Tuesday, 30 November 2010

E-Readers: Kobo, Sony, Kindle, Nook and iPads


The premise of the e-readers is fairly simple: you buy electronic books and download them from your computer on to the reader. Most formats are Adobe PDF and can also be read on a Blackberry, iPhone, or your desktop computer. Some booksellers sell the books in a differing format, so the e-readers are not necessarily interchangable, nor do all e-books work on all e-readers.


Some e-readers have wireless capabilities, others do not. There are also different generations of these e-readers, with each version having more capabilities. For instance, there are some that also give you daily access to newspapers and magazines.


Some things to consider when deciding what to buy:
When comparing eBook readers, these are some of the most critical considerations:
Content: An eReader is of little to no good if you can't, well, use it to read what you want. In this regard, it's important to pay attention to the specs of any eBook reader you are interested in. Many eReaders can display the ePub open e-book format, while some eReaders (including the Amazon Kindle can't). Instead, the Kindle has a proprietary format, but has a vast content library compatible with the device as well as support for PDFs and Word DOCs. It's also important to consider how much content costs.


Display: How big is the device's display? What display technology does the device use? While a small screen may make a device that much more convenient, it may -- of couse -- make it more difficult to read. Displays using e-ink technology make text look just like it would on paper, and is often the preferred technology for eReaders.


Performance: For your basic eReader, performance is important -- but not hugely important. In the eBook reader world, performance often boils down to how fast a screen can refresh (effectively, how fast a page can turn and how quickly you can access menus) and how long it takes to power up. For eReaders built into more advanced devices like the iPad, performance becomes important in the sense that it is important to computers.
Wireless: Many eReaders offer 3G connectivity for downloading content wherever you are, and some eBook readers are also equipped with WiFi. Wireless connectivity is important for eReaders as it is a convenient way to get content on your device. The Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook, for example, offer free 3G wireless -- allowing users to download books, newspapers, blogs and more form virtually anywhere.


Storage space: The storage space, or capacity for content on an eBook reader, is important for obvious reasons. Of course, storage space determines how many eBooks you can store on your eReader simultaneously. It also determines capacity for other files, including music, pictures, and even in some cases (e.g. Apple iPad), movies.


Multimedia: As just alluded to, many eBook readers can display multimedia content beyond just eBooks. Many higher-end eReaders offer a built-in digital music player, and some even offer external speakers in addition to a standard headphone jack. Some eBook readers even offer the ability to store and display pictures, while the iPad (and surely other tablet computers) offer video playback.
Advanced features: Of course, every eReader can display eBooks. Yet, there are a number of other features that some eReaders do offer. Some eBook readers, including the Kindle, offer a basic, built-in web browsers that allows users to browse the web for free over the 3G network. Other advanced features includes music players, the ability to digitally lend books to friends, text-to-speech capabilities and more.


Battery life: Another important factor to consider when buying and eBook reader is the battery life of the device. Thanks to e-ink display technology that only consumer battery life when changing what's displayed on the screen (e.g. turning a page), many eReaders can provide up to an incredible 2 weeks of reading. In most ways, battery life depends on whether wireless is on or off, as well as display technology.
Price: Price is the most obvious factor when considering an eReader. Of course, price is directly related to features offer and the brand recognition of any given device. For a device with advanced features (like the Apple iPad that is more closely related to a computer than an eReader), buyers can expect to pay proportionally more. Source: EReader Leader
As a big fan of books, there are also questions as to whether or not this is the type of tool for you. Certainly some people love new gadgets and that is enough for them. However, if you are a reader of many books, the above factors and others are extremely important.

The Amazon Kindle is probably the best of the e-readers in that it has the wireless capabilities, plays music, and of course accesses the electronic books. Its downfall is that it will only use Kindle specific formats. Therefore there are certain e-books that are not accessible. As well, you can only buy most books that can be used on the Kindle from Amazon.

