RABiD BUNNY FEVER
To start off, Merry XMas ya’ll! (And Happy Holidays, of course! [I’m actually Jewish by heritage for those who don’t know me personally ^_^; ] )
I decided to get an eBook reader as a present for someone for the holidays, so I tried out both the Sony PRS-505 and Sony PRS-700. I decided on the Sony readers for now as they can handle most, if not all, of the main eBook formats. Here are the important things I discovered out about both.
This is a minor upgrade to the first eBook reader that Sony released in September of 2006 (the PRS-500), and costs $300. It works as it should and is advertised, and does everything I’d really want from a basic eBook reader.
This is a major update to Sony’s eBook line, released in September of 2008, and costs $400. The most important new feature to this is the touch screen, which has some major pros and cons.
The main comparison points that I found between the 505 and 700 are as follows.
- I immediately noticed upon comparing the two how much lighter and more reflective the screen is on the 700, making it much harder to read. After some quick research, I found the following here:
Sony added a touch layer on top of the e-ink display and embedded LED side-lights into the frame that surrounds the display. Clever. But this comes at the expense of contrast and glare, and the Sony Reader PRS-700 looks more like a grayscale notebook screen than an eBook reader. The glare isn’t nearly as bad as the average PDA or gloss notebook display-- it’s on par with matte finish notebook displays.
As far as I’m concerned, very unfortunately, this makes the product completely worthless as far as an eBook reader. You might as well just use an LCD display instead of an eInk display for the quality and price!
- The touch screen (that comes with a pointer pen too) itself is a spectacular design, and would make the device far better than the 505 if it didn’t ruin the readability of the device. The ability to navigate the device is much easier, quicker, and more intuitive due to the touch screen interface, which also allows for a lot of additional functionality including a virtual keyboard and selecting text.
- The 700 “turns pages” about twice as fast, due to the processor being about twice as powerful.
- The 700 also has many more zoom levels by default, which is a big plus for people who need the eBook devices specifically for bad eyesight. The “Large” zoom level on the 500 just doesn’t always satisfy what is needed in some eBooks, but the XL and XXL on the 700 definitely go that extra step. I was told by a rep at the Sony Style store that there is a way to download larger fonts to the system (possibly through the eBook files themselves), but I have not fully researched into this yet.
- The 700 allows for searching for text now because of the virtual keyboard. I find this to be an incredibly useful feature for a book reader.
- The 700 also allows you to takes notes and make annotations on pages due to the virtual keyboard.
- The 700 has side lights that can be turned on, which is kind of neat, but this is really just an extra luxury.
One unfortunate annoyance of both devices is that you cannot use them while they are plugged into the computer (for charging via the USB interface or uploading new books).
After playing with both, I’d definitely recommend the 505 for now. If they could fix the contrast problem with the 700, it would be perfect and well worth the price.
I’d like to try the Amazon Kindle too, but their stock of it is so far backordered, I don’t feel like dealing with it for the time being. When I checked around the 23rd of this month, they had a 13 week wait to have the product shipped to you! The Kindle is also, unfortunately, more DRM laden with proprietary formats. This can be bypassed though.
An Agnostics Perspective
A lesson in logic
Tags: Religion, Eragon, Books
There’s a specific dialog that goes on in Eldest
, the second book of the Inheritance Cycle
(Eragon), about religion that I thought worded my general beliefs on the subject, though in a fantasy setting, quite well. I have included this verbatim below, which basically describes how agnostics reason. I particularly like the last paragraph, which basically says how non god-fairing people can be, from a certain perspective, in a way, on a higher moral ground due to basing their actions on what is right because they want to help others, as opposed to fearing divine retribution. FYI
, this doesn’t really contain any spoilers for the books. The following text is copyrighted by the author, Christopher Paolini
Nine days later, Eragon presented himself to Oromis1 and said, “Master, it struck me last night that neither you nor the hundreds of elven scrolls I’ve read have mentioned your religion. What do elves believe?”
A long sigh was Oromis’s first answer. Then: “We believe that the world behaves according to certain inviolable rules and that, by persistent effort, we can discover those rules and use them to predict events when circumstances repeat.”
Eragon blinked. That did not tell him what he wanted to know. “But who, or what, do you worship?”
“You worship the concept of nothing?”
“No, Eragon. We do not worship at all.”
