Reportedly, Whitney Houston has died:
Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unknown.
News of Houston’s death came on the eve of music’s biggest night – the Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to case a heavy pall on Sunday’s ceremony. Houston’s longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday; it was unclear if it was going to go forward. . . .She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.
But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.
“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.
A sad end for someone with so much talent.
So the other day over at my InstaPundit blog I linked to Protein Power and The Protein Power Lifeplan, and reader Judith Sears asked for some advice on high-protein low-carb recipes. The result was more responses than I could handle.
First, the Insta-Wife points out that those books actually contain recipes, something I should have noted. Second, reader William Moselle recommends Paleodietlifestyle.com and EverydayPaleo.com. Plus the book, The Paleo Solution.
John Fahy recommends Atkins.com. And reader Jonathan Bailey writes:
In response to Judith Sears request for low-carb recipes, the Eades also have a cookbook (available on Kindle too) called “The Low-Carb Comfort Food Cookbook” plus the “Protein Power Pyramid Cookbook” and I think a couple more. If she just searches Amazon using the search terms “protein power cookbook” it will come back with these and several other titles.
I dropped 40 pounds (down to 145) myself after ditching the carbs in my diet.
Nice work. And reader Sandra McWhorter writes: “Been on The Abs Diet by Men’s Health Editor-in-Chief David Zinczenko for a good while. Has a book with recipes, a recipe book and now a website and it is equally effective for men and women. No clue why more people don’t live this plan. Truly is a lifesaver, along with Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley. Women’s edition there, too.”
Another reader emails: “Old, but excellent high protein, low carb cookbook: The Low-Carb Cookbook by Fran McCullough (forward by Michael and Mary Eades, M.D) conveniently available on Amazon. My standards are high; this does not disappoint. Cook your way through it and you will be satiated and slimmer.”
Lissa Kay emails: “Love this book.”
And Dr. Michael Kennedy writes: “This is the Atkins Diet again, which refuses to go away because, in spite of food pyramids and the medical bigwigs, it works. I have wondered how much the conventional wisdom on diets has contributed to the obesity epidemic. I reviewed the medical literature a few years ago and it is almost impossible (or was then) to find any peer reviewed literature on the Atkins Diet or the concept. It’s a bit like global warming.” The literature seems to be catching up a bit. I credit Gary Taubes.
So I’ve now spent over an hour playing with the new Kindle Fire, and here are some preliminary thoughts.
First, the look-and-feel is better than I expected. It’s plastic, not metal like the iPad, but it’s surprisingly solid-feeling and the screen is super-glossy. At considerably less than half the price of an iPad, it doesn’t come across as cheap.
As soon as I turned it on and hooked it up to wifi, it knew it was mine and downloaded my Kindle library. I didn’t have to enter my account or password at all; Amazon obviously took care of that before shipping. A nice touch.
I can’t explain why, but I don’t like the Android operating system quite as much as the iPad’s. It’s not really that different, and it’s reasonably intuitive, but it just doesn’t feel as slick somehow.
Kindle books popped up and were easy to read. Display is nice and clear. I prefer the double-page display on the iPad, I think, but that only works because the iPad screen is twice as big.
Video played fine. As an Amazon Prime member (and everyone who buys a Fire gets 30 days of Prime free, if you’re not already a member) you get a lot of free streaming video. I watched part of a Firefly episode — The Train Job — and it played flawlessly; no pausing to rebuffer, no stuttering or freezing. Sound was good through the little speakers, though not terribly loud. But loud enough in my not-very-noisy environment. Otherwise you’d want earphones, which aren’t included.
There’s no camera. On the other hand, I hardly ever use the one in the iPad. After a bit over 60 minutes of run time, it shows 81% of battery left, suggesting that it should be good for around 5 hours of use. That would probably be longer if you weren’t streaming video, switching applications, etc., or if you dimmed the screen a bit. It shows 6.15 GB available out of the nominal 8 GB of memory.
The web browser is OK. Amazon claims it’s cloud-accelerated, but if it’s any faster than the browser on the iPad it’s not enough to tell. It crashed on me twice while loading pages; both times it recovered fine, but that’s a bit troubling. You can blog from it (see below) but — as with a keyboard Kindle, or an iPad for that matter — it’s not much of a blogging tool, except in extremis.
