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Month: October 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel by Neil Gaiman

I bought this audiobook from Audible and listened to it on my iPhone using the Audible app.

I absolutely love Neil Gaiman and can’t get enough of his stories, not only did he write this one but he also narrates it. I really enjoy hearing stories as read by their author. The author is able to put more inflection and emotion into the characters than any other narrator could and Neil Gaiman is a fantastic narrator.

While listening to this book I went out of my way to find opportunities to listen to it. I don’t think I can give any audiobook a higher compliment.

From the publisher:

Sussex, England: A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet sitting by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean), the unremembered past comes flooding back. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie – magical, comforting, wise beyond her years – promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. A stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

©2013 Neil Gaiman (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers

I rate this book a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone!


The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

I bought this audiobook from Audible and listened to it on my iPhone using the Audible app.

This is book 2 in the Shipbreaker series, the first being "Shipbreaker".

I did not really get into Shipbreaker, but I did like some of the characters enough to give the second book a try. The half-man Tool was my favorite character in the first book and it was great getting so much time with him in Drowned Cities.

But again, this story didn’t really draw me in. Mahlia and Mouse are very good characters, and their stories are compelling, but… I don’t know, just not for me I guess.

Joshua Swanson delivers another wonderful performance bringing the characters to life. I can’t point at the narration for my feelings about this book.

From the publisher:

Soldier boys emerged from the darkness. Guns gleamed dully. Bullet bandoliers and scars draped their bare chests. Ugly brands scored their faces. She knew why these soldier boys had come. She knew what they sought, and she knew, too, that if they found it, her best friend would surely die.
In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man – a bioengineered war beast named Tool – who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.

This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi’s highly acclaimed Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.
Apocalypse now: also listen to Ship Breaker.

©2012 Paolo Bacigalupi (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

I rate this book a 6 out of 10 and recommend it to fans of Paolo Bacigalupi.


Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

I bought this audiobook from Audible and listened to it using the Audible app on my iPhone.

I really enjoyed Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi and decided to give his other books a try.

This book is a solid story. The pacing is good; the characters have clear motivations and believable emotions. But meh…

I’m not sure why but this book just didn’t reach me. It is very post-cyberpunk, I should like it a lot, but I don’t. I like it some, just not a lot.

Joshua Swanson does a great job narrating the story, he does bring the characters to life and does a great job conveying their emotions.

From the publisher:

In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota – and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.
©2010 Paolo Bacigalupi (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

I rate this book a 6 out of 10 and only recommend to fans of Paolo Bacigalupi.


Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep by Gearbox Software

Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon KeepI have been playing a lot of Borderlands 2 lately and my favorite place in Pandora has been Dragon Keep.

After you and the merry band have defeated The Warrior you all sit down to a game of " Bunkers & Badasses" together… haha.

So basically it is a first-person-shooter inside an old-school role-playing game full of orcs, dwarves, dragons, wizards, and even a unicorn.

Full of humor, action, violence and a touch of compassion Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep delivers a solid 10-20 hours of great Borderlands game play. The ending of last quest tears me up, the developers have done such an amazing job bringing these characters to life and the performance by Tiny Tina is absolutely fantastic. This is the best downloadable content released after a games initial release that I have ever played.

Now if I could find a multiplayer group to defeat the raid boss with everything would awesome!

From the developer

Sorcerers, Wizards and Crumpets, oh my! Join vault hunters, old and new, in Tiny Tina epic quest of revenge and redemption. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, the biggest and most inspired add-on content in Borderlands history, features a game within a game, as Tiny Tina takes on the role of Bunker Master in a game of "Bunkers & Badasses". Travel through a dark and ever changing world of castles, dungeons and magic forests as you fight off skeletons, orcs, dragons and more. Explore side missions and answer riddles as you roll your insight stat to gain new and amazing loot. Join with friends to save the queen and restore peace and order to the world once more.

I rate this DLC a 10 out 10 and HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who plays Borderlands 2.

I bought Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep on Steam and have been playing it on my MacBook Pro. I have also reviewed Borderlands 2.


Concatenate and Optimize Your JavaScript & CSS

Just how important is it to concatenate and optimize your javascript? In reading this article about the article "Analysis: IT experts question architecture of Obamacare website" it is apparently extremely important.

Among other problems it was found that a large number of JavaScript files were being requested and then parsed by the customer’s web browsers causing an overload of requests from the server and an overtaxing of the web browser.

"Of the 92 he found, 56 were JavaScript files, including plug-ins that make it easier for code to work on multiple browsers (such as Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer and Google Inc’s Chrome) and let users upload files to"

I bet that the majority of the other 36 files are CSS files.

At a minimum those 56 JavaScript files should have been optimized and concatenated in such a way as there would only be 1 request to the server followed by 1 response.

There are many ways to do this, I really like the idea of doing it during the build process but it could also be more dynamic and done as required by the server. Whichever way you choose it will always be better than serving a huge number of separate files.

Here is a screencast walking you through how to set up a build process for JavaScript and CSS files using Ant.

Another option is to use "minify" instead of optimizing during the build process.