The thought was so alien, it took Eragon several moments to grasp what Oromis meant. The villagers of Carvahall2 lacked a single overriding doctrine, but they did share a collection of superstitions and rituals, most of which concerned warding off bad luck. During the course of his training, it had dawned upon Eragon that many of the phenomena that the villagers attributed to supernatural sources were in fact natural processes, such as when he learned in his meditations that maggots hatched from fly eggs instead of spontaneously arising from the dirt, as he had thought before. Nor did it make sense for him to put out an offering of food to keep sprites from turning the milk sour when he knew that sour milk was actually caused by a proliferation of tiny organisms in the liquid. Still, Eragon remained convinced that otherworldly forces influenced the world in mysterious ways, a belief that his exposure to the dwarves’ religion3 had bolstered. He said, “Where do you think the world came from, then, if it wasn’t created by the gods?”
“Which gods, Eragon?”
“Your gods, the dwarf gods, our gods... someone must have created it.”
Oromis raised an eyebrow. “I would not necessarily agree with you. But be as that may, I cannot prove that gods do not exist. Nor can I prove that the world and everything in it was not created by an entity or entities in the distant past. But I can tell you that in the millennia we elves have studied nature, we have never witnessed an instance where the rules that govern the world have been broken. That is, we have never seen a miracle. Many events have defied our ability to explain, but we are convinced that we failed because we are still woefully ignorant about the universe and not because a deity altered the workings of nature.”
“A god wouldn’t have to alter nature to accomplish his will,” asserted Eragon. “He could do it within the system that already exists.... He could use magic to affect events.”
Oromis smiled. “Very true. But ask yourself this, Eragon: If gods exist, have they been good custodians of Alagaësia2? Death, sickness, poverty, tyranny, and countless other miseries stalk the land. If this is the handiwork of divine beings, then they are to be rebelled against and overthrown, not given obeisance, obedience, and reverence.”
“The dwarves believe3—”
“Exactly! The dwarves believe. When it comes to certain matters, they rely upon faith rather than reason. They have even been known to ignore proven facts that contradict their dogma.”
“Like what?” demanded Eragon.
“Dwarf priests use coral as proof that stone is alive and can grow, which also corroborates their story that Helzvog3 formed the race of dwarves out of granite. But we elves discovered that coral is actually an exoskeleton secreted by minuscule animals that live inside the coral. Any magician can sense the animals if he opens his mind. We explained this to the dwarves, but they refused to listen, saying that the life we felt resides in every kind of stone, although their priests are the only ones who are supposed to be able to detect the life in landlocked stones.”
For a long time, Eragon stared out the window, turning Oromis’s words over in his mind. “You don’t believe in an afterlife, then.”
“From what Glaedr said, you already knew that.”
“And you don’t put stock in gods.”
“We give credence only to that which we can prove exists. Since we cannot find evidence that gods, miracles, and other supernatural things are real, we do not trouble ourselves about them. If that were to change, if Helzvog were to reveal himself to us, then we would accept the new information and revise our position.”
“It seems a cold world without something... more.”
“On the contrary,” said Oromis, “it is a better world. A place where we are responsible for our own actions, where we can be kind to one another because we want to and because it is the right thing to do instead of being frightened into behaving by the threat of divine punishment. I won’t tell you what to believe, Eragon. It is far better to be taught to think critically and then be allowed to make your own decisions than to have someone else’s notions thrust upon you. You asked after our religion, and I have answered you true. Make of it what you will.”
: Eragon is the protagonist of the book who is currently being tutored in magic by Oromis, an elf. The elves are an enlightened species that view the world as scientists.
: Carvahall is the farming village Eragon grew up in, in the world of Alagaësia.
: The dwarves have a typical polytheistic religion. In their case, they believe that they were created from stone by their god, Helzvog, and that coral, by growing, is proof that stone is alive.
I’ve been rereading one of the many Harry Potter
books again, as usual when wanting to relax, for the millionth time through the series. I thought I’d check around and see if there was anything new, and apparently there are a few new things I didn’t know about.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
has a mass release coming on December 4th.
According to a note on JK Rowling’s website (Wizard of the Month Archive), quoted verbatim:
(1980 - )
The Boy Who Lived, only known survivor of the Avada Kedavra curse and conqueror of Lord Voldemort, also known as Tom Riddle. Harry Potter joined the reshuffled Auror Department under Kingsley Shacklebolt at age 17, rising to become Head of said department in 2007.
And finally, an 800 word "Harry Potter Prequel" by JKR written for some charity book by WaterStone
, or something like that. I found the text for it here
, and it is quoted below.
The speeding motorcycle took the sharp corner so fast in the darkness that both policemen in the pursuing car shouted ‘whoa!’ Sergeant Fisher slammed his large foot on the brake, thinking that the boy who was riding pillion was sure to be flung under his wheels; however, the motorbike made the turn without unseating either of its riders, and with a wink of its red tail light, vanished up the narrow side street.
‘We’ve got ‘em now!” cried PC Anderson excitedly. ‘That’s a dead end!”
