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Shann Yu "Go Rice Owls!!!" RSS Feed (Lausanne, Switzerland)
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Living Language French, Complete Edition: Beginner through advanced course, including 3 coursebooks, 9 audio CDs, and free online learning
Living Language French, Complete Edition: Beginner through advanced course, including 3 coursebooks, 9 audio CDs, and free online learning
by Living Language
Edition: Paperback
Price: $35.22
57 used & new from $24.69

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prepared me well for my move to French-speaking Switzerland!, March 18, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Right before I moved to Europe, I picked up this series since it is budget-friendly and had some OK reviews online unlike some other French coursebooks available online at the time. I have overall been happy with the results, as this series gave me a good foundation from which my full immersion experience has taken off. There are three coursebooks (with accompanying CDs), encompassing 10 + 20 + 16 lessons as you go from Essential -> Intermediate -> Advanced, and they cover a lot of ground. The goods and bads...

PROS:
- Great explanations of grammar, at a good pace.
- Pretty useful vocabulary across the board. If you force yourself to think in French throughout the day between lessons, you will have plenty of chances to force yourself to retain the other ones.
- Repetition exercises - sometimes, in the later two books, you come across exercises that force you to recall something earlier on in the series. I have found these to be very helpful.
- Audio clips are good quality.

CONS:
- I wish there was a lot more audio exercises. You will find that by the time you get to Advanced, you may be pretty good at trying to express yourself and trying to read and write, but your listening may not be quite at that level (can be remedied by hanging around French speakers or by watching lots of French movies).
- The online resources are not very helpful. There's a bunch of games here and there, but for the most part, I did not find them to be enriching at all. Keep in mind that the Platinum Edition might have even more tools and exercises. I have no idea what buyers of that edition may have in addition.
- You will feel like as if your mind is stuck translating. It will continually feel that way unless you spend a lot of effort forcing yourself to think in French outside of the lessons. This is the problem with EVERY workbook/CD-based course, is that there are no pictorial flashcards that will make this easier on you. This is why this series costs $40 and not $500+ like Rosetta Stone or Fluenz.

Overall - I think this was a great buy for me. I ended up buying it for $35 when it was on sale a while ago, and I think I got more than my money's worth. Of course, though, one must put the effort and the time to supplement this with other resources (watching movies, reading books, hanging around French speakers) to really get it to marinate.

Bon chance, je vous souhaite une bonne expérience de vous-apprender cette belle langue!


Until We Have Faces
Until We Have Faces
Price: $9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As one of their song titles say, The Best is Yet to come..., February 5, 2011
This review is from: Until We Have Faces (MP3 Music)
I've followed Red's music since they came out with their first album. After listening to this album over and over throughout the week, I've got to say that there's been a bit of a progression. When I first started, I thought that the first two songs in the album (Feed the Machine and Faceless) were the only two good songs on the album. As I replayed the album more and more, several more songs grew on me (Lie to Me (Denial), Not Alone, Buried Beneath, and Watch You Crawl). Overall, this is a solid album. I'm a huge fan of the melodic, modern hard rock style that has characterized Red's first two albums, and in that respect, this album does not disappoint. However, I can't mindfully hand this album 5 stars with the awesomeness of the first two albums in mind.

I think what got me was that the first two albums had very good songs from cover to cover. There was not a single bad song in those albums that would make me hit the "NEXT" button on my iPod. With this album, I think Let it Burn and Hymn for the Missing are weak and sound very lazy around the chorus lines. Listening to those two songs, I keep waiting for the climax to hit during the choruses, maybe even in the bridge sections, but it never comes, and as a result they sound just so boring.

That said, the best songs on this album (the first three tracks) are up there among my favorite Red songs of all time, and are possibly even better. The screaming is still there, the phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes feeling is there, the strings are still there, and the well-done lyrics are also still there.

Overall, a solid album. But two songs (at least) away from 5 stars in my book.

--EDIT (3 weeks later)--
After listening to this album over and over again for the last 3 weeks, I think I can now upgrade this to 5 stars. Despite still being two songs away from being a coast-to-coast blockbuster, I think every single other song on this album is probably among my favorite Red songs of all time.


