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The Curse of Europa (Europa Mission Book 1)
The Curse of Europa (Europa Mission Book 1)
Price: $3.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much better than the "Europa Report" movie, highly recommended for hard sci-fi fans, July 13, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I read the book after watching the movie Europa Report because I wrongly thought the film was based on the book (to the best of my knowledge now I realized there is no connection among them). Even though they share the same general scientific background, a manned mission to search for signs of life at Jupiter's moon Europa, the storylines are quite different. I recommend to read the book first and the film afterwards, following the chronological order of their public release.

The Curse of Europa presents a very realistic and plausible account of a trip to look for signs of life at Europa, and the plot centers on the events that take place after the landing. The ending is awesome, and much better than the movie, very creative and full of details. I couldn't stop reading, I fully recommend it for hard science fiction fans. Definitively I am looking forward for Mr. Kayser's next sci-fi work, Halley's Portal.


Europa Report
Europa Report
DVD
Price: $2.99

22 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for hard science fiction fans, June 29, 2013
I really mean it, this movie is refreshing among so much commercial sci-fi. But precisely because it is excellent for hard science fiction fans, be aware this is not your typical weekend flick most people attend just for the sake of entertaiment.

Europa Report is a very realistic account of how a trip to look for signs of life at this Jupiter's moon would be. The style is documentary-like but not boring, and the story line very interesting, that is, for hard science fiction fans. Expect something half-way between 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Moon (2009). I am glad it was released before it is available in cinemas, I hope this practice becomes more common and not just with independent movies. A bit expensive for a rental (USD 9.99) it was worth every penny.

PS: If you enjoy the movie don't miss the book The Curse of Europa (Volume 1) (USD2 2.99 Kindle version). Similar scientific background but with a different storyline and a much better and original ending.


Inferno: A Novel (Robert Langdon Book 4)
Inferno: A Novel (Robert Langdon Book 4)
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended for Dan Brown fans (and Michael Crichton's too), June 8, 2013
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Another typical Dan Brown's bestseller, with lots of chasing (too much for my taste, the book could be shorter without losing the main plot - this is the reason for my 4 stars rating), and the guilty parties are revealed only at the end, with plenty of surprises. Much better than the The Lost Symbol, and actually, getting close to The Da Vinci Code, so I believe this one has a better chance to become a movie.

The detailed descriptions of Florence and Venice are so rich in details about the art and history of these cities, that you wish you could travel there. I am not kidding, this book is a very good travel guide to those cities, and no doubt they will have now the "Inferno" tour, just as Paris and London have "The Da Vinci Code" tour.

Unlike Brown's latest Robert Langdnon series bestsellers, Inferno has a strong message about a real world problem, overpopulation. And Dan Brown deals with it in the good old style of Michael Crichton. That is why I think that MC fans who do not like Dan Brown, might take a chance and take a peek at Inferno. Highly recommended.


The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It
The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It
by Timothy Noah
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.67
89 used & new from $0.01

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books dealing with the US inequality, March 8, 2012
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Mr. Noah's presents, in a relative short book written in a journalist style, a very comprehensive and well researched review of the causes of the inequality gap that has been growing in the U.S. for the last 30 years. My only complaint regarding style is that the author uses (at least in the uncorrected proof we received for review) the years belonging to the 2000s and most of numbers are written in text instead of numeral format, which really interrupts the flow of the reading.

The book borrowed its title from the term the "The Great Divergence" coined by Paul Krugman in his 2007 book The Conscience of a Liberal and is based on Mr. Noah's series of articles written for Slate magazine. I think the book really achieved its goal to synthesize the best research and expert work, mainly by economists, regarding the reasons behind the growing inequality gap that began to take place circa 1980, and most important, to deliver this information in a language accessible to the laymen. Mr. Noah presents a very comprehensive review of all the possible causes, covering all points of view and controversies, and he carefully debugs several myths that are recurrent in today's political debate. Even though he structured this body of academic work in a very systematic way and in simple terms, at some points the discussion becomes difficult to grasp, so be patient, as economist's findings are always full of assumptions and what ifs.

