Friday, April 29, 2011

'The President's Vampire' by Christopher Farnsworth

 

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I chose ‘Blood Oath’ as my #1 book for 2010, so you KNOW I couldn’t wait for this puppy to drop.  I was just sitting here flipping through it again and yeah... the bloody mayhem that made me an instant fan of ‘Blood Oath’ has carried over nicely to the sequel.  Chris can just flat out tell a story.  I heard Chris say once that he would love for this series to go on for at least ten books.  Well… it’s being set up for just that.  He continues the telling of Cade’s history and we also learn how politics can really and truly screw EVERYTHING!  Even the well laid plans of monsters and ghouls.  I said it before and I’ll say it again; please do not get turned off because this is “another vampire” book.  If you’re reading this review and have not yet experienced the gruesome brilliance of Chris Farnsworth, then you are about to add a new author (sorry Chris) to your list.

The story opens with Cade fighting Arabs in the desert and… what… really… Bin Laden!?!  But this isn’t your father’s Bin Laden… and Cade isn’t your father’s vampire.  Chris weaves a story of conspiracy theories (Liberty, Iowa.  Really?), government cover-ups, religious evil, carnage, massacre, and for good measure, a bit of sex and sexual tension.  In ‘The President’s Vampire’ Cade’s main nemesis are icky Lizard/snake hybrid… beings.  They have the fleshy appetite of starving Piranhas and the body odor of a Pampers diaper testing facility.  They’re so nasty they think the definition of nice is eating your left hand first!  That way you can use your right hand to hold in your lower intestine.

But as bad as they are, imagine the head case that created them.  Oh yes, with every evil thing birthed there’s a mother (choose YOUR spelling of that word) out there smiling.  While Cade is the Shaft of the series, it’s impossible to forget about Zach and Tania.  Tania… now that is one sexxxxxxy vampire chick!  Zach, after being blindsided into his position, has slowly started to feel at home.  No, not really.  Then again, if I was the professional assistant to an ancient bloodsucker or if I saw firsthand pure supernatural evil on a daily basis, I’d be sucking down a few Zyprexa energy drinks too.

Chris has blesses (cursed) us with another GREAT story!  Damn him for making me wait another year until the next one.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sony Cybershot WX9



**Updated June 30, 2011**


After our trip to Disneyland and California Adventures I have a few issues with this camera.  When using it in a setting like this; IE turning it on and off, focusing and zooming, quick shots in an array of settings... she didn't do so well.  The biggest issues was focusing.  I was wondering why this camera wouldn't focus at times when the settings didn't change.  Turns out that I had to turn the camera off and back on, almost like I had to reset it.  NOT COOL!  At a theme park like this where you need to get the shot on the fly, I was getting very frustrated.  I still like this camera, but things like this reinforce that my next camera will be a DSLR.  I know it's still a point and shoot camera but something like this is unforgiveable.  I'll be heading to San Diego next and I'll keep an eye out for this.  Oh... get another battery for this puppy as well.  I took about 245 shots and two short videos before my camera went out.  THAT was my fault.  :-)





**I’ve had this camera for about three weeks now. Did not know my review would be this long. Sorry.** :-)

After months of looking, researching, web surfing, asking friends, bugging friends, waiting, and Google picture searching, I have FINALLY chosen the Sony Cybershot WX9 as my next point and shoot camera. A tiny bit of history: My first digital camera was a Sony Cybershot DSCN1 8.1 MP and was an absolutely magnificent camera. I had it for 5 years before I fatally dropped and killed it. My second digital camera was the Sony DSC-T99 and the absolute WORST camera I have ever owned! I had no problem being loyal to Sony because of the DSCN1 but they almost ruined it with the T99! So I made it a point to do so much research for my next camera, Dan Brown would be jealous. I used so many websites to do my research I felt like that geek who started FaceBook.

Here are the cameras that were in the running: Canon Power Shot SX230HS, Sony Cybershot DSC-WX9, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3, and the Nikon Coolpix S9100.