Innocence & Instinct
Innocence & Instinct
Offered by Wooden Nickel Music
Price: $7.99
26 used & new from $0.01

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome second album... Will be as often-played as the first one!, February 10, 2009
This review is from: Innocence & Instinct (Audio CD)
First off, the 5-stars + my title give you a quick preview.

For people who've heard the first album, this album is very much like the first in style. The lyrics are as well written, the riffs are still heavy and satisfying, and everything about this album will scream Red at you. However, from the intro all the way till the end, the first album beats this one by a narrow margin. Songs like Fight Inside, Never Be the Same, Shadows, and Death of Me are probably the songs that stand out the most to me right now. The couple of songs in between will need to grow onto me eventually.

For people who haven't heard the first effort, Red's style is best described as melodic modern rock. The songs run the mix from displaying hard and heavy headbang-inducing riffs (Death of Me, Fight Inside) to softer, chill-at-night 'ballads' if I must (Take It All Away, the cover of Ordinary World). Don't expect any soloing, this band is all about well-written lyrics that convey a very positive message, and well-executed vocals from both the lead + backup vocalists. Overall, I think the style can be likened to a cross between 10 Years (melodic) and Pillar (hard and heavy).

Probably one of the strongest bands out there that you haven't heard of. I strongly suggest getting the first album if you haven't yet. That said, I think this album merits as much play as my copy of the first has gotten over the last 2 years!


Bioconjugate Techniques, Second Edition
Bioconjugate Techniques, Second Edition
by Greg T. Hermanson
Edition: Paperback
28 used & new from $47.94

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have, comprehensive reference book that will empower you to build anything biologically relevant!, November 13, 2008
This book is not one that's meant to be read from cover to cover. For the academic seeking to build a molecule or put together particulate systems, conjugate proteins onto some sort of substrate, modify surfaces to produce certain biologically active moieties, etc., this book is a must-have reference that contains:
- Clear explanation of what kind of chemistry is involved
- Concise, easy to follow outline of reaction conditions that must be kept in mind.
- Good figures and diagrams of the reactions of interest
- Well-researched protocols that serve as a point of reference for your experimental plans.

This edition is a significant upgrade from the previous edition, with newly written chapters on microspheres and quantum dots, among some. Whenever I need help figuring out how to attach certain biomolecules to various surfaces in my research, this is my go-to book, and I have seen plenty of labs in my area that have at least one copy of this book on the shelf.

Overall, probably too heavy to read from cover to cover, but makes for an awesome desk reference for grad students and researchers in biologicalk and biotech-related disciplines.


Gears of War 2 - Xbox 360
Gears of War 2 - Xbox 360
Offered by WHOLESALE OUTLET
Price: $7.99
603 used & new from $0.01

85 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very solid gameplay; story could have used a little more refining + better integration, November 8, 2008
To start off, I played the first Gears for the campaign/co-op campaign. And I purchased this game for the same reason, so if you're looking to know more about multiplayer gameplay, check out another review. That said, this game plays very well, very much like a thrill ride for the most part. Story can use a lot more refining and better integration. This gets a 5-star in its own right. But Halo 3 and BioShock are still better games overall than GoW 2.

GAMEPLAY: A+
This game still plays like the first Gears, except with a wider array of weapons and features (ie, chainsaw battles, different modes of executing a downed enemy). This is a third person shooter, for those who have not played the first one. And also, expect a lot of blood and violence, so if you are parents considering this game for your children, this serves as fair warning.

The campaign takes longer to beat this time around (10-20h I think). The graphics are very beautiful and realistic, and a lot more 'vibrant'. The first Gears was in general a very dark and gloomy game. You see a lot more color in this one. Co-op campaign gameplay continues to be addictive and I think a strength in this game. It is still as immersive an experience for all players involved as the first Gears was.