The Kobo reader, from Chapters (and Barnes and Noble) is a basic model. It does, however, allow access to many formats, not just from Chapters. Having used a Kobo for a number of months its limitations, for a reader such as myself, actually make it a bit of a waste of money. I read a lot, re-read many books and often refer back to them. The Kobo does not allow me to check back into books in an easy way. Page numbers displayed on the Kobo are not the same as in the actual book, you can't highlight or make notes.

The newest versions of the Kindle and Sony E-readers do allow you to highlight text on the screen and to make notes, which make these great devices for students, those who read more than fiction, and those who want to re-read or refer back to the books. I'd like to know more about them, though, to see if they'd really work for me.


For a heaftier price, there is the Apple iPad. Some advantages are that along with being a great e-reader, it has computer functions and the display is in colour. You can highlight, make sticky notes on the page you're reading, the page numbers reflect the book's, making it for easy reference.

I guess that this also means that you get what you pay for.

The smell and feel of a book is something I love, too, however. The crisp cover and uncracked spine of a paperback is enticing. A brand new text is amazing. The well-worn hard cover of a childhood book, read many times over, is just as wonderful. Each new book represents new ideas, ways of looking at the world, and possibility. Each previously cherished book represents lessons learned, history, and discovery. Well, at least that is how it is for me.

So, the question is, do I read enough that owning such a tool would allow me to 'be greener'? When I look at the shelves of books within our house, the answer becomes fairly obvious. I read an average of 3 books a week. Some weeks I read as many as about 5, but other weeks I only get through 1. The books I read are non fiction, fiction, texts...the list goes on. I am also one who re-reads all sorts of books.

Will I also be able to allow a thin piece of plastic and metal, that covers computer chips and data, to take the place of a book.

My Kobo isn't doing 'it' for me. Do I upgrade and continue purchasing e-books? Or, do I revert back to paper only? I need to do some more thinking.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Motivation

Daniel Pink has written Drive, a great look at motivating and engaging employees.

There's also a great video on YouTube that is based on some of his work.

Consider watching it.


Friday, 26 November 2010

The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins

I recently found a trilogy that was of particular interest. Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy is fascinating and well-written.

These books tell the story of Katniss, a 16 year old girl whose father has died in a coal mine explosion. She spends most of her waking moments hunting in the forest, beyond the electrified fence that 'imprisons' her and the District 12 residents. She hunts to feed her family and to stay alive.

The time is the distant future. Their country is called Panem: the residents live in poverty. Panem (North America) is divided into 13 districts that surround the Capitol. Once a year, the leaders of the Capitol hold the Hunger Games. Two children from each district are chosen to compete to the death. The winner's district will receive more food; the winner will receive a new home and wealth.

The children are brought up in a propogandized world so that many look forward to the "honour" of competing in the games. Katniss, however, recognizes the brutal truth of the games and when her younger sisters' name is chosen, she steps up to volunteer.

The three books tell the story of the games and their aftermath.
Marketed as a YA series, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay appeal to a much broader audience than young teens with an interest in science fiction. The plot moves quickly, keeping readers turning pages and drawing them along with the suspense of the story. The central characters are well developed – flawed yet likeable, determined, resourceful, intelligent and passionate.

The deeper themes ensure that older readers and teens looking for more substance will find plenty to sink their teeth into. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire offer numerous opportunities to consider the influence of propaganda and political manipulation, the complex nature of trust and loyalty and the limits of human endurance (physical, emotional and mental) in a manner reminiscent of George Orwell's classic 1984.

There are elements of violence, as can hardly be surprising when the first novel is a description of a gladiator-like battle between children between the aged of 12 and 18. While descriptions of violent acts are never graphic, the underlying menace and brutality of The Hunger Games themselves has a significant emotional impact and will perhaps make these stories unsuitable for sensitive readers or those under the age of 13.
The science fiction aspects of the novels are evident in the futuristic setting and some technological advancement, but the characters could easily have been set in a more familiar modern setting and those readers who usually avoid science fiction should find the sci-fi aspects of these novels reasonably unobtrusive. Source
This trilogy is dystopian in nature. While it does evoke Orwellian comparisons as the reviewer, above, suggests; it also brings Huxley's Brave New World and other dystopias to mind.