The book closes with a chapter with proposed solutions to reduce income inequality. Here Mr. Noah is bold. He discusses the benefits of popular recipes such as more regulation on Wall Street and imposing price controls on colleges and universities. But he goes beyond, and proposes more controversial solutions such as restoring higher taxes to the rich, importing more skilled workers (yes, to reduce income of "privileged" native-born elite of skilled workers), and electing Democratic presidents (no kidding, he presents historical evidence that the inequality gap shrinks when democrats are in power).

In my opinion this is one of the best books of the 2011-12 crop dealing with America's growing inequality, and particularly is notable for Mr. Noah's effort to present a neutral point of view. As excellent complementary readings to this book I recommend Jeffrey Sachs' The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity and Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (just do not pay too much attention to Mr. Murray's conclusions, which are completely divorced from the solid evidence he presented in the rest of the book).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2012 10:35 PM PDT


Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010
Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010
by Charles A Murray
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.91
209 used & new from $0.52

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant analytical work with absurd conclusions, February 12, 2012
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Don't let Mr. Murray controversial Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life or the criticism you might already heard from this book from keep you away from this brilliant work. As opposed to most recent books dealing with America's decline, this book looks at the cultural and sociological reasons behind the decline, rather than the pure economics view. And another key issue is that the analysis is done using only white Americans as a sample, so there the results are free of any racial bias, and the results are extended to the entire population only near the end of the book.

Nevertheless, Mr. Murray, a declared libertarian, closes the book with a chapter totally biased by his political and moral beliefs. Actually, some of his conclusions are so outrageous, I stopped reading the book short of a few pages to the end (but I did finish it after all). You just wondered how come someone can deliver such a brilliant analysis and reach such wishful thinking, biased and subjective conclusions completely ignoring the effects of globalization and technological change (thus the four star rating instead of five).

Several of the conclusions are so disconnected from reality, that instead of Europe, Mr. Murray just need to look at any of the dozens of developing countries with the same problems among the poor who do not enjoy the welfare benefits Americans do. In fact, just look at the Brazilian example and the well-known "favelas" as the perfect real life example in contradiction of one of his key conclusions. And by the way, the recent cash transfer programs developed by the Brazilian government have lifted millions of poor people to the middle class, and their children now have a better education and health care than their parents. Unfortunately Mr. Murray is blinded by his libertarian ideology and his romantic view of the 200-year + old philosophy embedded in the U.S. Constitution and the philosophy of the founder fathers. The upcoming book The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It presents plenty of evidence (from the social and economical point of view) that rebuts and shows many of Mr. Murray's myths, misconceptions, and wrong assumptions about the American Dream and its exceptionalism.

Due to its contribution from the social and cultural perspective, I think that Mr. Murray's book, other than the caveat regarding the final chapter, is an excellent complement to the other books dealing with America's decline, in particular The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, and That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2012 2:25 PM PST


Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press)
Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company (IBM Press)
by Kevin Maney
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.49
288 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite an interesting book aimed for three different audiences., January 19, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First of all you have to be aware that this book was published by IBM. Nevertheless, in my humble opinion, its three authors present a fair view of the centennial company. A feature that makes this book quite interesting is that each of the three authors selected by IBM (all industry journalists) is responsible for presenting a different dimension of the company: its technological contribution to the IT industry; the business perspective and how IBM evolved to survive into the twenty-first century; and how the world has change and the role IBM has played in making it a better place.

In the first part of the book, Kevin Maney takes us in a trip through the history of the development of computers and computer sciences, and leaving the silly comparison with the human brain aside, I fully enjoy this part of the book. For all of us old enough to remember how painful it was to punch cards and wait for hours for the mainframe (IBM 370) to run our batch and wait for the errors, this is simply a pleasant trip to memory lane. For those young enough to not know what I am talking about, this is an obligatory reading to understand the huge technological evolution that allow personal computer and handheld devices to become practically an appliance that anybody can use.

In the second part, Steve Hamm presents the evolution of IBM business model and the inner workings of its organization throughout time to its present global service-oriented company, and most interestingly, how it manage to survive despite errors and missing key opportunities. As a reference just think of the difficult situation Kodak is going through nowadays, after almost 140 years of existence. This part of the book is definitively a mandatory reading for MBA students about how a company can reinvent itself several times.

In the third part of the book, Jeffrey O'Brien explores how the world has changed and IBM contributions to such change, and where technology and ingenuity are leading us. The exploration is made through real cases and using a framework based on IBM research on how to manage complex systems: seeing, mapping, understanding, believing and acting. I would just say I like the other two parts of the book much better (and that's the reason for the four star rating).

