Chris gets his own drums highlight. Benj with his base guitar and Jerry with his saxophone, all have their own time airtime. I think that's what I like best about them. They share!

So in summary, I would say, these guys are so down to earth, they seem just like your buddies. It just turns out that they're really talented musicians...and they rock!