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Profile for Robin G. Sowton > Reviews


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Robin G. Sowton "rsowton" RSS Feed (Plano, TX)

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Natural Fitness 65cm Burst-Resistant Exercise Ball (Olive)
Natural Fitness 65cm Burst-Resistant Exercise Ball (Olive)

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice product, once it's inflated, November 22, 2011
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This arrived promptly in the mail with a DVD. This fitness ball seems more durable--perhaps because of the material and texture--than the previous one I had. I love the non toxic material too. When you first take it out of the box, there's a brief 'new plastic' smell, but then it's gone quickly. This being said... It loses 1 star with me because I don't think I could have inflated this ball using the little plastic pump that was provided. I tried this pump for 5 minutes, and seeing no impact, I quit. So I used a bicycle pump, and fortunately, they provide a set of plastic adapters and plugs (little white cones and tubes)--and one of them fit my bicycle pump correctly to the ball. (The adapters/plugs are small so make sure you find them before getting rid of the box.) Following the instructions, I inflated it, waited 24 hours, and then inflated it to its required height. I was actually able to get it very close to that height--but probably because again, I was using a bike pump. After plugging it, it has stayed inflated for one month now. I've used it for exercises and occasionally as a 'chair' when working at my desk. It has dropped a little from it's original height and so it may have to be inflated more in a few months, but for the most part, I'm happy with the product.

Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction (Jossey-Bass Guides to Online Teaching and Learning)
Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction (Jossey-Bass Guides to Online Teaching and Learning)
by Rita-Marie Conrad
Edition: Paperback
91 used & new from $0.01

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a useful guide for distance learning, February 8, 2006
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This book is ideal for the professor or instructor who is providing instruction through distance learning. For online instruction to be successful, students cannot just sit and absorb content passively. The online professor/instructor must encourage an engaged learning environment, which is described by the authors as an environment based on constructivist principles and problems-based learning.

One early challenge is to get the students to feel comfortable participating in discussions. The students' level of engagement can be measured partly by looking at the frequency and the quality of the students' interactions. Another challenge is to get students to feel comfortable with the online tools. The book provides at least a dozen 'ice breaker' activities to help students feel confident with discussions and tools. It also recommends that nongraded assignments be used during this initial orientation period.

Different categories of activities are described, including team and peer, reflective, authentic, and learner-led activities. Over a dozen examples of activities are provided for each category. (The authors define reflective activities as those that require the student to share a synthesis of the learning experience and they define authentic activities as those which stimulate an actual situation.) The section on learner-led activities explains how to help learners become successful in preparing and delivering instructional activities, especially with the tasks of defining objectives, defining the type of activity, and planning. Games and simulations are also addressed (but briefly).

Overall, it's a useful book for getting started when you suddenly find yourself having to teach a distance learning course. My only gripe is that I would've liked to have seen a larger section on assessments.

RootsMagic Family Tree Genealogy Software Version 4
RootsMagic Family Tree Genealogy Software Version 4
Offered by Hip Again Too
Price: $35.00
10 used & new from $6.69

415 of 417 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full featured and easy to use, with excellent source management, November 27, 2005
I discovered RootsMagic (v3.0) fairly recently. First, some background... I'm working with roughly 2000 names, and my goal is to research and publish the data, along with personal stories. I started with Family Tree Maker several years ago, but I didn't like the lack of citation capabilities with that earlier version. So, I switched to The Master Genealogist (TMG) which provides great source management but has a clumsy interface. The newer release of TMG has not improved this. Because you spend a lot of time entering information, the interface needs to be fairly painless and transparent. So, then I looked at Legacy, GenBox and RootsMagic, which have the necessary functionality but are also easy to use. It was a difficult choice between Legacy and RootsMagic, but I chose RootsMagic because I felt that it had a slight edge in its source management and that this feature was comparable to The Master Genealogist.

Installation was easy. After I exported my old TMG database files to a single .gedcom file, I used RootsMagic to import it. It was fast and the data loaded quite cleanly. RootsMagic lets you import GEDCOM files, Family Origins database and backup files, and PAF database files. Also, for anyone working with LDS, you can create and read TempleReady files and handle ordinances.

The interface is easy to use and it provides three views: Pedigree, Family and Descendants. You can access an individual or family by selecting the name from a list and loading it into the views. To modify an individual's data or relationships, you can right-click on the name (in any view or list) to access options from the popup menu. RootsMagic provides master lists for Sources, To-Do, Addresses, Repository, Correspondence, Places, and Fact types. Also, you can modify places, which contain addresses/locations, to include Latitude and Longitude coordinates, describe the history of the place, and include multimedia files (e.g., maps and photos).

