Book Review: “The Witch of the Hills”

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Book Reviews – “The Witch of the Hills” eBook was published in 2018 (March, the original paper edition was published in 2018) and was written by J. M. Fraser (https://jmfraser.com/). Mr. Fraser has published four novels.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. The story is set the contemporary US in the northern midwest. The primary character is sixteen-year-old Brian Danahey.

There is nothing special about Danahey other than he is starting college at sixteen. While driving home from a wedding he accidentally meets a beautiful redhead named Rebecca Church who is about his age. He only is able to spend a few hours with her before she disappears.

He goes on to college, but he cannot get Rebecca out of his head. As he does what he can fo find her, he hears about the legendary Witch of the Hills. While a wild idea, the ‘witch’ is supposed to live near where he met Rebecca. As Danahey follows his quest to find Rebecca he finds himself traveling through time.

Rebecca is following a prophecy that predicts that she will meet up with a boy named Brian. She is desperate to see the prophecy come true as she has deep feelings for Brian even before she meets him. She will also need his help to stop an imminent threat to the world.

I found nearly 9 hours I spent reading this 346-page Young adult romance. This book was written well enough, but I had a hard time getting engaged with the story. It seems to me that the plot is targetted at pre-teens or maybe very young teen girls. The cover art is OK. I give this novel a 3 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Your Preference for Coffee is in Your Genes

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Coffee – After reading the article “Why Do I Like Coffee, But Not Tea? Science Says It May Come Down To Your Genetics” I now know part of what is in my genetic makeup – bitter taste receptor genes.

A study was undertaken at the University of Queensland in Australia to find out more about the genetic factor in the individual’s preference for coffee. The results of their study (“Understanding the role of bitter taste perception in coffee, tea and alcohol consumption through Mendelian randomization“) has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The study looked at 400,000 people in the UK between the ages of 37 and 73. It compared both their coffee/tea-drinking habits, along with data on their genetic makeup. They found that those who carry the “bitter taste receptor gene” are much more likely to drink large amounts of coffee. In fact, for each “extra copy” of that gene, the probability that the individual would be a coffee drinker went up by 20%.

macOS New App Release – WindowSwitcher 1.0

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Product Announcements MacPlus Software of Kiev, Ukraine has released WindowSwitcher 1.0, a new unique application that aims to deal with the chaos of the opened windows on your Mac. WindowSwitcher provides several tools to quickly switch and manage Mac desktop windows. This easy-to-use utility transforms the chaos of a messy desktop into neatly arranged windows, where one can easily see all the information in an organized display.

When several applications are running with many windows open, it is sometimes difficult to manage the chaos and to work productively. Manually switching between windows and placing them on the screen wastes a lot of time. Thanks to functionality for quick positioning control and window size, users can quickly find and switch between windows and efficiently use screen space:

  • Manage Windows with Ease – WindowSwitcher allows you to easily manage your window positions and sizes with one click. You get full control over any opened windows: easily close, minimize, maximize, or even restore any window.
  • WindowSwitcher also lets one use gestures to move and resize windows. For example, swipe with two fingers, from right to left, to place a window on the left of the screen and resize to 1/2 of the entire screen. Another example, Swiping down minimizes the window, and swiping up de-minimizes or enlarges the window to full screen.
  • Fast Switching: Using the Command > Number key you can easily switch to windows without pressing many keys.
  • Convenient View Options: WindowSwitcher offers several options (layouts) for displaying a list of open windows. You can use the one that best suits your work style.

Download WindowSwitcher from their website.

Wednesday SciFi Flix: “TAU”

I came across the movie “TAU” on Netflix a few days ago and watched it. I thought it was very good. I would rate this movie as “R” due to scenes of Violence. The synopsis per IMDB:

A woman is held captive by a scientist in a futuristic smart house and hopes to escape by reasoning with the Artificial Intelligence that controls the house.

While there is obviously a science fiction component to the story, this is more about the struggle by the woman, Julie, to escape. It only scored a 5.7/10 on IMDB. I think it was better than that.

Another Perspective on Job Loss Due to Automation

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Robots – As I have posted before, there is great debate over whether or not Automation and Robotics will cost jobs. I read “The Great Myth of the AI Skills Gap” today and it is in the camp that Automation will create rather than cost jobs. Some of the points that the article brings out:

  • workers most likely to be displaced by technology lack the skills needed to do the new jobs created by that technology
  • the most common worry is that new technology will cause systematic permanent unemployment
  • there is concern that those who get training will stay employed at high paying jobs while those without training will be unemployed
  • new technology does eliminate low-skilled, low-paying jobs
  • the author’s position is that everyone should be able to do a job just a little harder than they are doing now – i.e. everyone level up a bit as automation is deployed
  • 200 years of economic history supports this
  • every fifty years, we lose about half of all jobs, and this has been pretty steady since 1800 
  • wages can continue to rise because technology has always increased worker productivity
  • the nature of technology has always been to create high-skilled jobs and increase worker productivity

While all that is said here makes some sense, I am concerned that the imapact of Robots and Automation will be deeper and more wide spread than prior disruptions caused by technology. While I agree that technology will create new jobs, I fear that they will be too few in number and require too much education/training to absorb those being displaced.

