some observations from Taiwan and a couple short reviews

Man, it’s nice to be able to go to bed with my husband every night, and to know that isn’t going to end at the end of this week!!! (Italics and exclamation points fully justified here.)

It’s been kind of weird to be sitting at my old desk, good to see my old co-workers, and convenient for some of my work to be in an Asian timezone.

I seem to have bonded with the iPad; we were at Ted’s computer last night, trying to figure out whether it was possible to sync with his iTunes to get a couple of videos on it that he could watch on the plane while I’m reading a magazine (we decided it was too risky). At one point he took it to look at some settings, and I was very surprised at the strength of my “No! Mine!” instrinctive response. I think this will be better once I have a Kindle again. Meanwhile, the iPad is proving to be a decent Kindle substitute. It is also handy for games; as good as my laptop for checking email (possibly better; Gmail’s interface can be a bit slow when you want to glance at, then delete a bunch of emails, so that is actually faster on the iPad); not ideal but feasible for minor amounts of typing as in reading and responding on LJ or Ravelry; and excellent for showing your friends your photos. That was always a problem for us – you take good photos, admire them on your beautiful home Mac screen, carefully choose the best, blog them … and then see them looking wimpy and washed out on a work laptop. The iPad provides a beautiful, vivid, commodious and portable screen that’s actually large enough to really see the photos.

ETA: Kiwiria asked about battery life and I realized I forgot to discuss the downsides of the iPad. Battery life, unsurprisingly, is nowhere near the Kindle’s – I need to recharge every day or two rather than once a week. Kiwiria asked specifically about claims that it will show movies for up to 12 hours; while I have not tested it that way (I would never *want* to watch 12 hours of movies!) I can say that I charged it Saturday night, used it heavily for much of Sunday, mostly for reading but with the wireless switched on, occasionally checking email or websites or playing games. It may have been on for 8 hours or more of the day; at the end of that time it was down to about 30% charge. So yes, 12 hours of movie watching with 3G and wireless off seems possible.

Other downsides: iWorks (iPad version of MS works) is not free but costs $9.95 each for the Word, Excel,and Powerpoint-type files. Still cheap compared to MS Office on a laptop, though! It can be a bit tricky to sync with multiple computers, though apparently it is possible. Online videos run slowly enough that I can’t play better quality ones from YouTube, even on the faster connection I have here. The vast majority of apps are still only optimized for iPod, not iPad, though that’s a problem that should be fixed over time and iPod apps mostly work fine, just with a small screen image. For me, at least, these are all very minor issues, except the battery life.

I mentioned having a Kindle again; I have to give props to Amazon (and to the person on Ravelry who told me to check with them). It turns out that even though breaking my Kindle was *entirely* my own fault, it is covered under warranty, so they will be sending me a new one, free. They’re sending a Kindle 2 since that is what I broke; that seems a bit odd since the Kindle 3 is much cheaper, but I suppose they have stock left over when they switch models and this is what they do with it. No problem here, since I’m perfectly happy with the K2 (when it’s working) and it fits my beautiful cover. The guy I spoke to was a bit hard to understand (Irish accent, in fact) but was very helpful, even working with me to figure out how we could make sure it wasn’t shipped too soon. I expect to have to talk to customs and/or UPS to get it delivered, so I don’t want that to happen until I return.

Finally, yesterday I finished Rick Riordan’s latest, The Lost Hero, and I loved it. It’s interesting, because he’s written a bunch of adult books already, long before Percy Jackson, but it does look to me like he’s grown as an author. The world, the plot and the characters are all more complex here than in the previous Percy Jackson books, though definitely not too much so for a YA audience. Also, he’s established a reason for this second series to exist that’s entirely consistent with the mythos the first series is built around, a nice trick. As in The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, book 1), he’s using multiple POV characters, though this time in third person; also as in that series the characters are nicely varied. Of the three main characters, one is Hispanic and one Cherokee; their ethnicities have shaped them to a much greater extent than the Kanes were (reasonable in both cases; the Kanes are from a mixed race family in which one grew up traveling constantly and the other in London, whereas here Leo grew up in a Houston barrio and Piper is influenced by a Dad and grandfather who grw up on the reservation in Oklahoma). I do wish Jason’s character had been a bit more fully fleshed out, but then he has lost his memories (not a spoiler; it’s established in the first paragraph). Riordan has also done a good job indicating directions for this series to move in, while still leaving plenty of room for surprise. It’s possble Percy Jackson himself could show up as a central character in the next book – or not.

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