Given everything that today’s P&S cameras possess, I was just looking for one thing: it had to take very good pictures. Period. I know, I know, I know… get a DSLR. Maybe one day, but for today I just want a P&S that could fit in my pocket grab that perfect shot. I KNOW for a fact that P&S cameras can take great photos because I had one, the DSCN1. So I know it could happen; I just wanted it to happen again. Having panorama shots, 3-D, Hi-Def video, GPS, and other bells and whistles are all well and good but I just wanted a camera that would exceed the pictures my DSCN1 took. I’ll post links to the picture albums that I took with my various digital cameras so you can see the difference in picture quality.

This first initial posting of this review will be a condensed journal or sorts with me adding stuff willy-nilly as I learn more and experience more with this camera. Here goes…

Control Wheel: After a few days of use (and taking pictures of every useless thing I could think of) I have grown weary of the control wheel. This is easily the albatross around the neck of this camera. I have started teaching myself to use the “menu” button because it is much easier to navigate than the wheel. My problem with the wheel is that it’s extremely sensitive and you need to have fingers the size of Tom Thumb to work it with no problems. Now, I WAS able to get the hang of it after practice… but why bother when I can get to the EXACT same functions with the “menu” button? However, don’t get me wrong here, the control wheel is a very important functioning part of this camera, and Sony has worked it so that you have to use it to get to a lot of the different scenes. All I’m saying is that the less you use it the smoother your working of this camera will be. (PLEASE bring back the touch screen Sony).

The menu: While nice, takes some getting used to but once you do, you’ll fly through it. There was a little scratching of my head when I was trying to figure out the difference between “intelligent auto” and “superior auto”. I imagine there were some chuckles in the board room on that one. There is also a small delay when passing the 3-D icon. I imagine this is because the camera has to set itself for a whole different set of parameters when doing that. Nothing big, but worth a mention.

Focus: Focusing is good on regular shots, but not great when you use the full aspect of the 5x zoom. It could be better and the pictures do lose some of that “bite” when you get in a little too far, but I think that is just par for the course with a P&S. (right?)

Movies: Admittedly I’ve only taken a few token videos only because I wanted to see if I could. Don’t see myself using this feature a lot, but if I come across something good I’ll let you know. The test videos I have taken have turned out very nice and VERY clear. Sony also gives you three video settings to choose from; highest image quality (1920x1080/24M), high image quality (1920x1080/17M), and standard image quality (1440x1080/9M). I also like the fact that you can zoom while filming and that you can snap pictures while filming video.

Picture quality in regular light: this is a paradox for me so I’ll try to be as clear as I can. The pictures this camera takes are very good. But I was honestly looking for something a lot better since they have had five years of work since the DSCN1. At best the picture quality equals the picture quality of the DSCN1. Again, this would be OK if this camera was only one year out from the previous model… but not five. I’m happy with the pictures, I just expected more. There is also (sometimes) the issue of when you don’t use the provided software to extract the pictures; there is sometimes a small black “void” near the bottom of the video and pictures. Action shots are a breeze with this camera as well.

Picture quality in medium light: These are pretty good as well. In the WX9 picture album I put in a picture of a gorgeous nighttime sky. That was taken without a tripod and a preset (I’m sorry I can’t remember which one) scene setting. The indoor picture I took were OK too… as long as I didn’t zoom in too much. That zoom really is not this cameras friend. You will see more grain with the indoor pictures if you blow them up. If you don’t blow the pictures up the size of posters you’ll be OK.

Picture quality in low light: In this case my low light was 1 candle. We had a power outage about two days ago and I was able to play with this feature while smarter people than myself tried to figure out why I didn’t have power but the house directly behind me did. Taking pictures in low light is not for the novice. You don’t have to be a pro, but knowing where to place the camera and using the tripod is a must. The pictures turned out pretty well but still not as well as my former DSCN1. The handheld shots were a little grainy, but that is to be expected. Again, my only disappointment was that these pictures were only as good as my previous Sony. The tripod pictures, of course, turned out much better. Grain only showed up when I blew the picture up on my laptop.

What turned out to be a nice surprise was that the “background de-focus” mode worked in the low light. BONUS! I tried every low light setting this camera offered and was pretty pleased… as long as I was using my tripod. Without it the pictures were not good, but that’s my fault not Sony’s. Sony is touting its new Exmor R CMOS sensor pretty hard. They advertise that it will deliver “stunning” low light pictures. It delivers very good low light pictures but “stunning” is pushing it.