As with so many things the best advice is to plan for the worse and hope for the best.

macOS New App Release – TurnTable 3.2

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Product Announcements Aquarius Computer of New York, New York has released TurnTable v3.2, an important feature update to the company’s popular music player app for macOS. A music player made for music – and the art, TurnTable is a new Music Player app that replaces iTunes and plays all its music library files. It’s a player for truly jamming, by day and night. Daydream and play music, feel well, cry, have visions, whatever …

Developed specifically for artists, music aficionados, or people who dream by day and night, TurnTable displays your music in grids of artists for a fuller selection of what to listen to. Or nothing but Albums elegantly displayed with their art, your albums in a collection view. Tracks are displayed in a simpler utilitarian jukebox interface.

Since 3.0, including the new Themes feature, and a new Visual Tracks view, this jukebox is now way more usable, pleasurable even, comfortable. Version 3.2 sports a new, elegant user interface that is perfect for someone who is really into music the art, and a dreamier side to life. TurnTable 3.2 includes a new Visual Tracks view, for playing any songs/albums that may appear interesting. See the tracks you may like, that may get you up during the day, and just play one.

System Requirements:

  • macOS 10.13 or later
  • 64-bit processor
  • 1.6 MB

Pricing and Availability:
TurnTable v3.2 is only $4.99 USD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the Mac App Store in the Music category.

Instrumental Music on YouTube: Disney Princess Medley

Music – OK. I know this isn’t an instrumental piece, but I wanted to share it anyway. My son suggested that I take a look at this group. I have four granddaughters and at one time or another, each and every one of them wanted to be a Disney Princess. This video was posted to YouTube in August of 2017 by Voctave. From their website:

Voctave is an 11-member a cappella group from the Central Florida area. Formed in the winter of 2015, the voices that bring their artistic arrangements to life represent a wealth of diverse backgrounds and musical experiences. Group members have professional roots with Walt Disney World entertainment, but their range does not stop there. From gospel music to musical theater, contemporary Christian to barbershop, pop music to choral specialists, Voctave voices have covered it all both in and out of the a cappella realm. Members of Voctave have performed all over the world and can be heard on countless recordings. The group has performed with Grammy, Dove and American Music Award recipients including Sandi Patty, Kirstin Maldonado, Mark Lowry, David Phelps & Jody McBrayer. With multiple #1 songs and albums on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify, Voctave has also ranked in the top 25 on Billboard Magazine’s charts. Between Facebook and YouTube, they have received more than 100 million views on their videos. Voctave currently has 4 albums that are digitally available on all platforms.

If you have some “Disney Princesses” in your life, regardless of age, this will be music they want to hear.

There is a Technique to Remembering What You Read

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Reading – I came across the article “How to remember what you read: What to do before, during, and after reading anything” a short time ago and thought it had many ideas worth sharing on how to remember what you read. Among those ideas are:

  • the more you’re able to connect the information you get from reading, the more knowledgable you’ll become
  • if you want to remember what you read you need to be specific and intentional
  • remembering what you read comes down to hitting three factors: Impression, association, and repetition
  • There’s simply too much to read if you don’t curate your reading list
  • forcing yourself to read books you’re not interested in just wastes time (that is why I sometimes call a Rule of 50 to quit reading a book)
  • if you’re looking to remember and use what you read, it’s better to know how you’re going to use it
  • skimming and doing ‘pre-reading’ is a great way to solidify what you’re reading in memory
  • use active reading – the process of reading with determination to understand and evaluate how and if to use the information you’re reading
  • a technique such as marginalia (handwriting notes in the margin and marking up key patterns for follow-ups) or sketchnotes (drawing notes and ideas) will make you a more active reader and help lock information in your memory.
  • as you read and come across new ideas, try to associate them with familiar memories as a means of creating a bond between old and new
  • when we connect memories or thoughts to different experiences those moments are stored in our neocortex—a part of the brain that is much easier for us to recall.
  • one of the best ways to remember what you read is to find opportunities to use it
  • if you’re reading to remember and grow either personally or professionally, you need to be more deliberate

Sadly. a study published in Time magazine found that Americans read, on average, just 19-minutes a day. And that number drops to 10-minutes or less for people under 34. According to a University of Michigan Health study, at a minimum, people should be reading for 30 minutes a day.