Further, the creators definitely outdid themselves in design of the levels. You should expect to be pleasantly surprised with every single level that comes up. While you can clearly expect to see yourself running around in the streets battling waves after waves of Locust, you will also see another order of magnitude of fighting, with sometimes even as many as 80-100 Locust rushing through your field of view. To emphasize the creativity of the creators, there was also, at various points later in the game (spoiler warning), a section where you had to traverse a pitch-black tunnel to safely escort a vehicle across, and even a level where your squad somehow ends up inside one of the Locust beasts and had to fight your way out...

Overall, this game has been quite an experience. It deserves an A+ and Game of the Year awards.

---

STORY: B
Given that this game promised to have more leads on the storyline of the series than the first one, it does a better job. A lot of the early story is centered around Dom and him trying to find his wife, amidst all the fighting. The voice acting is compelling for the most part, and you can tell a lot more easily that it's a dark time for humanity on this fictional planet. In the first Gears, playing through the story was mostly humorous because of the way all the guys were joking around in between fight scenes and the light talk that went on. In this Gears, those dialogues are still present, but with a lot more of a sense of urgency mixed in here and there. And cutscenes are well made. The script is definitely that of a cheesy scifi as some of my buddies like to call it.

Finally, instead of COG tags for collection, we have bits and pieces of 'collectibles' like newspaper clippings, ads, so on and so forth that in some cases contribute to the backstory a little bit, kind of like the way those terminals worked in Halo 3. All of these, when found, are put in some scrapbook that's accessible from the Main Menu, and arranged in a more or less logical order.

The reason the story only gets a B+: if you think about games like BioShock and Mass Effect and the Halo series with their very immersive storylines, GoW 2 is still not quite there. But it is closer to that state now than it was previously.

I won't reveal any more in this part, but definitely expect a lot more of a plot that serves as a backdrop to all the fighting that's going on. Epic Games did a good job of piquing your interest and making you want to learn more.

---

CHARACTERS: B
The characters come across a lot more human in this one. I have mentioned that the mood in this game comes across with a lot more of a sense of urgency to beat the Locust. As you play the game, you begin to feel more and more of a connection with each of the characters and in some cases, almost have to just stop playing when certain characters die... Let's leave it at that.

All that said, the game needs a better scriptwriter if it is to convey a stronger storyline.

---

REPLAYABILITY: A
With the first game, I recall beating it my first time around with a friend on Hardcore, and then on Insane, and then going around and helping each of my roommates and a good number of friends beat the game on both difficulty settings. The same will probably hold for this game. I think it's a thrilling enough of a ride that I wouldn't mind going over it over and over and over...

---

To sum up, this game is definitely worth the $60.

PROS: This is all about gameplay and the feel of the game. Even on top of all the additional features and improvements, it is still undoubtedly Gears of War. The controls remain very intuitive and easy to learn. It's easily one of the best 3rd person shooters out there, in my opinion.

CONS: I think storyline could have been a lot deeper. I guess they are saving this for Gears of War 3. Violence may be a little too much for the unprepared. Right now, this is all I can think of.

FINAL VERDICT: A. This is a very well-made game. I have the tendency to buy games and sell them back when I'm done. But I think GoW 2 will probably be a mainstay in my library, just as GoW was. For that, plus all the +'s I have mentioned, I think this game deserves an awesome grade. Can I hear Game of the Year?
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2013 8:11 PM PDT


Soul Calibur IV - Xbox 360
Soul Calibur IV - Xbox 360
Offered by Games 4 Life
Price: $20.79
129 used & new from $2.99

33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid release from IMHO, the best fighting game series out there, but not worth $60, July 29, 2008
If you've played any of the other Soul Calibur games, this game plays pretty much the same way. The reason this series is so much better than the other series out there I feel is the ability to, blow-to-blow, attack your opponent with series of attacks that do not involve memorizing a long string of commands like in the Tekken series. That said, this game is basically Soul Calibur III plus some small enhancements (outside of HD graphics) that I personally don't notice that much.

This is a really simple fighting game to pick up for first-timers, and there is almost always a character and a fighting style to suit your desire. Really, the only two very similar characters in the game are Siegfried and Nightmare, apparently for a good reason if you know a bit about the forgettable story.