Battery: So far so good. When it is fully charged I have no worries that it won’t last out what I’m trying to do. I can’t tell you how it runs at ½ charge and below because I’m the type of guy that recharges all of my gadgets at night so that I’ll be ready to go. And since you can charge this camera using your laptop with the supplied tiny USB cord, you should be in good shape on the days of heavy shooting. Just for giggles I did run the power down using the slideshow feature and ‘Planet Rock’ music I downloaded. It took a little over two hours at ¾ battery power.

3-D: I haven’t been able to see pictures on a 3-D TV but when you take a 3-D picture with this camera, you CAN see it 3-D. It’s slight but it is there. You can also see the 3-D picture without the use of those Amish-ugly 3-D glasses. It’s actually pretty cool.

Summation: Taken everything into consideration I am happy with this camera so far. I take it everywhere with me and its small enough to fit in my pants pocket without that embarrassing bulge. I think this camera will easily fit your needs for a very good P&S camera and then some. Yeah, I’ll always wish back to the days of the DSCN1, but until someone invents a *working* time machine I’ll happily use my new WX9.

Pros:
• The LCD screen is stunningly gorgeous. So much so that the pictures look better on my camera than they do on my laptop. (#crappylaptopfail).
• Beautiful camera design.
• The video is beautiful.
• Image quality***. (see above)
• Plenty of shooting modes to choose from.
• Very light and a great size to throw in your pocket or purse.
• I love how you can switch the corporate elevator music with music of your choice for the slideshow playback. The only drawback is that you have to use Sony’s supplied software on the CD they give you. Unfortunately it’s typical gimmicky photo software that you can EASILY do without. I installed it just to give it a test run and I’m going to keep it ONLY because I want to use it to switch the music. Seriously, how cool is it that now I can play ‘Planet Rock’ while showing my pictures? BONUS!!

Cons:
• I’m not a big fan of the control wheel. If you have big fingers I feel bad for you. Too many times I kept inadvertently kept hitting the button in the middle as I was trying to switch modes. DSCN1 had a touch screen and why they got rid of that I will NEVER know.
• Image quality (I know, I know… how can it be a pro and a con?). While the image quality is good, I still find myself wishing back to the picture quality of the DSCN1. The picture aren’t *bad* but I expected a lot more after five years of technology between cameras.
• While using the video feature you can hear the camera if you use the zoom.
• If you have the money, there are better point and shoot cameras that can handle low light photography better.

Side Notes:
• The battery can be charged via a battery pack plugged into camera and plugged into wall, or USB cord plugged into camera plugged into computer.
• I use a Transcend 4GB Class 10 SDHC memory card as my main baby and a Lexar 8GB Class 2 memory card for backup and extra storage.

• If you have any other questions please feel free to ask me here or e-mail me at rubiconreader@gmail.com and I’ll do my best.

• Because someone ALWAYS asks, this camera was not on a strict lay down date and I was able to order it through a camera store in another state (I live in CA). That’s how I got it “early”.

Sony DSCN1 Picture Album

Sony T99 Picture Album

Sony WX9 Picture Album

Saturday, April 2, 2011

'Gotta Have It'. Edited by: Rachel Kramer Bussel


69. The most famous number in the sexual/erotic world. Just saying it conjures up images of pure, uninhibited sexual bliss. Mutual satisfaction, slurping and sucking, and that guilty look you give your lover when you’re in public and that number just happens to come up. Guilty because you just did it, or guilty because you’re thinking of doing it. Either way, 69 causes heat and emotions like few numbers can. Rachel’s books are the same way, and ‘Gotta Have It’ is yet another in this sexy lady’s dominance in the written erotic world.

In this book there are 69 very short stories of every sexual abandon you can think of. And when I say “short” I do mean SHORT. If memory serves the longest story in here was about three pages long. Most are 1.5 – 2 pages long. But man do they pack a punch. I will say that I felt that some were *too* short. Just when I was working up a good ummm…head of steam, it would end. But that was OK because the next story would begin and my head of steam would begin to boil once again.

I usually list my favorite stories in the erotic collections I read but there were so many in this one why bother? I don’t have an e-reader, but if I did I would definitely double-buy this book so that I could always have it with me. I’m telling you, the stories inside this book are about as sexual and carnal as nude water nymph being spanked. Feel like playing dress up Rachel?