Of course, this tool's major advantage is its source management capabilities. You can assign one or more sources to an individual, a family, or an event. Whenever you create a new source, you can define the information through a Source dialog box that has multiple tabs (Source, Text, Multimedia, and Respository), and link multiple media assets to the source (e.g., photos, files, sound, and video). Also, each time you assign the source to something, you can enter descriptive text for just that specific assignment.

As you enter data into RootsMagic, the application writes to an .rmg file for which you can create multiple backups. You can also export to the GEDCOM format for easy importing into other genealogy applications. When you export, you can define what will be exported and manage privacy options. You can generate books and reports (in many different formats). You can also publish to a web format (although I don't like the way RootsMagic outputs this). Also, I found some search capabilities to be better when they're done through the Reporting functions. Other RootsMagic options include calculators (relationship, Soundex and Date), shareable CD creation, timelines, color-coding of individuals, and charts (including wall-sized ones).

In conclusion, do not let the lower price or the easy-to-use interface dissuade you. This application has some serious citation/source capabilities that makes it competitive with The Master Genealogist and ahead of some other similar applications.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 8, 2015 3:59 PM PST

Guide To Civil War Philadelphia
Guide To Civil War Philadelphia
by Richard Allen Sauers
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.98
48 used & new from $0.04

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A short introduction to Civil War sites, November 26, 2005
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This book starts with a brief introduction about Philadelphia before and during the U.S. Civil War. In 1860, Philadelphia was the second largest city in the country with over half a million people. Its population was increasing as many immigrants arrived and moved to neighborhoods along the edges of the city. There were businesses everywhere, especially in textiles, and the railroads covered so much of the city that they were a safety concern. The book addresses a little of what that time was like, but its main purpose is to describe sites associated with the war.

There are 15-20 sites described per chapter, with chapters ranging from the Abolition movement to libraries to vanished Civil War sites. I picked up this book because I was researching some Philadelphia ancestors who lived in the city during the Civil War and I wanted to know more about some of the resources available for researching that period. For this reason, I found the chapters on libraries and cemeteries to be more interesting. Over 20 museums, libraries, and historical societies are described, including lesser known places such as the Civil War Library and Museum on Pine St. and the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum and Library. There are examples of regimental histories, biographies, manuscript collections, etc. that you can find at these locations. Descriptions for 18 cemeteries are also provided, with Laurel Hill and Woodlands receiving the most attention. Information includes famous Civil War military people who are buried there.

The appendix has some interesting lists, including companies that had government contracts, military hospitals that existed between 1861-1865, Civil War manuscript collections that can be found at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Chester County Historical Society, and a list of Philadelphia shipyards with their specific vessels and launch dates. Also, the book provides over 70 black & white photos.

Overall, this is a nice introductory guidebook. It's especially useful if you're looking to take some day trips of Civil War sites or cemeteries, and you're a historian or a genealogist. It's not for the casual tourist. Also, if you're just starting to do some research on Philadelphia history/genealogy during that period, then this book can give you a general idea of where to find some things.

Emily: The Diary of a Hard-Worked Woman (Women in the West)
Emily: The Diary of a Hard-Worked Woman (Women in the West)
by Emily French
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from $2.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a year in the life of a hard-working woman, November 11, 2005
This is a journal written by Emily French during a year of her life in 1890. As a divorced woman with several children, she had to work constantly to care for her children and herself. During this year, she lived in Colorado--first in Elbert, then Denver, then Dake, and back to Denver again. She was 47 years old with gray hair, and she wore gold eyeglasses. Her days were filled with hard work and earning money through washing, sewing, cooking, nursing, and house-keeping jobs. Her main concern was with her family, and that year, she started to build a 4-room house.

Her daily entries are often just a few paragraphs that tell plainly what she did each day. She would worry about a child being ill, whether she sold her horses for too little, and how much she received for that day's work.

Here are three excerpts from her journal entries:

January, Thursday 9, 1890
He will be our god even unto the end.
I went to wash for Mrs. Oaks today. I am not able to work a single minute, yet here I am & must do the work, well or sick. Mrs. Sloans sick all the night, I up with her, the child a girl, still born at 8 this morning. She has a strange growth in her abdomen. Her Annie, 16 months old, is her baby yet. I put all away as best I could, got a place for the child, a nice smooth box. I had made her as comfortable as we could, the Dr promising to come in the morning.

February, Monday 10, 1890
Up at 1 A.M., fed the horses grain & hay, caught the chickens and tied them so they can be safe in the basket & the box, had my breakfast at 3, oatmeal & tea, started at 4 1/2. On the way tried to hitch Ric beside Fanny, no go. She will not lead good. I had 1 stand, 2 chairs, 1 rocker, my feather bed, a few tins, the chopping bowl. I turned into the road leading out by the sheep ranch, 2 of the chickens got away. Was going along, the sun shining so nice, suddenly it grew dark, the wind blew oh so hard.

