Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Raptor Red – Book Review


Raptor Red
by Robert T. Bakker

I should have written this review a long time ago as I finished this little dino novel before Velociraptor came into scene – you know I'm kidding. But they say "better late then never", so here I am, slouching in front of my Lenovo, typing my opinion on this not-authored-by-Robert-T.-Kiyosaki book.

Raptor Red is a novel about the life of an adult female dinosaur belonging to the genus Utahraptor – that is a kind of medium-sized predatory dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Period that was discovered, as is easy to guess, in Utah, the  U.S., and is a close cousin of the more famous Velociraptor. This story is based on the discovery of the animal and was written by world-famous American paleontologist Dr. Robert T. Bakker, casually called Bob Bakker – does it ring a bell? Yeah, in the movie Jurassic Park Tim Murphy, who is the grandson of John Hammond, mentions this dinosaur expert when conversing with paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant. So there are two points that make this novel stand out from others: there are NO humans involved (as it takes place hundreds of millions of years ago before the first humans appeared) and it was written by a REAL paleontologist! Before enjoying the story, you are welcomed by the preface, which revolves around the discovery of Utahraptor and discusses its relation to the blockbuster movie. And then the show begins. Bob Bakker exquisitely tells the tale of this bird-like creature in a gripping as well as emotional way. With his background as a dinosaurian scientist, the author successfully mixes science with extremely vivid and imaginative descriptions. In addition, the plot is riveting and will definitely keep the reader enthralled during the ride. Bob Bakker knows how to satisfy readers with his highly descriptive writing and engaging story-telling skills – honestly, I didn't expect to be as wowed as I am when reading it. In short, this novel deserves standing applause. If you are an adventure novel addict and/or dinophile, I am sure you will fall in love with this book in a brief second.

Unfortunately I think this novel is one of a kind (any other novels of this sort? tell me!). To be brutally honest, I need MORE of this. I do hope Bakker (or other paleontologists) will come out with this type of novel in the (near) future.

Have you read Raptor Red? What do you think of this novel? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dragon Teeth – Book Review


Dragon Teeth: A Novel
by Michael Crichton

Who doesn't know Jurassic Park, a 1993 blockbuster movie featuring one of the most incredible animal groups ever? I believe (virtually) everyone does. However, perhaps some people don't realize that the flick and the sequel, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, are based on novels by Michael Crichton, a famous American author who, unfortunately, passed away in 2008.

Michael Crichton is certainly a marvelous author. I am not a novel expert (is there such a thing?) but his writing style is really lovable and admirable, and I'm not sure anyone can be comparable to him. His decease is such a loss for the novel industry. However, something unexpected, at least for me, came: another "dino" novel of Crichton's was recently discovered in his archives – but it somehow didn't get published during his lifetime. The novel, titled Dragon Teeth, posthumously came out in May this year and I was one of those overwhelmed with euphoria.

In a nutshell, Dragon Teeth tells the story of a young American man named William Johnson (fictional character) who goes on a fossil expedition to the American West due to a bet with his college archrival. It takes place in the part of the 19th century when there was the infamous feud between two real giant American paleontological figures, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh – the period is widely known as the "Bone Wars". This novel is special because it mixes fact and fiction in a brilliant and engaging way. Crichton takes readers to the old American history with its rich elements, including Indian culture, which I wasn't familar with and found intriguing. The real characters in this novel, besides Cope and Marsh, include Charles H. Sternberg and Wyatt Earp. Reading this novel certainly gives you insights into what the U.S. was like during that period of history (something I enjoyed about this novel); however, one must realize that this book is not intended as a historical reference. 

People also need to note that, although Dragon Teeth is considered a dinosaur novel, it is mainly about a quest for dinosaur fossils and not dinosaurs themselves. In this novel you will not find living non-avian dinosaurs chasing people in a Jeep screaming and dashing off frantically.

Overall I am entertained by the new Crichton, although I think it is not really his masterpiece as I feel the plot is somewhat less gripping than that in his previous dino novels. But still, this is a novel worth reading and has a unique taste that makes it stand out from others.

Have you read Dragon Teeth? What are your thoughts on the latest novel of Crichton's? Write your comment below!
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Friday, August 11, 2017

Leave Nothing Behind

The title sounds impressive, huh? Well, hopefully the whole article, which is the fruit of a kind of reflective thought that leads me to ponder about our existence, impresses you. :)


It is a pity that there are superior people: they look down on people and foster an I-am-the-best-and-no-one-else-is-better-than-me attitude. While it might be true that they are certainly better than others in certain aspects, they shouldn't perform such disgraceful acts as treating others contemptuously, let alone cruelly.

