Thursday, August 25, 2011

Asus Transformer

I have not done product reviews, up to now. I purchased an Asus Transformer tablet and docking keyboard and have used both for about two months.  This is one wonderful piece of equipment.  It runs Android 3.2.  The tablet began with 3.1, but Asus has upgraded it three times.  Others complain about Android Honeycomb, but I find it nimble and stable.  After a recent update, the Transformer supports Netflix.  The Android market place has an enormous number of apps, the majority of which scale from phone to tablet size.  With the keyboard, the tablet becomes a netbook or small laptop.  The Tablet came with Polaris, which enables document development that is compatible with Office.  The integration of Honeycomb with all Google products is very good.  The Transformer also allows the user to choose how a web-site sees the tablet.  It can either see it as a “phone” or as a computer.  The latter allows me to see websites in their full glory rather than in phone-app mode.  The tablet provides mini-HDNI output, so I can watch movies and TV shows running on the tablet through my TV in high definition.  I have an app that is no longer available on the market but that enables me to stream movies and TV shows not available on Netflix or OnDemand.   The entire package supports micro SDHC memory, as well as standard SDHC cards.  It also provides a USB port.  I use the tablet as an e-reader.  Both Kindle and Nook apps are tablet-optimized.  Another good reader is Aldiko that has a wide selection of free books. 

I have never owned an iPad, but I must confess that I have had terrible experiences with iTunes in the past and do not ever want it on my computer.  Also, I like Android’s drag and drop capability.  The Transformer is currently available for $350 at a big box store. 

If I had five thumbs, the Transformer would receive them.  

Brief reviews

Brief Reviews:
1.     1.    Jackie Evancho was at Symphony Hall.  I have to give it to the 12-year old young lady.  She has a very good voice and a nice stage presence.  She doesn’t interact with the audience, and the program has a few filler classical pieces, but I imagine a full length concert would play havoc with her voice.  She performed a beautiful “Angel” by Sarah MacLachlan, which was incorrectly attributed in the program to Rossini.  It’s a beautiful song, but a tad dark for someone so young:

Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay
There's always one reason
To feel not good enough
And it's hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight
In the arms of the angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here
So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There's vultures and thieves at your back
And the storm keeps on twisting
You keep on building the lie
That you make up for all that you lack
It don't make no difference
Escaping one last time
It's easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
This glorious sadness that brings me to my knees
In the arms of the angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here

2.      “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a fairly good movie. Its premise that the ape’s have their intelligence improved by a drug designed to combat Alzheimer’s in humans is interesting, if improbably.  This premise, however, is a direct descendant of the theme in the 1999 movie “Deep Blue Sea.”  The CGI effects are very good, but would have been better if they could have made James Franco a good actor.  He looked stoned in this movie also.  I hope that this begins a new franchise of the Apes movies. 

3.      I watched the entire “Rubicon” TV show in a two-day marathon.  I take back anything negative I have previously said about it.  It is creepy and spooky, appropriate for a show that deals with spies and espionage.  James Badge Dale is very good as Will, the story’s hero who is attempting to ferret out the truth behind the relationship between his employee, the American Policy Institute, and certain disasters that occurred in the recent past.  Arliss Howard (Debra Winger’s husband) played Kale Ingram (great name, no?) who is a the 2nd in command at API, but apparently not involved in all of the nastiness.  One episode has Ingram, along with one of his former CIA colleagues dispose of a body in Will’s apartment, using power saws and other grisly instruments.  Howard was perfectly cast in this role and played it with great reserve and unflappability.  The most sinister character is Tuxton Spangler (another great name), the head of API and played by Michael Cristofer.  He is grandfatherly but nasty to the core.  The fictional API reminds me of the Washington, DC consulting firms that are headed up by megalomaniacal owners who believe that only their own thoughts are good and worth attending to.  They also believe that their companies do the best work in the world.  Any company that believes that is the best can’t be the best, since it cannot even see itself clearly.  The offices of API look just like those I have worked in.  A rabbit warren of overly small offices seems to de rigueur for these companies. Finally Truxton Spangler reminded me of someone in my past who acted grandfatherly, promised me a long-term career, and then engineered downsizing my position out the door.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Georgia State Botanical Gardens, near Athens, GA

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Sunday, August 7, 2011


I spent three great days in Ottawa, Canada (  My friend, with whom I said, was the ultimate host.  Has a beautiful condo that was convenient to the city.  He also understood that I want to be a tourist and see everything possible.  So we spent an evening in the bustling Bytown, which is full of trendy restaurants and gelato stores, as well as a cosmopolitan array of people.  We took a cruise on the beautiful Rideau Canal that winds through the city and makes for great sightseeing.  We took in the Gatineau Park and saw its beautiful lakes and quaint towns. 

We went to the Deifenbunker, which is Canada’s Cold War Museum.  This museum was a top-flight experience.  The place is a decommissioned bunker where the Canadian government would have operated from after a nuclear attack.  Note that it was not for the general public, nor was it for the opposition party, but only for the members of the ruling parting, excluding any family members.  It reminded me about the terrible paranoia we had over a nuclear war (which now has been transmuted by our government into a fear of Muslims).  The museum includes a decontamination area.  If someone showed any sign of radiation sickness after the cleaning process, he/she would have to exit the bunker to the outside, which was presumably decimated and radioactive.  There was a hospital for emergency medical procedures, including surgery.  There was a mental health unit for those who deteriorated under the stress of the attack.  It also includes a huge vault where the country’s gold would be stored in order to have a basis on which to restore a war-savaged economy. In the vault was actual rubble from Hiroshima, post our bombing of the city. The situation rooms to be used by top government officials were also open for viewing. I applaud the Canadian government for opening this bunker to the public.  It is an important part of our social history and it should remind us of the horror of it all.  I am not sure that the US government has opened one of its bunkers for public touring. 

Ottawa was alive with festivals, including a Busker Festival, full of entertainers, from fire-eaters to acrobats.  There was a chamber music festival and a canal celebration going on simultaneously.  Even though Ottawa is the third coldest capital in the world, the weather was beautiful.  The sun was so intense that I became much sunburned- the worst I have had in my life.  On Sunday evening, there was a beautiful sound and light show on the Parliament building that paid tribute to Canada’s history and notable figures.  They have pride but don’t have to call themselves “The Greatest Country on Earth.”

The architecture in Ottawa is notable for its lack of notability.  The city center is full of undistinguished boxes that are covered in glass.  In contrast, the Parliament Buildings are splendid, as is the Governor General’s House and the various museums.
While the city is expensive, the citizens get it back in government-provided healthcare. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Ottawa and feel it would be a great place to live if there were no winter.