I really like reading this sort of book. I find the author's ability to create a completely different world that is both believable and haunting to be a wonderful craft. I like how it makes me question humanity and makes me think about our very own world.

The books are 'page turners,' keeping the reader enthralled from beginning to end. That they have been written for young adults does not make them any less enjoyable for the adult reader. Perhaps the writing isn't as challenging, but the themes and story itself are definitely adult worthy. The only reason adults wouldn't enjoy these books is because they are not fans of sci-fi, not because they aren't quality works.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Character

"You can judge a person's character by the way he treats people who can't help him or hurt him." ~ Anonymous

Mini Almond Cakes - Jacques Pépin

On Saturdays I usually catch a couple of cooking shows on PBS. I've seen Jacques Pépin cooking with Julia Child in reruns, but he has also had his own show for a number of years.

This week the show began with mini almond cakes. Talk about easy and fast! I made a couple of tiny changes to the recipe and made some for our dessert.

Mini Almond Cakes
¼ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup whole almonds
1 egg
¼ tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 tsp almond extract or a dash of rum

Put the flour, sugar, and almonds in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the egg, butter (melted), and almond extract. Blend until mixed.

Pour mixture into muffin/cupcake papers. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes at 350. (toothpick should come out clean)

Topping:
Fresh berries
Or
1 cup frozen berries and 2 tbsp sugar. Place in sauce pan and bring to a boil. Let cool. It can be spooned on to the cakes when serving as is, or puréed first. (or watch the video below and follow Jacques' directions
Or
Any type of frosting that you'd like

(makes about 6)

It was a quick recipe and the size of the cakes was perfect.

Here's a link to the show:

Dinner Party Special (219): Jacques Pépin: More Fast Food My Way

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Cooking Sites and Funny Recipes


I like to check out various cooking web sites to find good recipe and ideas.

I happened upon a site recently: Serious Eats. Serious Eats has lots of different recipes and they seem pretty good. I guess the people who run this site also have a great sense of humour. One recipe I found was for Boiled Water. Yep, that's right, BOILED WATER

I don't know what is funnier, the instructions or the readers' comments.
Here's a copy of the post: (The title will link you directly to the site)

Boiled Water Recipe
Posted by Adam Kuban, July 28, 2010 at 11:17 AM
Boiling water is essential to many recipes. If you have never cooked before, don't worry. It is not as difficult as it may appear. This recipe will guide you through the process, even if you have never set foot in a kitchen.
Special equipment: 12-quart stockpot. Serves 48, cooking time 5 minutes, total time varies
Ingredients
Water
Procedure:
Open your cupboard or wherever it is you store your cookware.
Locate a 12-quart stockpot. If you do not have a 12-quart stockpot, you may use whatever size pot you have; in that event, keep in mind that serving size here is 1 cup and there are 4 cups in a quart. Do the math.
Place your pot in the sink under the tap. If you have never used a sink before, it is the large depression in your counter top. (If you live with someone else, they may have filled it with dirty dishes; in this case, wash them or simply remove them from the sink and place them in the oven — someone else will eventually discover them there and wash them.)
Turn the cold-water knob to the "on" position. Some people (like my dad) prefer to let the water run a little bit. This is optional but encouraged — if it's a hot day or someone has previously used the "hot" water knob, the warmer water will eventually be replaced by truly cold water.
Fill stockpot to within a couple inches of the rim.
Lift stockpot from sink and transfer to stove. (Although appearances may vary, the stove is the thing with 4 or more circular metal bands on top of it; alternately, it may be a completely flat black glass surface. If you are unsure, ask your family, roommate, or neighbor for guidance.)
Find knob on stove that corresponds to the "burner" you have placed your pot on. In addition to words like "Right Front" or "Left Rear," there are usually little pictures near the knobs to indicate position.
Turn knob to "High" and wait until water boils. Depending on strength of your stove and amount of water, the boiling time may vary.
Note: DO NOT WATCH THE POT; it will never boil in the event that you do.
Boiled water may be used for any number of applications. Serve hot, but do not drink.