Some specific notes:

Gameplay: Single player - A- ; Multiplayer (local + online) - A
First off, I don't believe games like these aren't really meant to be bought for single player. Clearly, you'd expect to practice your game in your time so that you can lay down the law against your friends on multiplayer modes.

AI is reasonably intelligent in this game, outside of being very simple in the earlier levels on the Normal difficulty setting. Higher up in difficulty, the AI plays defense very well, and this can get really frustrating, sometimes even forcing you to abandon normal attacks and to go for grapples, which for some reason the AI is pretty bad at countering.

Otherwise, when playing your friends, this is not exactly one of those fighting games that you can button-mash and expect to win. Definitely some skill and practice is involved, and the smoothness of the fights and the transitions from blow to blow make this THE fighting game to get.

Online gameplay is smooth and overall as good as the local multiplayer experience. I have not experienced any issues with lag or skippy gameplay. My only complaint here is how selecting "Quick Match" in ranked has the tendency to just match you with someone who has an open game. As a game creator, you can select the level of players you intend to play against. As a level 1 trying out the online game, I got put into too many matches against level 60+ and got slaughtered.

-----

Story: C
This is the the only reason I am giving this game four stars. For a game that seems to promote its story about the struggle between an evil sword and a cleansing sword (assuming I even understand it right), especially from the moment the trailers hit TV screens nationwide, this game does a terrible job of incorporating the story into the game. This said, most fighting games that even have storylines do terrible jobs at integrating the story into the game as well.

If you are looking for a fighting game with a pretty nicely integrated storyline, the best that I can think of are the WWE Smackdown series. In this game, the story consists of short cutscenes between fights that hint at the location of the next fight, and maybe short snide remarks that the characters say at each other right as the fight is about to begin (that in most cases don't even seem to make any logical sense together).

-----

Overall, this is a great fighting game to have. It's purely that and nothing more. Expect to play single player mode quite a bit in order to unlock characters and items. The real fun of this game really comes from multiplayer modes. I think that fronting $60 may be a stretch for this game unless you're really into this series.


Biomaterials Science: An Introduction to Materials in Medicine, Second Edition
Biomaterials Science: An Introduction to Materials in Medicine, Second Edition
by Buddy D. Ratner
Edition: Hardcover
73 used & new from $2.65

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up-to-date reference book by well-regarded experts in the field, but not a textbook, July 24, 2008
This book is widely used for grad-level biomaterials courses and for a good reason: it is a compilation of the forefronts of biomaterials research, including chapters written by well-regarded experts in the field. Any biomaterials researcher can look through the list of contributors and tell you that almost every single one listed is a big name when it comes to biomaterials conferences. As such, the material is presented in a way that will benefit someone who's reading it for background or reference to projects in academic research/industrial R&D.

This is a very heavy book materials-wise, and is NOT for anyone who is looking to have an easy, leisurely nighttime read. The topics may seem disconnected for the unprepared. For example, out of the entire "Types of Biomaterials" unit, there are individual chapters on hydrogels, metallic biomaterials, inorganic biomaterials, etc that took up maybe a good 200 pages, and it's almost difficult to go from one chapter to the next in one sitting and take it on like you would a textbook. For more of a structured textbook, you may want to refer to a book by Temenoff and Mikos published recently.

Instead, this book is more of a fixture in the reference shelf of any biomaterials researcher. It is one that you pick up and read a few chapters out of depending on what you're planning on running experiments and furthering the field of. If you treat this book more as a reference book than a textbook, then you will find the reasons why it deserves 5 stars.


Kuby Immunology, Sixth Edition
Kuby Immunology, Sixth Edition
by Thomas J. Kindt
Edition: Paperback
153 used & new from $4.73

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is to immunology what "The Cell" is to cell biology, July 24, 2008
I bought this book as a reference for a summer research project I did. I read through many of its chapters out of need for background for the project and because of the way it is written, I ended up reading most of it out of interest in the subject. The book is very well-written, informative, and interesting. There are plenty of images and figures that help contribute to the learning experience.