No matter how you do it, if you build web sites you have no excuse not to use some method to optimize your JavaScript and CSS to improve your customer’s experience.


Search Engine Optimization: Your visual blueprint for effective Internet marketing by Kristopher B. Jones and Jim Boykin

SEO BookLooking to hone my SEO skills I poked around inside of Safari Books Online for just the right book to show me the light.

I have been building web sites for 17 years now and know a fair amount about how the search engines work. By "Search Engines" I mean Google of course, as most of the others have fallen to the wayside. But I have not actively studied SEO techniques in a long time and I figure now is the time to brush up.

I really liked this book, it is 336 pages of no-nonsense advice and direction on the why and how of SEO including a lot of relevant information that the other books have left out.

From the publisher:

Your visual, step-by-step guide to search engine optimization, from an Internet marketing expert

Techniques and best practices for search engine optimization are constantly evolving. This visual guide to SEO is fully updated with information on the latest and most effective ways to move your website up in the search engine rankings. Internet marketing guru Kristopher Jones, a frequent keynote speaker at interactive marketing conferences, explains all the key concepts in a visual format so you can see how they work and what to do. Learn about keyword generation, internal linking, URL structure, content creation, using social media, and more.

  • More than 70 percent of businesses today have websites; search engine optimization is a vital factor in growing a business by gaining new customers while increasing business from existing customers
  • This two-color book is the only guide to search engine optimization that is presented in a visual format
  • Presents search engine marketing principles including keyword generation, on-site optimization involving website structure, internal linking, URL structure, content creation, off-site optimization, social media optimization and more
  • Author is a popular keynote speaker and panelist at interactive marketing and technology conferences
  • Search Engine Optimization: Your visual blueprint for effective Internet marketing, Third Edition helps visual learners master and maximize SEO techniques.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone looking to learn more about search engine optimization and pay-per-click search engine advertising.

I read Search Engine Optimization: Your visual blueprint for effective Internet marketing on Safari Books Online using their app on my iPad.


Borderlands 2 by Gearbox Software

Borderlands 2I bought Borderlands 2 on Steam and play it on my MacBook Pro.

I have been playing Borderlands 2 for a long time now and have mostly been loving I, there have been some parts of it that really frustrated me and I am beginning to get burned out on it again.

After 250 hours or so of playing I have completed the main storyline 5 times, played all of the downloadable content, completed almost every quest available at least once, and have leveled up a Sniper to 52 and a Commando to 64. My current plan is to get the commando up to the highest level, which is currently level 72.

Lately I have been playing a lot more multiplayer. It is a great way to level really fast, it is not uncommon for me to gain an entire level every hour-and-a-half or so even at levels as high as 60+. But it is really hard to find a good group, there are so many "Squids" that just run around drawing agro and dying that all sense of fun is drained out of the game.

Some of the most fun I have had recently has been with a group of mixed characters all within a level of each other that work closely together as a team. With one such team we completed the last couple of quests of Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep and it was amazingly fantastic.

One part of the game I have missed out on so far is group raids. There are a bunch of them in the game but I have not found a group to do any of them with.

From the developer:

Borderlands 2 furthers the distinct blending of First Person Shooter and Role Playing genres to create the true evolution of the Role Playing Shooter. Team up with up to three other players for four-player online goodness or go old-school with two-player split-screen couch sharing mayhem as you spend hours leveling up your character and equipping them with one of the millions of badass weapons. Borderlands 2 features a new visually stunning array of procedurally generated guns, shields, grenades, artifacts, enemies and more. Choose one of the four new character classes to be taken through a carefully crafted and connected story to all new and surprising environments across the living planet of Pandora. Make new friends, arm them to the teeth and fight alongside them on your relentless quest for revenge and redemption.

I rate this game a 9 out of 10 and think that 250+ hours of playing a game is crazy!


13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time by Michael Brooks

I bought this audiobook from Audible and listened to it using the Audible app and my iPhone.

This book did not impress me. To me the narrator, James Adams, sounds really bored throughout the book.

Maybe it has to do with my own opinion that "Science" knows a lot less than it thinks it does and that much of what is currently accepted as irrefutable truth will soon be recognized as being wrong. So a book of 13 things that science does not know is not very impressive to me.

I am not sure why I bothered buying this book, it is obviously not something that I would be interested in, but for some reason I thought it would be.

From the publisher:

Science starts to get interesting when things don’t make sense.

Science’s best-kept secret is that there are experimental results and reliable data that the most brilliant scientists can neither explain nor dismiss. In the past, similar "anomalies" have revolutionized our world, as in the 16th century, when a set of celestial anomalies led Copernicus to realize that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not the reverse, and in the 1770s, when two chemists discovered oxygen because of experimental results that defied the theories of the day. If history is any precedent, we should look to today’s inexplicable results to forecast the future of science.

In 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, Michael Brooks heads to the scientific frontier to meet 13 modern-day anomalies and discover tomorrow’s breakthroughs.

©2008 Michael Brooks; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

I rate this book a 4 out of 10 and don’t recommend it to anyone.