Alternate methods:

Depending on water application, you may want to salt the water. Do this after the water has come to a boil.
Placing a lid on the pot will help it boil faster, with the additional benefit of blocking water from your line of sight, which, as stated above, inhibits the boiling process.

As I mentioned, above, some of the comments are priceless. I've copied a couple, but really you need to read the post and comments on Serious Eats to truly get the whole picture!
I do a gourmet version of this recipe, with filtered water.
This sounds like too much work. Where can I find some that has already been prepared and packaged?
I have a question: I was making this recipe when the power went out. The water was steaming but not yet "boiling". It's been two hours now; how long will it keep out of the fridge? Do I have to throw this water away and start all over, or do I risk poisoning my guests/family?
I accidentally dropped a tea bag into the water as it "boiled", and immediately it turned the water dark amber! On a whim I poured some into a mug, and tasted it. OMG, it's amazing! It was so good it should be, like, a country's national drink. My mom, a great cook, suggested I try it another time with honey and lemon, I am SO going to try that.
I'm intrigued by the esoteric "lid on the pot" variation as a means to avoid the "watching" phenomenon. I never realized that was a valid workaround! I always thought the prohibition was against watching the POT itself. I guess I took the old saw too literally. This tip really saves prep time; I don't have to keep leaving the kitchen to avoid accidental glances at the pot... Thanks!
Well, I followed the reciped exactly, but, after the water started boiling, I got confused! It wasn't until then that I noticed there was a time listed for how long you let it boil. I thought, "better safe than sorry", so I boiled it for approx.6 hours. Now it's GONE--HELP! What did I do? Was that too long to boil it? Where did it go?
I made this a week ago and put the leftovers in the freezer. It made it very tough and stale... I think I broke a tooth trying to eat it!!
This is a great recipe! Since I have high blood pressure I made it without salt and it was still very good. I am going to add this to my recipe file as I don't want to forget how to do it. Can you saute with it?
Can't I just buy it frozen and cook in the microwave? I think that would be so much more convenient than all that complicated stuff with water faucets, cookware and stoves.
 I see that the lid should be added to prevent seeing the water, and it will speed up prep time. However, my lids are glass. HELP!!!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Leadership

"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality" ~ Max DePree, Chairman and CEO, Herman Miller

Every Action Is Recorded

A Parenthesis is a website I like to visit. Here is tha recent posting: 

Every Action Is Recorded


As you do, so you become. Every action that you perform is recorded in you, the soul. These imprints ultimately mould your character and destiny. When you understand this principle, you will pay more attention to bringing your best to everything you do.
Picture and quote from A Parenthesis

Monday, 15 November 2010

Emails and Emotional Intelligence

Missing out on tone, volume, body language etc, Emails are already frought with issues because they only answer a small part of our communication needs.


This article explores more of the issues that poorly written emails create.


How Emotional Intelligence Disappears in E-Mail - Chief Learning Officer, Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Ringette, and finding muscles I never knew I had!

Well, to mark my 47th birthday, I've joined a ringette team!


Ringette is an ice sport, played primarily by girls. I began playing ringette when I was 8 years old. My father, who did a lot of work in the sports world and the Canada and provincial games, was called by an associate from Ontario one winter night. He was in town and had a sport he wanted to show my dad. "It's for girls, bring yours and their skates," he said. The three of us, two of the girls from down the street, and perhaps a few others went out to play.


A team was quickly formed and within a year there were teams all over the city. I played ringette from that year right until the end of my first year of university.

The game essentially involves straight sticks (at the time we used cut off hockey sticks) a ring, general hockey gear, and hockey skates. The rules have been changed a bit over the years, but the game has essentially stayed the same.