There is a lot of information covered in the book, and so in many ways, it is what I mention in the title - a tome of immunology just like "Molecular Biology of The Cell" by Alberts et al is a tome of cell biology. A lot of extras they include (like the appendix that lists all of the CD-designation proteins and etc.) help reinforce the fact that this book will make as excellent a reference book as it probably is a textbook for any immunology class.

By far one of the best purchases I've ever made, and it will remain on my reference shelf for years to come.


Mass Effect - Xbox 360
Mass Effect - Xbox 360
Offered by Wyatts Surplus
Price: $10.95
263 used & new from $2.75

311 of 337 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep story unfolds in early going, very immersive experience, November 20, 2007
First off, I've been waiting for this game since the previews came out late last year (2006). So far, Bioware has done a great job of pimping out this game. And deliver it does...

STORY: A+
The 'cutscenes' are really not cutscenes at all. The conversations you have are pretty dynamic and integration of the choices of stuff to say is so seamless it seems almost natural. Early on, you get a sense of this when choices of stuff to do in the field enable you to remake your character as a mission-oriented commander or more of a compassionate search-for-survivors kind of guy, among some. The story picks up pretty much where the prequel book left off, and immerses you in the experience. You keep on wanting to learn more. You definitely feel like a part of this epic and that will keep you coming back.

Unlike Halo 3 and Gears of War which launch you into an ongoing war, this game sends you into a very deep, very complex world to explore. Imagine yourself as a hypothetical CIA agent before the war begins. Expect to see yourself running around the world, talking to people and gaining intel on people, and then having fight scenes from time to time. When you get sent on a mission to track someone down and there are lots of enemies between you and the destination, then you begin to see more of the combat-intensive aspects of the game.

---

GAMEPLAY: A
Expect to see a third-person shooter with a heavy RPG influence. While out in the field, it's like a Gears of War experience with a basic tactical system. Run. Take cover. Take some guys down. Order your friendlies to flank the enemy or to fall back. Outside of this, the RPG system comes into play when leveling up, when you get to choose abilities to level up, weapons to equip (ie, if you have 3 types of sniper rifles in inventory, which one will you equip?. I will cover this in more detail below). The controls were overall slightly different from control schemes used in comparable third-person shooters. It didn't take me long to get used to the system used here in Mass Effect. You can pretty much figure it all out in the first level.

I had the mistaken view that only snipers and pistols can be trained into an over-the-shoulder Gears of War camera angle when aiming (holding down the left trigger). Apparently, this is because I started off as an Infiltrator class. Different character classes can train different weapons. The soldier class can train all weapons. Sniping took some getting used to. When you first start off, Shepard is very shaky and thus it is very difficult to snipe. Adding points to level up your sniping ability seems to limit this shakiness greatly.

The tactical system is very very bare bones. You can order people to fall back, take on a specific target, regroup, or storm the area. Nothing much to it. Therefore, players can fight with their AI teammates as much of a unit (though I feel the AI tends to die a lot).

You also get to drive vehicles. Much of you have seen the trailers and saw that tank drop out from the Normandy. That tank handles like a Warthog from Halo 3, except with rocket boosters and a repair function. A heads up - repairing means you can't move or fire any of the tank's weapons. Therefore, make sure you're in cover when repairing. I love the rocket boosters as it gives you an extra method of dodging rockets and charged shots from the geth. The big disadvantage is that you have to drive and shoot at the same time. This makes for some very frustrating vehicle fight sequences.

I am a big fan of how the game feels thus far. Having RPG elements yields a lot of control over how your character plays on the field. The shooting system is pretty good, but not flawless. My biggest complaint early on was the many loading pauses you have to go through, but the deeper I went into the game, the less it affected gameplay. Loading pauses don't happen in the middle of the heat of battle, but it definitely wouldn't hurt to possibly fix this up in future patches.

Finally, a decent portion of the game involves going out and doing side missions. This means jumping in the tank and driving from the landing zone to various points on the map. I think driving around like this is the most painful experience of the game. There's almost always nothing but an occasionally frustrating 5-minute drive between the LZ and the destination, and once you get there, after doing a few of the side missions, you realize that the site layout is a recurring theme. Therefore, if anything else, the side missions are a great way to practice and to level up. There's some more of that RPG stuff working for you.