Leaning hard on the steering wheel and crashing his gears, Fisher scraped half the paint off the flank of the car as he forced it up the alleyway in pursuit.
There in the headlights sat their quarry, stationary at last after a quarter of an hour’s chase. The two riders were trapped between a towering brick wall and the police car, which was now crashing towards them like some growling, luminous-eyed predator.
There was so little space between the car doors and the walls of the alley that Fisher and Anderson had difficulty extricating themselves from the vehicle. It injured their dignity to have to inch, crab-like, towards the miscreants. Fisher dragged his generous belly along the wall, tearing buttons off his shirt as he went, and finally snapping off the wing mirror with his backside.
‘Get off the bike!’ he bellowed at the smirking youths, who sat basking in the flashing blue light as though enjoying it.
They did as they were told. Finally pulling free from the broken wind mirror, Fisher glared at them. They seemed to be in their late teens. The one who had been driving had long black hair; his insolent good looks reminded Fisher unpleasantly of his daughter’s guitar-playing, layabout boyfriend. The second boy also had black hair, though his was short and stuck up in all directions; he wore glasses and a broad grin. Both were dressed in T-shirts emblazoned with a large golden bird; the emblem, no doubt, of some deafening, tuneless rock band.
‘No helmets!’ Fisher yelled, pointing from one uncovered head to the other. ‘Exceeding the speed limit by - by a considerable amount!’ (In fact, the speed registered had been greater than Fisher was prepared to accept that any motorcycle could travel.) ‘Failing to stop for the police!’
‘We’d have loved to stop for a chat,’ said the boy in glasses, ‘only we were trying -’
‘Don’t get smart - you two are in a heap of trouble!’ snarled Anderson. ‘Names!’
‘Names?’ repeated the long-haired driver. ‘Er - well, let’s see. There’s Wilberforce… Bathsheba… Elvendork…’
‘And what’s nice about that one is, you can use it for a boy or a girl,’ said the boy in glasses.
‘Oh, OUR names, did you mean?’ asked the first, as Anderson spluttered with rage. ‘You should’ve said! This here is James Potter, and I’m Sirius Black!’
‘Things’ll be seriously black for you in a minute, you cheeky little -’
But neither James nor Sirius was paying attention. They were suddenly as alert as gundogs, staring past Fisher and Anderson, over the roof of the police car, at the dark mouth of the alley. Then, with identical fluid movements, they reached into their back pockets.
For the space of a heartbeat both policemen imagined guns gleaming at them, but a second later they saw that the motorcyclists had drawn nothing more than -
‘Drumsticks?’ jeered Anderson. ‘Right pair of jokers, aren’t you? Right, we’re arresting you on a charge of -’
But Anderson never got to name the charge. James and Sirius had shouted something incomprehensible, and the beams from the headlights had moved.
The policemen wheeled around, then staggered backwards. Three men were flying - actually FLYING - up the alley on broomsticks - and at the same moment, the police car was rearing up on its back wheels.
Fisher’s knees bucked; he sat down hard; Anderson tripped over Fisher’s legs and fell on top of him, as FLUMP - BANG - CRUNCH - they heard the men on brooms slam into the upended car and fall, apparently insensible, to the ground, while broken bits of broomstick clattered down around them.
The motorbike had roared into life again. His mouth hanging open, Fisher mustered the strength to look back at the two teenagers.
‘Thanks very much!’ called Sirius over the throb of the engine. ‘We owe you one!’
‘Yeah, nice meeting you!’ said James. ‘And don’t forget: Elvendork! It’s unisex!’
There was an earth-shattering crash, and Fisher and Anderson threw their arms around each other in fright; their car had just fallen back to the ground. Now it was the motorcycle’s turn to rear. Before the policemen’s disbelieving eyes, it took off into the air: James and Sirius zoomed away into the night sky, their tail light twinkling behind them like a vanishing ruby.
On a slightly off-topic non-official tangent, I really love this picture! Wish I knew who the artist was, especially to give credit here. :-\
I’ve been on a bit of a Peter Pan kick lately. It all started with catching Hook a few weeks ago, which I’ve always loved and enjoy watching from time, on the boob tube. After finishing it, I remembered that I was given the original Peter Pan novel for a Christmas when I was around 9 years of age or so, and I decided to pick it up on my next trip to my parents’ house in Dallas. I downloaded all the other official Peter Pan films in the mean time for a watch, as I had never seen them before.
One of the main reasons for this was I was also curious as to how the stories differed in the film versions from the original story, and from each other. I found out they all varied greatly, especially in the tone from the novel, except for Hook, which got it perfect. I’m not going to go into a comparison of the stories here, as that is not really important. All I’d really like to mention about the movies is that the Disney’s 2002 “Return to Neverland” was a rather poor rip off of the Hook plot line, and I didn’t really find it worth it. Disney has really lost it’s flair since The Lion King, IMO. “Walt Disney’s Peter Pan” (February 5, 1953) and “Peter Pan” (2003) however were both well worth it.