In summary, I think this is a book that should belong to your collection of books dealing with the origin and evolution of IT companies and entrepreneurs that have make a difference in the world, such as Intel, Apple, Windows, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and the like.


Adobe Premiere Elements 10 [OLD VERSION]
Adobe Premiere Elements 10 [OLD VERSION]
Offered by SoftwareCW
Price: $59.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile upgrade if you run your PC on Windows 7, January 19, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I really was doubtful about this upgrade. The features are almost the same as the previous version. However, since I installed version 10 in my new Pentium i5 with Windows 7 Home Premium (8Gb RAM), the difference is significant. Adobe Premiere 10 runs much more faster than the previous version, and considering I handle big files, version 10 is a must have. The improvement was so huge that I decided to risk upgrading Adobe Photoshop from 9 to 10, and again, it runs much faster. Therefore, I do not recommend the upgrade for previous versions of Windows, but if you already have Windows 7 with the proper hardware, both Adobe Premiere and Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 are must haves. Better yet, buy them in the bundled package:Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements 10


Contagion [Blu-ray]
Contagion [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Marion Cotillard
Offered by Solo Enterprises
Price: $8.83
88 used & new from $1.81

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent movie, realistic above all, December 11, 2011
This review is from: Contagion [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This movie is not intended for those seeking the typical commercial weekend entertainment. Instead, it is quite realistic and all of those movie stars acting without make up just contribute to its realism (actually some of them I did not recognize at first, save for their voices). Despite its realism, this is not a documentary (at some point it is close but not as boring) but neither your typical science fiction flick (not much extrapolation from actual science).

As a reference, the closest film to Contagion is Outbreak [Blu-ray], but without the unnecessary drama or silly mistakes just to add more thrill, and no magical vaccine is brewed is less than 24 hours. The entire movie faithfully follows a very plausible scenario, a "what if" world in which we were to face a new virus pandemic, closely resembling the recent scares with avian and swine flu, but more deadly than the Spaniard flu pandemic of 1918.


Cowboys & Aliens - Extended Edition (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)
Cowboys & Aliens - Extended Edition (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Daniel Craig
Price: $7.50
147 used & new from $1.42

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A weird combination of genres but the end result is a plausible sci-fi flick, December 6, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was quite skeptical about this movie. What were they thinking about mixing two completely unlike genres, cowboys, Apaches and aliens together? Well, my mistake. The end result is both a good western and a very credible sci-fi movie. So, out of an apparent weird mix came out an original movie under a plausible story line (Sorry, no spoiler, I will not go into the details of the plot).

I really liked the performance of Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde. All three main actors have in common to be associated with their roles in previous serial movies or TV series, where they played the lead or a key role. In this movie they managed to deliver a performance quite different from the character we are used to, particularly Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde. I think this is her first key role other than "House" in which you can appreciate the quality of her acting. I hope she gets more opportunities like this to show us her talent.

As for the special effects, they are quite realistic, and it is notable that the insect-like aliens are not hidden with low lighting like in so many alien movies. The amazing thing is that the SFX are not based completely on computer animations (GCI). The film was shot using good old puppets and animatronics for the close-ups, combined with CGI for the battle scenes. Even some of the alien ships were scale models. My only quibble is that one of the alien features resembles a lot the character Kuato in Total Recall (no spoiler again). My respects to director Jon Favreau, a great combination of old and new technology.

As for the product, the package includes the BD, DVD and the codes to download a digital version, all for $19.99 (actually I pre-order with a higher price, but Amazon credited the savings to me). Regarding the digital version a nice feature is that the website allows you choose between downloading to your favorite player (such as iTunes) or just keep the movie available for streaming in any of your portable devices.


High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug In the Auto Industry
High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug In the Auto Industry
Price: $9.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! All you need to know about the rebirth of the plug-in electric car, November 10, 2011
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The book is well-written, in the typical NYT journalistic style, and very comprehensive. Mr. Motavalli managed to chronicle in a short book the rebirth of plug-in electric cars (PEVs) and the state-of-the-art of the industry as of mid 2011. As the book's introduction explains, PEVs include all-electric cars (EVs or BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), but not the conventional gasoline-electric hybrids, such as the Prius, which do not plug-in.