The Facebook App is okay; about like the iPhone app. Overall, natch, the supply of apps is a lot smaller than the iPads. It’ll go up, but I doubt the Kindle Fire will ever catch up in the Apps department. There’s no GPS.
The size factor is about what I expected. I miss the bigger iPad screen, but this will fit in a jacket pocket, even in its Marware case. The iPad is too big for pretty much any kind of pocket.
Best thing about the Kindle Fire — did I mention it’s less than half the price of an iPad? Like the iPad, it’s primarily a media-consumption device; you can do other things on it, but it’s not as well-suited for that. As with cheap digital cameras, the low price is an added feature in a way, as it means you’d be willing to take the Kindle Fire on places or trips where you might be loath to risk a more-expensive iPad. Like the iPad, of course, but unlike the regular Kindles, it’s probably not great for reading in the sun. (I didn’t actually test that, since there wasn’t any sun here today. . . .) Overall, it’s not as good as the iPad, but it’s probably nearly as good for all the things I actually use the iPad for. And it’s a lot cheaper. Not bad.
Meanwhile, InstaPundit readers have been reporting their own experiences. Reader Jerry Hogan writes: “Got mine this afternoon..it’s everything I expected. No manual or instructions in the box. Plugged in the AC adapter and turned it on and voila, everything was there. Accessing the web via my house wifi was quick, downloaded a free ebook, surfed the web, even the non-geek wife was impressed.”
Another reader, who asks that I not use his name, is less impressed:
The device looks good but I don’t like the inability to get to Google’s Market since I have a lot of apps from that app store that aren’t offered by Amazon. I can’t even get the Gmail app.
Even stranger was that I couldn’t find Netflix by searching in the Amazon App Store. However, when I went to Netflix’s website, I was able to find a link to an Android app that took me back to Amazon’s App Store where I was able to download it. I’m sure Netflix will calling them to find out why their app is “hidden” in the app store. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to do the same for the Google apps and other apps that I want.
And I will miss the side page buttons if I use the Kindle Fire to read books while standing in a subway car. Not an issue for most people but I see a lot of Kindle’s on the New York subway. I’ll be curious to see how many Kindle Fires I’ll see.
I assume the app stuff will catch up, but yeah. I’m not much for watching movies on portable devices, but the Netflix App is important. As for gmail, I just accessed mine via the browser and that was fine, though it took me a minute to find the “sign out” button when I was done. (It’s down in the bottom left corner). Anyway, there you go — my first impressions. For the price, I’d say it’s a good deal.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Louis Abbott writes:
I have several Kindle Fires on the way for my family as Christmas gifts and am glad to see reviews on your blog. The lack of a GMail app is a bit disconcerting, but the email I received today from amazon has a link directly to the Netflix app.
I look forward to seeing how well Evernote works on the Kindle Fire as well.
The Netflix link is there with a lot of other icons. Or just go directly here.
(Crossposted from Instapundit).
Science fiction writer Poul Anderson’s widow Karen is bringing out his entire backlist in e-Book format. The first release is the novelette Call Me Joe, out for 99 cents on Kindle complete with the original pulp-mag illustrations from Astounding. This is a great way to keep classics available, and you can’t beat the price. I hope that more authors will follow suit.
John Tierney asks that very question:
When seesaws and tall slides and other perils were disappearing from New York’s playgrounds, Henry Stern drew a line in the sandbox. As the city’s parks commissioner in the 1990s, he issued an edict concerning the 10-foot-high jungle gym near his childhood home in northern Manhattan.
“I grew up on the monkey bars in Fort Tryon Park, and I never forgot how good it felt to get to the top of them,” Mr. Stern said. “I didn’t want to see that playground bowdlerized. I said that as long as I was parks commissioner, those monkey bars were going to stay.”
His philosophy seemed reactionary at the time, but today it’s shared by some researchers who question the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone. . . . By gradually exposing themselves to more and more dangers on the playground, children are using the same habituation techniques developed by therapists to help adults conquer phobias, according to Dr. Sandseter and a fellow psychologist, Leif Kennair, of the Norwegian University for Science and Technology.
When the playground movement was starting up, around a century ago, its motto was “Better a broken arm than a broken spirit.” Since then, that approach seems to have fallen out of favor. But perhaps — with the rise of surprise bestsellers like The Dangerous Book for Boys and research of the sort Tierney describes — we’re beginning to see a societal turnaround. We can hope, anyway.