---

RPG Elements: A
For weapons and armor, the feel is similar to something like Diablo II, where you pick up random equipment as you go along. Each equipment has a certain class: armor, assault rifles, pistols, sniper rifles, shotguns, etc (I haven't seen the other classes!). Depending on the character class you chose at the beginning, you have different combinations of these classes available to you. For example, my character class may allow me to equip an assault rifle and armor only. This means that I can equip only 1 assault rifle at a time and 1 armor. But since I pick up a lot of these in the field, I must choose which assault rifle I want to use and which armor to equip. The equipment select screen where you actually do this shows a lot of equipment data, ie damage of a weapon, 'clip size', so on.

Upgrades for each weapon can also be picked up and installed, including different rounds (ie, shredder rounds that add bonus damage when fighting organics, vs. armor piercing rounds against synthetics) and a wide range of add-ons (ie, heat sinks to decrease gun overheating).

Another big thing is that you gain experience out in the field as you fight more stuff. You earn points this way that you can spend upgrading, say, your ability to snipe or your armor's damage reduction settings. There are definitely a variety of choices to look through while you decide what to level up.

---

CHARACTERS: A+
I enjoy interacting with the characters to see what's going on in their heads. The characters are all very multidimensional and very well thought up and implemented in the game. Voice acting and video synchronization was flawless.

---

REPLAYABILITY: A
I have played through the story at least 3x by now, amassing more than 60 hours of gameplay. Having 6 character classes to pick from and 6 squad members to choose from, including the ability to choose whether to build your reputation as a ruthless military man or a compassionate and humane leader (or somewhere in between) definitely keeps you coming back to see how you can change the way things play. The different character classes really play differently so have fun with them.

---

To sum up, some of you may be looking at this game and wondering whether or not it's worth the $60. And I say it is.

PROS: Deep and immersive storyline that captivates from the beginning, well-made characters, seamless incorporation of dynamic cutscenes, unique integration of 3PS with RPG. This game plays very differently from anything you've tried before. It's no Halo 3 nor Bioshock. It's a very well-made original game.

CONS: Minimap is not intuitive at first, plays too much like a movie at times, driving between points on a map in the Mako can be excruciatingly boring, a lot of recurring layouts with the sites of side missions.

FINAL VERDICT: A+. Very well-made game, well worth that whole wait from June till now. I've been anticipating this game for a while and it delivers an epic storyline of gigantic portions in a way that no others have done. This is definitely for people who want to experience being in an all-new sci-fi epic and building up an altogether new and unique hero.
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 20, 2012 3:34 AM PDT


Bioengineering Fundamentals
Bioengineering Fundamentals
by Ann Saterbak
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $192.98
69 used & new from $110.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clear and easy to follow, with a nice set of challenging questions to go..., September 12, 2007
Dr. Saterbak is pretty much the mother of all Rice undergrad bioe's, and to meet a general lack of decent intro bioe textbooks at the time, she and some members of our department began to write this book.

Given her experience at teaching undergrads, this book meets expectations. It is clear and well-written. It contains a lot of equations, but that's because it's an intro engineering textbook. In other words, the book is all about different kinds of balances (mass, momentum, energy, etc.). Despite this, the equations are still presented in a very logical way that was easy to refer to back then, doing all those problem sets. It still continues to be a go-to reference text.

The problems, though, are crazy difficult. They're meant to be extremely challenging, and on average, we used to get assigned only 6 from a chapter a week (it'd take 4 of us 8hrs on average). Interestingly, some other intro bioe classes mistakenly choose to assign a lot more problems a week, thinking that it's like your typical textbook with easy problems. Not the case here.

Finally, the case studies at the end are a nice addition, being closely patterned after term design projects that have been tried and tested on our students in the past. They present big biomedical problems in a context that allows you to call in stuff you have learned from the rest of the book. Overall, a lot of the material will seem tedious, but in the end, you'll be surprised at your newfound capacity for analytical thinking. This book doesn't teach as much "knowledge" as it develops a skill. But of course, you've gotta do the problems...


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