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Book Review: Michael Crichton – Pirate Latitudes

December 20th, 2009 No comments

Once upon a time before medical school, I was an avid reader, but now I barely manage to keep up with my favorite authors.  When I heard that there was going to be a posthumous Crichton novel I has initially against it, however, I could not resist ordering a copy of Pirate Latitudes.

Pirate Latitudes is a period piece set in Caribbean in 1665.  It has a roughly written, but compelling story of Privateer Charles Hunter.  The novel is a chronicle of Captain Hunter’s plat to lay siege to the impenetrable fortress of Matanceros.  He chronicles a very imaginative plot that numerous twists that make a true page-turner.

However, one of the most notable features of this book, is it lacks the polished that most Crichton novel feature.  One has to believe that either he wrote a period piece for fun and never intended it to be published or that he passed before he could send it to editing.  The beginning of the book is the best written, but demonstrates numerous anecdotes that are written in the incorrect tense and simply do not flow, such as when he explains that while platinum is a value mineral in our society it lacked value in 1665.  The final chapters of the book, read more like a first draft outlining the plot than a finished product, however, it does not take away from the story and simply leaves the reader wanting more.

I enjoyed the novel.  If you want a fast-paced fun novel, I have to recommend this book.  Hardcore Crichton fan, will likely enjoy this book, but will have to accept it is an incomplete work.  If your into hardcore pirate period pieces, perhaps this may not be your book.

Windows 7: It stinks and I do not like it.

December 18th, 2009 No comments

I have used Windows 7 since it’s beta and subsequently purchased  a copy of the Ultimate edition.  While I mostly use my Mac,  I feel that I have used Windows 7  enough over the past 3 – 4 months to make a well rounded review that is not based upon a knee-jerk reaction that most blogs published after using it for less than 1 hour.

Windows 7 is simply a rewrite of Windows Vista, but induces customer feedback and a huge overhaul of the  user interface (UI).  The UI enchantments are the big selling point this new OS.  After a painless install and booting up, will you notice the striking changes to the desktop and taskbar; it is as if Vista mated with OS X and Ubuntu.  The new taskbar has a very strong linux feel to it, you can have multiple desktops, run in parallel, the program icons expand when a program is running, there is a new preview feature, and there is finally a go to desktop corner.   In fact I would not surprised if they simply stole the code from KDE.  This is not a bad thing: these features are time tested and proven on both Linux  and Mac, so it is about time windows embraced this basic technology.  My big complaint is the new Start Menu.  It is very difficult to navigate, it demonstrates very unintelligent suggestions for the most used applications, and offers almost no ability to customize.  To do something as simple as changing icons/folders in the start menu, you need to open two system folders.  This has been a constant source of frustration for me.  This is also the first build to remove the beloved Windows classic startbar.  A final criticism on the new desktop, is the  Windows widgets are still memory hogs and useless, turn them off ASAP.

The next thing that will be immediately apparent is that the UAC is now reasonable.  Windows did a good job at removing >90% of UAC and making it so the average user can tolerate to use their OS, and yet enough warnings to be effective.  Strong work.

Windows 7 mimics OS X control panel.  Microsoft has tried to slim the control panel down to several icons that offer a few different choices that will suffice to most users.  However in doing this, they have taken away much customization that was possible on XP and Vista.  For me this was the most powerful feature of windows, no matter how bad it was out of the box, you could tweak almost every aspect of the OS with ease.  Now only that they have taken simple tasks like sharing a folder, and made it a multi-step process.  It would seem they are making things much more complicated, rather than simpler for the average user.  For me Windows 7 lost a lot of points for the redesigned control panels.

In Brief:
The good
:  It’s new taskbar/desktop finally implements long awaited changes.  It is a good user experience.  Windows 7 is much faster and much less annoying than Vista.

The bad: The new Start Menu is definitely a  huge failure and I cannot wait for a patch bringing back the classic start menu.  Changing options via the control panel is plain cumbersome and simple tweaks are not possible without manually editing the registry or a system file.  I have also had major problems with internet connectivity on Windows 7.  For LAN connectivity, I had to disable the OS ability to regulate bandwidth as described here.  And to solve the problem with random disconnects on my wireless network, I had to change the settings on my router as described here.  I have never had similar issues before with another other OS.  I believe that there are still too many bugs for your average user to navigate around.