A Travel Channel episode of No Reservations, a cooking-focused show narrated by Anthony Bourdain, took viewers to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I had heard that the show offered unique insight into the country and its troubles. I couldn’t imagine how. But it turns out to be true. Through the lens of food, we can gain an insight into culture, and from culture to economy, and from economy to politics and finally to what’s wrong in this country and what can be done about it.
Through this micro lens, we gain more insight than we would have if the program were entirely focused on economic issues. Such an episode on economics would have featured dull interviews with treasury officials and IMF experts and lots of talk about trade balances and other macroeconomic aggregates that miss the point entirely.
Instead, with the focus on food and cooking, we can see what it is that drives daily life among the Haitian multitudes. And what we find is surprising in so many ways.
A very interesting essay.
Well, if you eat too much, you’ll get fat. But it turns out that it does matter what you eat, as well:
Despite conventional advice to eat less fat, weight loss was greatest among people who ate more yogurt and nuts, including peanut butter, over each four-year period. . . . But, consistent with the new study’s findings, metabolism takes a hit from refined carbohydrates — sugars and starches stripped of their fiber, like white flour. When Dr. David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston compared the effects of refined carbohydrates with the effects of whole grains in both animals and people, he found that metabolism, which determines how many calories are used at rest, slowed with the consumption of refined grains but stayed the same after consumption of whole grains.
Overall, this sounds pretty consistent with Gary Taubes’ thesis, which has become pretty popular in the blogosphere. Personally, I lost about 10 pounds last semester through a combination of the Livestrong app for my iPhone — which does count calories — and an increased avoidance of refined carbs, per Taubes advice. It was pretty painless.
“I took my boys camping last summer. We drove a hair-raising set of muddy cliffside roads to a secluded campground in the middle of nowhere. We lit a fire and ate mediocre food and slept in a soggy tent and woke up in a puddle. What do they remember from that trip? The fire. Only the fire. All the sticks they burned in it. Watching it change as the evening wore on. Getting close and burning new things. Their fascination with our firepit is the foundation of all scientific discovery. This is, I believe, Mr. Gurstelle’s point, and he has explored it admirably.”
I think that fire — and fireworks — also are important because they give young people an experience of dealing with something dangerous at close hand, which in modern life isn’t common enough. Injuries are (usually) minor, but lessons are lifelong.
How much do you value something? What are you willing to give up for it?
The world class athlete or musician gives up time spent with family and friends for time spent honing their talent. The converted religious man gives up old habits for his new faith. The blockbuster actor gives up anonymity for fame and fortune. The burned out employee gives up his six-figure corporate salary to become a high school teacher.
If you are unhappy in your choice, it is because you chose something that you do not really believe to have higher value than that which you left behind. The law of sacrifice reveals and operates according to our personal value system. If we don’t have a cut physique, it is because we value the freedom to eat whatever we’d like more than six pack abs. If we don’t have a 4.0 GPA, it’s because we value time spent with friends more than grades. If you’ve ever wondered why you lack the discipline to attain a certain goal, it is likely because in your heart of hearts, you don’t really value that goal as much as you think you do.
I decided a long time ago that I valued beer more than six-pack abs. I’m happy with that decision.
My brother’s band, 12 Stones, just got back from a USO tour of Japan and the Pacific where they visited numerous U.S. military bases. And now their new single, Bulletproof, is out and downloadable for 99 cents at Amazon. It’s also on iTunes. (Yes, Brad has a more interesting life than I do these days.) This was his first USO tour, and it was interesting how much he enjoyed it, as well as opportunities to play with tanks, Barrett .50s, and so on. And he loved the troops he met, as pretty much everyone does on these tours, in my experience.
One of the big phenomena in culture today is the end of gatekeeper power. And one place where it’s happening especially fast is in publishing. Thanks to the Kindle in particular, authors are able to bypass publishers and — sometimes — come out ahead. Blogger Ric Locke, for example, has published Temporary Duty on Kindle, and it’s spent weeks in Amazon’s Top Ten list for science fiction overall, meaning that it’s beating out major publisher releases on Kindle and in hardcover. That’s just the beginning, I expect.
Will the growth of independent media weaken the power of old-guard tastemakers? I think so. What do you think?