How much do you read each day? Generally, I try to spend 2-5 hours reading each day.

macOS New App Release – Zippr

Product Announcements – AppYogi Software of Bangalore, Karnataka, an India-based Indi app developer, is proud to announce the official launch of Zippr which is Pre-Ordered 11,000 on the Mac App Store. A-Zippr is a simple, fast and powerful Mac utility that allows users to archive Zip, RAR, 7z, SIT, TAR, IOS, ZX, LZIP, Gzip, BZIP2 and unarchives in 70+ different commonly used file formats. It is handcrafted to make it most customizable to archive and unarchive files on macOS.

Zippr also makes it easier for users to browse contents of the archives without extracting the file – particularly useful while working with very large files. Apart from that, it also allows users to create encrypted / password protected archives. We are sure our users will love the clean and intuitive UI and the unique features of the app which makes working with archives seamless.

Zip and Unzip files instantly:

  • Preview file details before extracting
  • Protect files with strong 256 bit AES encryption
  • Extract only files you choose without having to extract the entire archive
  • Notifies once compression or extract completion

Archive & Unarchive:(Easy):

  • Drag and drop the file to Zipping or unZip
  • Resize file size for faster sharing and to reduce storage
  • Extract major file formats like Zip, RAR, TAR, LHA, 7Z, JAR and 70 more formats
  • Automatically identify to zip or unzip the file when dropped to Floating drop window
  • Set floating drop window to any corner of the screen
  • Compress files in the different method like fast, faster, normal, slow and slowest

File encryption:(Secure):

  • Password-protect confidential files and apply powerful AES encryption
  • Prevent unauthorized access of email attachments
  • Encrypt individual files within a zipped folder

Preview Files:(Safe):

  • Quick look framework to preview files before unarchive (not even in temp file like other apps)
  • Unarchive individual files from an archived folder
  • Get detailed file information individually before unarchive
  • Native user experience to preview files

Now all the archive files you have will automatically open with The Unarchiver and you’ll forget the “Unknown format” alerts and extraction errors forever. Having a RAR extractor for Mac saves you tons of time when dealing with archives.

Supporting file formats:

  • Archive: ZIP, TAR, 7Z, GZIP, BZIP2, ISO, XZ, LZIP
  • Unarchive: ZIP, Z01, RAR, 7Z, TAR, LHA, ZIPZ, SIT, SITX, HQX, BIN, MACBIN, AS, GZ, GZIP, TGZ, TAR,GZ, BZ2, BZIP2, BZ, TBZ2, TBZ, XZ, TXZ, ISO, CDI, NRG, MDF, GTAR, Z, TAZ, TAR.Z, LZMA, XAR, XIP, ACE, PAK, SPK, ZOO, LBR, LQR, LZR, PMA, CAB, RPM, DEB, ALZ, DD, CPT, PIT, NOW, SEA, EXE, MSI, CPIO, CPGZ, PAX, WARC, HA, ADF, ADZ, DMS, F, LZX, DCS, PKD, XMS, ZOM, PP, NSA, SAR, JAR, CBZ, CBR, NDS, PKG, A, SWF, LZ, TLZ

System Requirements:

  • OS X 10.10 or later
  • 20.9 MB

Pricing and Availability:
Zippr: RAR & Zip Tool 1.1 is Free download and is available worldwide exclusively through the Mac App Store in the Utilities category & through Zippr website. The app offers a 7-days free trial of all features and it cost $7.99, Unlock file Preview before unarchiving cost $5.99, archive file with AES 256bit encryption cost $3.99 (USD).

Book Review: “Invisible Heros of World War II”

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Book Reviews – “Invisible Heros of World War II” Book was published in 2019 (May) and was written by Jerry Borrowman. Mr. Borrowman has published a mix of 20 fiction and non-fiction books.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in the years of World War II in both the European and Pacific Theaters.

This is really a collection of short stories about those who generally did not receive the recognition they deserved for their contributions to the War effort. Each of the ten chapters focuses on a different individual or group. Some I had heard of before, but most I had not. This book gives a very different look at those who served in WWII, whether in the military or a civilian contributing to the cause.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 4.5 hours I spent reading this 208-page WWII non-fiction book. I liked the approach taken with this book. The in-depth personal stories were very good. I like the chosen artwork for the cover. I give this novel a 4.4 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these two pages of interest. 

The  World War II Sources” page is a collection of more than 190 links to museums, websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds with information on the World War II era in history.

The “World War II Timeline” page shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.