The main difference I was referring to between most of the movies and the novel is the heavy presence of a dark and sinister theme in the original book. The Lost Boys were just as cut throat as the pirates, as it mentioned the often battles and killing each other in cold bold, and it even mentioned something to the extent of Peter Pan “thinning out the ranks” of the Lost Boys when their numbers got too large, IIRC. The mermaids were silent killers when they got the chance, and there was also talk of “fairy orgies”. I thought this was all great for a children’s book, as it didn’t concentrate on these aspects, but they were there to give a proper setting. It was a very interesting and fun read, but a far cry from the brilliant status it has been given, IMO. Makes me wonder what all the people out there that complain about Harry Potter would say if they gave this one a read. Oh, the only thing Tinkerbelle pretty much ever says throughout the book is “You ass” :-).
Speaking of Harry Potter, it came as a bit of a shock to me seeing Maggie Smith, who plays Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies, playing as Granny Wendy in Hook. She did an amazing job at looking decrepit.
One final non-related note… the very briefly overhead Neverland island view shown on Hook really reminded me of my Eternal Realms map.
How to destroy movie from novel adaptations
I read through Eragon and Eldest, the first two books of the Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini, a while back, and was very happy with the novels, mainly for the relationship between the two protagonists, Eragon and his dragon Saphira. The fantasy novels brought in a bunch of new possibilities of fun with dragon lore and their abilities, a topic which has, to my knowledge, never really been elaborated or expanded on in the past to this kind of extent, though I have heard the lores in these books bears a large resemblance to a novel called Dragonriders of Pern. I would recommend the Inheritance Cycle to anyone looking for a fun, though not necessarily quick, fantasy read. The series was originally supposed to be three novels, but as of a few months ago it was announced that it would be four. The third book should be coming out in September of next year, which I am waiting in anticipation for, though nowhere near the level of excitement as any of the Harry Potter books brought me.
The reason for this post though is to actually rant about the movie adaptation. One pet peeve of mine is people that say movies or TV shows are horrible without ever having given them a viewing, let alone a chance. I am the kind of person that will usually sit through anything, no matter how bad I feel it is, just so I can talk to people about it afterwards and be able to validly say why I did or did not enjoy it. This, however, did not apply to the Eragon movie. I was retching after about three minutes and think I got through five to ten minutes before I was so thoroughly disgusted I had to stop and just fast forward through the rest to see different parts I was curious about. Which was a mistake as the rest was even worse than the beginning. It was that bad. The movie was very obviously a ploy by the studios to milk in some money by throwing out a half baked fantasy movie trying to parallel Lord of the Rings in style. I honestly don’t know how it got as far as it did.
I went to do some research and found out the director, Stefen Fangmeier, who had mainly been a visual effects guy in the industry, had no prior experience as a primary director, and only one as a secondary director, and was about as suited to the job as Bush Jr. would be to playing Jeopardy. What’s even worse is who wrote the screenplay, Peter Buchman, who’s only previous screenplay work had been... get this... Jurassic Park 3. I’m not even going to go there.
I really have to wonder how the hell those 2 got ahold of the license to make the movie. The book was, after all, a New York Times #1 seller. The publishers must have really dropped the ball on this one, or maybe Paolini, being pretty much still a kid by the time he finished the first novel (19), somehow got taken advantage of. I just find the situation to be horribly sad.
It probably didn’t help that I didn’t expect much at all from the movie as I had heard about its huge flop after opening, with many dedicated fans of the novels walking out of the theater in tears of disappointment.
On another slightly-related note, it has been rumored as of today that it is now official that Peter Jackson will be producing 2 Hobbit movies. We shall see, but I would be very happy if it was true. I thought Jackson did the best possible job that could have been done on the movies. I only had one major complaint, in that Gimli was really given a short end of the stick throughout them, though at least they picked John-Rhys who was perfect for the part. Gimli was one of my favorite characters in the novels, and they substituted any of his glory to his pretty-boy counterpart elf, Legolas. I also had a few minor quibbles with it, including some scenes I had wished to have seen (ie Bombadil), but were left out for obvious reasons, and that they changed around bits of the story so some actors would get more screen time and they wouldn’t have to introduce others, like Arwen stealing roles of multiple other elves. Alas. The thing I liked most about them was how well the CG was integrated with the live action shooting. I still consider it the best job done integrating CG into a movie I’ve seen; so well that you can no longer tell that it’s clearly computer generated.