So, there I was this past Wednesday night in a rink change room pulling on a girdle, something called a jill strap, (a female jock strap)  shoulder pads (we didn't wear any of those three when I played the first time) elbow pads, shin and knee pads, a jersey and then bending over with all of that stuff on, to tie up my skates. By the time I was dressed I was having my own personal summer (Menopause induced) and longing for the coolness of the rink.

I haven't skated lots in the last 5 years, but when the kids were little we skated throughout the winter, so I wasn't completely lost. As for the gear and peering through the face guard of my helmet, well that was long forgotten since my first foray into the world of ringette some 28 years ago, or so.

You know how they some things are like riding a bike, you never forget. That's what it was like for ringette. The game came back immediately; the adaptations to the rules weren't too difficult to adapt to. I knew where I needed to be and what I needed to do. HOWEVER, my body wasn't quite as quick! My brain may have known what I needed to do, but my body wasn't as cooperative.

As the night wore on and I got even more focussed I did feel better and better....except for the lung capacity! You'd think I'd been smoking steadily for the last few decades...which I haven't. My lungs were actually burning as they tried to fill my lungs. Having a body not cooperating with my brain was a bit goofy.

I had a moment of 'smallness' when another new team member, my age, who also hasn't played for the same amount of years, was just as tired and having trouble getting her breath. Before we'd gone on the ice she'd told me she was in the best shape of her life. So, there we were, both panting for air in the players' box as we took a shift off of the ice. I didn't feel quite so bad about having trouble catching my breath... I guess misery really does love company!

The next day I was really stiff and I'm still stiff. I've been doing lots of stretching and a bit of yoga, as well as walking the dog more than usual to losen up the muscles. I think that this may be a great jump start into getting back into shape, though.

The great part about this new venture is that I've also met some nice women. Some have been playing for a number of years, others have recently started in the last few years, and some are like me; they used to play when they were kids.

Believe it or not, I'm looking forward to Wednesday!

Here's a video link about ringette. Ringette Canada. I also found the video below from The Rick Mercer Report where Rick takes a look at ringette. It's kind of fun.

More about ringette:
During the 1960's Mr. Sam Jacks was the Director of Parks and Recreation in North Bay, Ontario. He dedicated a great deal of time and enthusiasm to developing youth activities and one of his particular interests was to develop an on-ice skating game for females. He named the fledgeling game "ringette" and the first-ever ringette game was played in the winter of 1963-64 in the Northern Ontario town of Espanola. Ringette has never looked back. It is now played in half a dozen other countries around the world. Ringette Canada

Friday, 12 November 2010

Trust

"When we believe people truly are acting inour best interest, we tend to trust them." ~ Stephen M. R. Covey

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Living in the Moment


Living in the moment.

What is really in our control?

It's not uncommon for any of us to say that someone else makes us mad, pushes our buttons, or that it's their fault we did/responded in such a way.

But, if we really admit it, we have all of the control. We choose how we respond. We can't control much in our lives, but we can control ourselves and our responses.

It's a tough reality to face. It's so much easier if other people 'make' us do things, feel things, respond to things, etc. We don't have to own our responses or choices if we can blame someone else, or justify based on an excuse that it is beyond our control.

When I participated in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop, based on Stephen R. Covey's book of the same name a number of years ago, I was reminded of this very important truth.

Since I am a work in progress, I seem to have to be reminded of this truth frequently. ...

In The 7 Habits, Stephen R. Covey reminds of our most human element, our freedom to choose. Between the event and our response we have that moment, that pause button that allows us to choose our response. We can use our self awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will to help us choose that response.

So what does this have to do with living in the moment? Well, when we choose to live in the moment, we choose to let go of the other junk: the past, the negativity of others, our desire to blame or justify our behaviour by blaming another's behaviour.
It's about recognizing what is within our control and what is beyond. We all have a Circle of Influence, that which we care about and which we can control....ourselves, our choices and our behaviours. We also have a Circle of Concern, that which we care about but do not control: the weather, our pasts, others' behaviours, etc.

