Reviews

Windows 8: Better or Worse?

So I semi-recently (as in a few weeks ago) bought myself a big, fancy, Windows 8 computer. And I was thinking: “Hey, why not talk about Windows 8 and my thoughts on it for a desktop?”

So this is my semi-review, semi-tutorial (basically, some brief instructions on the things I had the hardest time figuring out).

Why Not Buy It?

Let’s start by covering the cons of a Windows 8. Firstly (and mainly) Windows 8 would not be nearly as fun without touch, and there aren’t that many good touch screens for it yet. When I was shopping, the two monitors I ended up coming down to were an Acer and a Dell.

I bought the Dell. Why? Because from what I’d read online, the Acer had a poor quality control, and if you got a bad apple, it was nigh impossible to get it replaced/fixed. The Dell was practically equal in every way: 23 inch, ten touch, etc., etc. The two main differences were: The Dell has a lower contrast ratio than the Acer, and a better tilt. The Dell screen can go from ten degrees forward to completely flat. I’m not kidding. The Acer had a better contrast, but couldn’t even get up to 90 degrees (straight up and down).

Of course, a touch screen is not absolutely required for using Windows 8 — in fact, sometimes I prefer using the mouse. But admit it: it’s really, really, really fun to swipe your finger across the screen and watch things go flying by.

The most annoying thing I’ve encountered so far is that practically all the apps my computer came with (including Skype) need a Microsoft account. It’s not so bad, but that is my biggest dislike. Though, I suppose, it’s easier than making different passwords for everything. And it probably makes more sense on a tablet. So yeah… not really a biggie.

Anyway, now I shall mention the really nice features of Windows 8, and why it is cool:

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Do Hard Things

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think teenager? Probably along the lines of video game/movie/internet obsessed, rebellious, party on the weekends, etc.

Do Hard Things was written by Alex and Brett Harris when they were teens. It’s about how teenagers have been trapped by low expectations, how they think of the teen years as a time to party. And how it’s not.

Alex and Brett challenge teenagers to do hard things. Not hard things like lift weights, or denying self pleasure, but five type of hard things that can be scary, HARD, but good.

  1. Things outside your comfort zone.
  2. Things that go beyond what’s expected/required.
  3. Things that take more than one person to accomplish.
  4. Things that don’t have an immediate payoff.
  5. Things that go against the crowd.

They tell inspiring stories and give ideas of how to get started. And though Do Hard Things is by Christian teens for Christian teens, I think that it would be a good read for anyone.

All in all I give the book 5/5 stars, and would encourage you to check it out if you haven’t — if for no other reason than that the forward was written by Chuck Norris ;).

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

So not AMAZINGLY long ago the first Hobbit movie came out in theaters. I went to see it with family, and thought I’d share some opinions. So, here goes:

Stars:

I’d give it 4/5. Not as good as the LotR (Lord of the Rings), but pretty good. A good movie even if you’ve read the book (which you should go do, if you haven’t).

Rating:

It’s rated PG-13. I’d say if you have seen the Lord of the Rings, it’ll be more than fine.

I didn’t notice much blood, (though I’ve never minded blood that much, so that could just be me) or anything. There were battle scenes, but y’know, that’s LotR for you. So I say again: If you’ve seen LotR, you’ll be fine.

Plot (may contain spoilers):

Pretty good. Mostly it followed the book, and the extras they added fit well.

Gandolf and 13 dwarves recruit a usually ‘proper’ stay-at-home-type hobbit named Bilbo Baggins to help them take back the dwarves’ mountain home from a fierce dragon, Smaug — though they believe it’s possible that Smaug is dead, since he has not been seen for a long time.

At first Bilbo is reluctant, but then he is pulled into the spirit of Adventure and rushes off to join the dwarves (unfortunately forgetting his handkerchiefs!) On this adventure he faces many dangers.

However it seems that more is going on than just the dwarves taking back their mountain. Gandolf’s problems include a dark wizard called “The Necromancer” who seems to be raising dark forces, including the Witch King. Because of him, the forest is turning dark, plants and animals dying…

And Bilbo and the dwarves? They have an angry Orc, eager for revenge.