Thinking of upgrading: If you have Windows Vista, this is a mandatory upgrade.  If you have any other OS, I don’t see the need.  I would wait until the price falls or until you start having software compatibility issues.  Almost all software is XP compliant, so there is no motivating factor to change.

My thoughts on PC vs. Mac:  I think Mac has this one all tied up.  Mac is easy to use, great support, it just works, and it runs Windows software flawlessly (with VMware Fusion).  So while Macs do have a hefty price tag you get what you pay for.

Categories: Computers, Rants Tags: , , ,

Food in Atlanta

December 17th, 2009 No comments

As a foodie, I have been planning on starting a restaurant  guide to New Orleans, but I can never find the time to do some.  However, I do have the time to make some quick comments on my recent culinary experiences in Atlanta.

Bluepointe:  is an Asian-fusion business-causal dinning restaurant that is locally owned restaurant group and overseen Chef Doug Turbush.
The Food: There were definitely highs and lows.  The restaurant boasts a combination of American and Asian flavor.  I would say it is American proteins served with  Asian flavor.  For me fusion requires innovation, but simply using Gulf Fish, adding some  foam, or adding a jalapeño to a traditional Asian flavor profile is not culinary fusion…. perhaps some would disagree. 
The highs:
The Tuna Tartar was the highlight of the entire meal.  The flavors of the Thai Chili were simply transcendent, in every bite new flavors were demonstrated, the taste permeated the tuna without overpowering the taste of the tuna, and very importantly there was a fair amount of tuna.  The only drawback to the dish was there was barely a teaspoon of lemon foam and about a dozen eggs of caviar; it does not serve as an affective garnish and would be better with it.  The Beef Short Ribs were braised very nicely and served in a nice miso reduction with just a small hint of jalapeño.  The wait staff should also be acknowledged for being knowledgeable and attentive.
The Lows: Citrus Steamed Sole on the restaurant’s first attempt I received a very nicely arranged plate with 2 large fillets, but one of the fillets was raw (I do not mean undercooked, simply raw).  I sent it back and received a second plate that had two small that were broken and piled on top of overcooked bok choi.  Zero points to the chef for presentation, style, or grace.  The first had an overwhelming (but not unpleasant) citrus taste.  The waiter did tell me before I ordered that they has a powerful taste, but the flavor fish were completely overpowered and was unsatisfying.  I was also disappointing with the Blueplate.  The Blueplate is a tasting appetizer containing: Gyoza, Lemongrass Shrimp, Peektoe Crab Springrolls, and Calamari.  The gyoza was simply fantastic, I only wish my gyoza were on par.  The other three dished were at best bland.  The Lemongrass Shrimp were all slightly overcooked and did not have a memorable flavor, however, they did pair very well with the Thai Chili from the Tuna Tartar.  The Springrolls were standard-fare, and the Calamari was simply bland and was the only item we did not want to finish.
Ambiance:  The resturant is very conveniently located near the mall on a busy intersection, however maintains a quiet and tranquil ambiance.  Bluepointe adeptly utilizes an open dinning room to create a comfortable dining experience.  I am not a fan of the tacky-cliche Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling, they seems better fit in a TGI-Fridays than an upscale resturant.
Cost:  Appetizers averaged $8 and entrees $24 for average sized portions.
Overall: Like many business causal restaurant, if you play it safe and stick with what you already know is good, you will likely get a good meal for a fair price.  However, it is clear this is not a michelin rated restaurant and they need better quality control in the food they send out of the restaurant.  I have no plans on going back anytime soon.

Planet Bombay:  is an Indian Restaurant on Moorland near Freedom Park.  They claim to be an authentic Indian restaurant, but the food reflects Americanized Indian food.  In every city I go to, I sample the Indian cuisine and Atlanta has above average restaurants.
The Food: They offer a very wide array of curries and other Indian fares.  The food is always well prepared and the portions are average.  The restaurant has recently increased the amount of protein served in it’s dished, and now offers a satisfying amount.  It is not fine dinning, but it is delicious when your in the mood for Indian.  I have tried various vindaloos, masalas, curries, and biryanis and can say that they are all good, but far from great.  In general, the appetizers are fair at best and is the aspect of the menu in most need of re-thinking.
Ambiance:  Planet Bombay offers a nice atmosphere than most Indian places, however it’s open dinning room, hardwood floors and tables result in a very noisy experience.
Cost:  Appetizers averaged $8 and entrees $13 for average sized portions.
Overall: Slightly expensive, but overall a pleasant dinning experience.  Since I love Indian food, it is very likely I will be back.