An interesting point that Covey also makes is that when we remember our circle of influence and focus on it, it actually enlarges our circle of influence. Our proactive focus When we remember these two things: what our circle of influence is and that we have the freedom to choose, we can step into actions that are more effective and yet still be in the moment.
Now, even if this is common sense, as I've often heard Covey quoted: "common sense isn't always common practice."
So, if I use some common sense, I can live in the moment, and let go of that baggage stuff that can hold me back. I can be proactive in my choices and decisions.
Ah...even common sense is something to practice! I guess I'll practice it moment by moment.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Success

"If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person's place and to see things from his point of view - as well as your own." ~ Henry Ford.

Yorkton, Saskatchewan

Every few months I travel to Yorkton, Saskatchewan to facilitate a leadership course at Parkland College, on behalf of the University of Regina. 

Yorkton is a nice sized city, that seems to be continually growing.

My favourite place to stay is at Patrick Place. It's a beautiful heritage home that has been converted into a bed and breakfast. It's second and third floors have a few different bedrooms to choose from. There's Sadie's room on the second floor, where I often stay, William's room that runs the length of the house and the large Sleeping Porch that features a jacuzzi tub. Upstairs is the Garret, a suite of three rooms: the Study, the Servant's room and a bathroom.

I'm in the Study this visit. The Study is a large room with hardwood floors, a comfy bed and beautiful furniture.

Margaret, Lawrence and their daughter always provide a warm welcome and unbelievably good breakfasts! The rooms are spotless and fresh, and nothing beats feeling like you are at home when you are travelling.

The first time I travelled to Yorkton to facilitate the leadership course, one of the participants, Rhonda, was the owner of a local spa. Luna Experience has also become my favourite place to visit when I am in Yorkton.
Luna Experience has a great relaxation room and nice treatment rooms.
Rhonda never fails to provide me with a great massage or facial, or both! I call ahead to make sure that I can get an appointment for the end of my first facilitating day. By the end of my massage the stiff neck from driving has disappeared and she sends me back to the Bed and Breakfast for a great night's sleep to prepare me for the second day of facilitating and my drive home.

This weekend I have arrived on my birthday. I've reworked the program that I facilitate so I'm really excited about tomorrow. Tonight I will soak in the huge tub. Tomorrow I have a special treat of both a massage AND a facial!



I also happen to know that breakfast, tomorrow is a crepe with a mushroom, onion and ham mixture. It is delicious!!!


The pictures on this post are from Patrick Place and Luna Experience's websites.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Trust

"I bring you the gift of these four words: I believe in you." ~ Blaise Pascal. French Physicist and Mathematician

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Tomato Soup

Here's a tomato soup recipe that I found this week and made...in 20 minutes!


1 large diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
3 c chicken broth
freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp oregano


Sauté the onion and garlic in a tiny bit of vegetable oil. When the onion is translucent add the tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken broth.


Stir together and cook at medium heat for 15 minutes. Add freshly ground pepper and oregano.


Purée the soup and serve. I used my immersion mixer. (way easier than a blender!)
For some variety: sprinkle on croutons, add some barley (increase the chicken broth accordingly - just follow package directions), add rice and extra broth.You can also add some diced red peppers, put them in with the onions to sauté .

I love tomato soup but haven't eaten it for years because the canned stuff has milk. I found this recipe and tried it with some reluctance, I had no idea that the soup would be so easy to make. It was rich and creamy. One day I'm going to try it with fresh tomatoes.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The Impact of Recognition


 The Impact of Recognition
  • Reinforces positives.
  • Lets employees know that their work is valued and appreciated.
  • Gives employees a sense of ownership and belonging in their place of work.
  • Improves morale.
  • Enhances loyalty and commitment.
  • Builds a supportive work environment: when employees feel supported, they will, in turn, support each other.
  • Increases motivation and satisfaction.
  • It builds quality leaders at all levels. Successful leaders make the people side of business a top concern.
  • Managers and employees learn how to support and encourage one another.
  • Improves employee engagement and retention.