Overall (maybe some spoilers):

The movie did have at least one line that was completely hilarious and rather out of character. For those of you who have read the book: They changed what saved them from the Trolls a bit, but what they did with it probably worked better for the movie.

I loved the brown wizard — first that the movie included him, second that just his character was fun. My memories of the book is foggy, but I don’t remember him being in it. However, I think his addition was great.

The movie did alright for the songs. Of course they had to drop the elves’ songs when the dwarves reached Rivendell. Otherwise they would have seemed far to silly to fit in with LotR.

In general, the changes worked well, the characters were portrayed well, etc., etc., and I think it was a good movie, and I’m eager for the next two. It wasn’t as good as LotR by any means, but those were very good movies and would be hard to beat.

X-Men, First Class

So the other night I watched X-Men: First Class in theaters (obviously). And so I thought I’d share my thoughts. I guess. I don’t know. I tend to overrate things. Oh well, I feel like writing this. Sorry if I accidentally include anything you feel is a spoiler. And I won’t actually do any rating — I’ll just tell you about the movie.

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Noisy animals

No, this blog post is not about animals in my life being noisy, or how annoying it is when they are.

This blog post is about a couple of websites I know that are fun, though noisy, and that have animals.

Singing Horses

The first one, Singing Horses, was found long ago. However, I was recently reminded of it by a comment my mom made on Builder’s blog post “The mysterious ticking noise from the potter puppet pals“.

Note: This will most likely annoy family members after a while.

Meowmania

Climbing Gecko linked me to this one. If you own cats, Meowmania is a great way to tease them, or make them come running (as long as you don’t use it too much). After it finishes loading, just click the screen and see what happens.

Note: If you click and pull in one way or another and then let go, the cat’s head will spin until you click the screen again.

Second Note: This will also most likely annoy family members after a while.

Okay, those are all I know at this time. If you know some others, comment a link to them here ^.^

Swagger wagon and the Last AirBender

Swagger Wagon

I saw a condensed version of this video when I went to see The Last Air Bender with my Dad and two sisters, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Okay. Now I mentioned The Last Air Bender, so I might as well give you a review. But first: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS.

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Spilling Ink (a review)

A few days ago my mom got a free copy of Spilling Ink, by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter,  for winning a blog contest.

I immediately (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration) picked it up and started reading. I had “read” many writing books before. Each time, however, I had barely gotten to the end of the first section. But unlike those writing books, Spilling Ink trapped me, and I read it all the way through.

It covered everything: to plot or not to plot, making your characters think they’re alive, getting ideas, writers’ block 911, revising, and much MUCH more (not in that order though ;)).

Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter supply good advice mixed in with some humor, and I must congratulate Matt Phelan on his brilliant illustrations!

And last, but not least, here is some of what other people had to say (I found this on the back cover):

“For years I have been thinking about writing a HOW TO book for kids who want to write. Now I don’t have to. Anne and Ellen have crafted such a wonderful, funny, wise book that when eager young writers send me a letter seeking my advice I can now simply say ‘read this!” My hat is off to this dynamic duo.” —Bruce Coville

Or then there is:

“The singular, intense yet funny voice of Spilling Ink shares advice—how to convince your characters they are alive, avoid noisy dialogue tags, wear sunglasses to feel like a spy—with much lively wisdom and nary a hint of adult condescension. An outstanding book.” — Nancy Springer

So that’s what they had to say! (Note: I was copying that best as I could, but I might have gone a bit off what it said they said on the back of the book; sorry if this is so.) So what about me? What’s my opinion? Here it is:

WOW!!!!!! This might very well be AT LEAST the best writing handbook for young writers. But I believe ANYONE, no matter how old, could use the advice found in this book. I must truly say: Thank you for sharing this wisdom, Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. I shall keep it in mind whenever I write a book. Or try to, at least, sometimes my mind gets a little bit of an “overflowing toilet” ;).

So now, maybe next time you’re at a library or book store, you’ll look for Spilling Ink to read it for yourself!

Now maybe I’ll go and find some of those other books that Anne and Ellen wrote and kept mentioning throughout Spilling Ink — They sounded interesting…