The book was very well-researched, with a lot of primary content as many key players were interviewed just for the book, and of course, Mr. Motavalli's ample experience as a green car journalist, bringing along all his behind-the-wheels test drive experience with almost all the plug-in electric cars available in the world today. The book covers all relevant aspects regarding PEVs, advantages, disadvantages, barriers to wide adoption, the key role of EV battery technology, the deployment of charging infrastructure, fast charging standards, battery swapping, you name, every aspect is covered. There is an entire chapter devoted to Motavalli's test drives of several PEVs, which includes his experience with the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, Th!nk City, Aptera 2e and the Toyota Highlander FCHV. By the way, electric vans and truck are out of the scope of the book.

The book is aimed for a wide audience, not just the early adopters, techies and green car fans. Actually, regular consumers with an interest in PEVs will find this book quite a primer to help them decide whether now is the right time to go electric or wait. I believe it would have been helpful for the layman to include some pictures, at least of the most relevant PEVs, such as the Volt and Leaf.

My other quibbles about the book have to do with its bias towards the American market. Despite covering all PEVs from the big players and start-ups, with the exception of China, the discussion is mostly focused around those PEVs already available or slated for the U.S. market. Surprisingly there is almost nothing about the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (renamed Mitsubishi i for the American-spec version) , launched more than a year before the Nissan Leaf and actually, sharing the leadership in global sales of electric cars as of October 2011. The i-MiEV is only mentioned a couple of times in the context of plug charging standards. The REVAi (or G-Wiz) is also missing, despite having sold a few thousand units since 2001. And the Japanese market is only covered in terms of its charging infrastructure and charging standards, despite sharing the world leadership with the U.S. in terms of PEV sales. Also, the book has a very interesting chapter about the potential of Iceland to become the first 100% electric transportation country, but surprisingly there is nothing about Norway, despite being the country with the most PEVs per capita in the world. It would have been interesting to learn some lessons from the Norwegians, who are ahead of the rest of the world.

The last chapter presents the author's vision of commuting in 2030, a very creative scenario indeed, but Mr. Motavalli closes the book with a down to earth view of what he believes is likely to happen next, and his "Ten Most Likely to Succeed" list is included. I agree with most of the cars in the list, and also share with the author his educated guess that the chance of survival is higher for the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and the Prius Plug-in, but not for the Ford Focus Electric, which has a base price higher than the Leaf and the same as the Volt (to be fair, pricing of the Prius PHEV and the Focus EV was not available when the book was finished). I believe that price is the most important factor for the successful adoption of plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, therefore today's premium with respect to gasoline-powered cars will have to shrink significantly for PEVs to become affordable and the remaining premium has to be paid back in a few years, just like conventional hybrids today. And finally, just as Jim Motavalli wished for in the book, if I had the $41,000 to spare on a car, I'd spend it on the Volt, really a technological marvel and a game-changer.

Considering that all-electric range and the price of the battery packs are the two deal breakers for mass adoption of PEVs, I recommend an excellent complementary reading about the present and future of battery technology, Seth Fletcher's Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy. Also do not miss the movie Revenge of the Electric Car, recently released to the public. And for those readers who want to know more about the Volt's development and innovative technology, do not miss Chevrolet Volt: Charging into the Future.

* Final note only for the Kindle edition:

I read the Kindle version, which comes with active hyperlinks to the web for many of the endnotes for each chapter, so frequently I went back and forth between the web and the book to check out further info. A very handy feature indeed. Nevertheless, I have a complaint for Amazon because in doing this back and forth at some point the Whispersync software lost track of the real last location, showing the endnotes as my last location. This bug was really annoying because I often switch the reading between my iPad and my iPod, so I had to synchronize the devices manually with go to.

I think it is about time that Amazon adds a feature to allow the user reset the `Furthest Page Read.'. Sometimes I like to peek the final pages or check something ahead of the reading (just as you do in a regular book), or simply do a word search. Nowadays I have to refrain from doing so to make sure I do not lose my last reading location. Or, is this a particular problem with the book's Kindle version I bought?

PS: I google for a solution. It seems Amazon expect you to email costumer service to reset the last location. What a lousy solution. The Kindle should allow it to do it yourself.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2011 8:37 AM PST


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