June, Monday 23, 1890
Was not able to work for anyone, so sunburned and exhausted. Went to the Fort Worth Gen office to see about the RR paying for the colt, Rock Marie's colt, 1 year the 4th of May, killed by them on or about the 20th, worth to me $50.00. Will I ever get 5 C, I hope so. Went to the Freight Depot on Wyancoop & 19th, so hot.

Throughout her journal, it's clear that she was a deeply religious woman and that her faith helped sustain her day after day, in a life that was so filled with hard work and that must have felt hopeless at times.

Chaco Handbook: An Encyclopedia Guide (Chaco Canyon Series)
Chaco Handbook: An Encyclopedia Guide (Chaco Canyon Series)
by R. Gwinn Vivian
Edition: Paperback
40 used & new from $6.44

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a very good reference, but needed a better overview, October 30, 2005
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The Puebloan culture at Chaco Canyon reached its height between AD 1050 and 1120. In addition to constructing greathouses, kivas, tools and pottery, the people also had to solve the problems of living in a harsh environment. For example, they developed intricate systems of controlling water through canals, dams, gates, and gridded gardens.

This book is an excellent reference that lists subjects alphabetically, with brief decriptions (usually not more than one half to one page in length) for each entry. However, I will echo another reviewer's comment that this is not a useful book to take with you when walking among the ruins of Chaco Canyon National Park. I also did not find it as useful when approaching it as an 'introduction' to the culture. It is useful however if you're reading another book about Chaco Canyon or you're already familar with the culture and you want to look up what a Herradura is or to identify what the Rabbit Ruin is and where it's located. There are black-and-white photos and pen-and-ink drawings displayed throughout the book, and there are also maps of topographic and hydrologic features of the area.

My only disappointment is that it was touted on the back cover as 'The Beginner's Salvation' but I never got the beginner's 'big picture' when reading the book's introduction. I would've preferred an overview that addressed the subject in this sequence: reasons the Puebloans began moving and settling into the area, what did early aspects of the culture look like, what main conflicts/issues did they have to resolve along the way and how, what did later aspects of the culture look like, and what were some possible reasons why they left. Instead, I had to wade through a lot to piece this together and there are still a few pieces missing. An overview followed by the introductory chapters would've been more effective. Overall though, as a reference, this book has some great information.

Also, a travel note if you're plannning to visit Chaco Canyon... To get to the park, you have to take a 20-mile long desolate dirt road. I would recommend not taking a regular car or RV out there. When I was there in September, we were just leaving the park as it started to rain. I soon felt fortunate that we had rented an SUV because the road very quickly turned into a thick muck.

Maritime Provinces Off the Beaten Path, 4th: A Guide to Unique Places (Off the Beaten Path Series)
Maritime Provinces Off the Beaten Path, 4th: A Guide to Unique Places (Off the Beaten Path Series)
by Trudy Fong
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from $0.01

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book and a map is all you need, October 30, 2005
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I used this book (4th edition) a few years ago on a road trip from Halifax, NS to Saint George, NB. This book and a road map were very helpful in getting around the region and getting a sense of the history and background of the area.

The book covers New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. Each province is divided into multiple sections and each section has a map with some key towns on it. You will find lots of recommendations for shopping, lighthouses, natural parks, art galleries, historical homes, museums, restaurants, places to stay, local tours, and as the book title suggests, some off-the-beaten path places. Interspersed with this information is local history, trivia, stories, and even recipes for dishes like Rappie pie and Irish moss pudding.

On my trip, I ran out of time and I did not make it to Cape Breton. However, some of my favorite things were: Peggy's Cove (NS), The Ovens Natural Park (NS), Sackville Waterfowl Park (NB), Hopewell Rocks Park (NB), spotting a moose around dusk at Fundy National Park, and of course, visiting lots of lighthouses. The Public Gardens, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and the waterfront area in Halifax were enjoyable too. All of these places are described in this book.

One place that was not included is the Parrsboro Rock & Mineral Shop. Parrsboro is a great place for rock and fossil hunting. When I stopped at this shop, I had the pleasure of talking with Eldon George who is a well-known fossil collector in the area. In 1984, he found what was then the world's smallest dinosaur prints. If you're interested in geology, I highly recommend that you stop by there when in Parrsboro.

Revolution OS
Revolution OS
DVD ~ Linus Torvalds
14 used & new from $12.26

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a history of linux with open source insights, October 22, 2005
This review is from: Revolution OS (DVD)
This documentary uses interviews to trace the origins of Linux, and in the process, it provides an interesting insight into the open source movement and its philosophy.

Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project, is featured prominently throughout the film. (GNU is a set of applications that provide a UNIX-compatible framework.) He explains how GNU was developed through the open source environment, an environment where code can be taken, modified, and shared, but it cannot be made proprietary. He also explains the development of the GNU General Public License which prohibits developers from making the code proprietary.

During GNU's development, Linus Torvalde, was developing a kernel--which was just the piece that was missing from the open source environment. (A kernel is use to allocate resources to other applications.) This kernel became Linux. As Stallman said, it would take years to get GNU and Linux to work together smoothly, but eventually things would take off. Although Linux started in 1991 with 10,000 lines of code, it might have remained a hobbyist's OS, if it had not been for the Apache web server. Apache became the 'killer app,' the business case for buying Linux. (There is an interview shown with Brian Behlendorf, president of the Apache project.) By 1998, Linux had 7.5 million users and companies like Red Hat were contributing to its growth by selling distribution and support.

This film also shows the tug-of-war between Microsoft and open source proponents. Eric S. Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, describes some differences between the proprietary and open source environments, and he explains how his book was one of many influences on Netscape's decision to release their source code.

You will see interviews with Michael Tieman (co-founder of Cygnus Technology) and Larry Augustin (co-founder of VA Linux). The interview with Bruce Perens, author of Open Source Definition, is interesting. It is used throughout the film to frame the GNU and Linux development stories within the open source context. Also, as Perens lists the 'rights' of open software, one senses that the open source philosophy is one that has been seriously thought out.

Overall, this was an interesting documentary. However, I'm giving it only 4 stars because I found the segment at the end (where Torvalde and Augustin were speaking) to be very tedious. It didn't add to the content and it seemed more like personal 'grand-standing.' Still, I'd recommend this film to anyone who is interested in computer history or is looking to get a better understanding of what the open source movement is about.

Amarcord (The Criterion Collection)
Amarcord (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Magali NoŽl
Offered by newbury_comics
Price: $25.99
17 used & new from $0.88

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another wonderful Fellini movie!, October 16, 2005
I love Fellini's movies but for some reason, this was one I had missed until recently.

I agree with some people posting that the flatulence jokes and poor dialog took away from the movie. However, if you are telling a story from the point of view of a young teenage boy, then perhaps making fart jokes with your friends and being obsessed with sex is part of that experience.

Like Fellini's other films though, I found this movie to be very engaging. His technique is simply masterful!

My favorite scene in this movie was the one that takes place in the fog. A deep fog has rolled in and the evening is very quiet. The grandfather is beginning to wonder if he has died. He's experiencing confusion and he is having trouble finding the thing most familiar to him: his home. He only becomes re-oriented when he asks directions from a dark figure who is bicycling in the fog--a man who appears to have almost no head as he returns to the deeper part of the fog again.

The grandfather opens the gate to the family home and he sees his grandson leaving for school. As the boy walks along, the trees appear distorted and twisted, like witnesses to some awful destruction. A seemingly 'phantom' convoy truck with soldiers in the back passes by, perhaps foreshadowing events in the boy's own life just years ahead. Then, the scene becomes even more silent and the silhouette of a large bull becomes recognizable in the fog. Upon seeing the bull, which is looking at him dead center, the boy halts and very slowly takes a few steps backward. He freezes, and his profile begins to shrink, as you see this overwhelming sense of fear and helplessness on his face. To me, this scene appears as a disturbing prophetic vision of what was lying just around the corner for Italy and the rest of Europe.

It's powerful scenes like this and the attention that Fellini puts into them, that makes his movies so wonderful to watch.

The Reality of Professional Pet Sitting
The Reality of Professional Pet Sitting
by Suzanne M. Roth
Edition: Paperback
Price: $20.99
30 used & new from $0.01

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting glimpse at the obstacles of pet sitting, July 24, 2003
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Before I started boarding small dogs, I had briefly considered pet sitting. However, after having just read about Suzanne Roth's experiences in this book, I am now convinced that boarding was the better path.
This is a thin book and rather pricy for its size, but if you're considering the pet sitting business, it will give you a good sense of the obstacles facing the pet sitter. Roth describes her adventures with short stories ranging from the friendly dog who isn't so friendly... to the suspiciously-still lizard... to the alarm systems that don't accept the codes provided by the owners.
The one downfall of the book is that it is short on instruction. There is some useful information in the 'Some Advice' section, but it is not a 'how to' primer on pet sitting. The stories will not give you insight into how to work around your own pet sitting dilemmas. And as another reviewer suggested... having to frequently call your husband to bail you out of difficult situations is not a 'professional' solution. Still, the stories will give you a feeling for the difficulties of the business and by the end of the book, you will have a sense as to whether this is the right business for you.

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