Part of the reason is some people might have traits that are of a higher quality than others'. Say, you are good at math and can multiply an 8-digit number by another 8-digit number lighting fast. However, on the other hand, you suck at playing the piano, while your neighbor is someone who has been dubbed the 'next Jay Chou' – no-one will ever be comparable to him, though. The fact that there are so many fields to explore and dedicate oneself to in this world, combined with our limitations as humans, suggests a plausible idea that some people are likely to be better than us in some respects.

Nevertheless, that is not the whole point. If you take a broader and deeper look at our very own world, everything – yes, everything! Not only everyone – has its own place and the state of occupying the niche itself is actually something that should be highly regarded. Firstly, we need to grasp the concept that we all are connected. By understanding this, naturally we should develop a stance that appreciates every single thing that exists, not only on this planet, but also in the universe. This is what I think the main catalyst that drives the human race forward as close-mindedness will end up stifling creativity and limit someone from countless advantageous possibilities to exploit.

Learning about dinosaurs is a great way to start adopting this view on life. A paleontologist cannot say, "I hate South America and don't want to learn anything from there," since dinosaurs are found all over the world, including the continent (in fact, a lot of amazing discoveries have been made there: South America has yielded impressive, gigantic dinosaurs such as the bigger-than-T. rex theropod Giganotosaurus carolinii as well as the recently named titanosaur Patagotitan mayorum). Dismissing it would simply lead to the 'incompleteness' of the science itself. To take it to the next level, dinosaurs are part of Earth's life; the only choice is to try to unravel as many mysteries surrounding these majestic creatures as possible in order to 'live more fully'.

I am also writing this in the wake of the high tensions between North Korea and the U.S. The world has suffered dramatically; it's high time we devoted ourselves completely to this world.
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Friday, August 4, 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Best Places to Buy Books

I must be honest – the title might be misleading since what you are going to read is based on my experience of buying books. However, I hope this article could be of great help for you guys seeking to expand your knowledge (or anything else) through magical sets of paper sheets.


Before I decide whether or not to buy a book, I always research it on Amazon, which I believe all of you are familiar with with the CEO, Jeff Bezos, recently announced as the richest man on the planet – albeit for a short while. Reading the book description is a must and perusing editorial and customer reviews give me good insights into what the book is like. If a book has a 4 or 5-star rating, you could be pretty sure that it is worth reading. Apparently, this website has the largest book collection of all and, therefore, can be a great reference for book information. I used the service once (through my friend's account though) and was satisfied with the service with my book arriving in good condition as well as in a timely fashion. The prices are more or less reasonable and there are other sellers that sell books through Amazon as well (unfortunately many of those books aren't delivered to Indonesia for some reason).

The second bookstore you might want to consider is AbeBooks. Unlike Amazon, AbeBooks only acts as a marketplace, which means the sellers are all independent bookstores. What I like about this website is it is very convenient to browse through the items, with only 1 click needed to show a pop-up window displaying the shipping fee for your country. Some sellers offer reductions in shipping fees if you buy more than one book from them, so don't miss great chances to save more. My second last purchase was a very good deal although there was an unexpected delay in delivery, which was later handled professionally by the seller. AbeBooks is currently one of my favorites and I will definitely return to it again to place more orders.

There are two other companies that are also relatively popular in the book-selling industry: Better World Books (BWB) and Book Depository. Like that of Amazon, I used the services of these companies only once and all in all I didn't have much of a problem – I waited quite long for the BWB book to arrive (over two months), though. BWB is similar to Amazon in that they sell their own books as well as let other sellers to take part in their business. It also seems that BWB is a giving-back-to-the-community company (just visit the site and you'll know what I mean). On the other hand, Book Depository only provides NEW books and delivers them worldwide with NO SHIPPING FEE. Nevertheless, it doesn't mean you will always get books at the lowest prices possible as what matters is the total price. Comparing prices is the name of the game.

Tips: Make sure you buy from reputable sellers and read information about the book carefully (Is the book new? If it's not, how good is the condition? Very good? Good? Fair? Acceptable? Is the spine broken? Is there any wear on the cover or inside the book? Are there any markings, writings, or highlightings?). You would want the item to meet your expectations, wouldn't you?

Now, as I'm Indonesian, it seems to be a responsibility for me to share my experiences of dealing with Indonesian bookstores (Indonesians, get close!). Please note that all of the above (online) bookstores require a credit card as their payment option. So if you don't have a credit card, what can you do to satisfy your reading appetite? Periplus is the first bookstore that you must check out. I have been a customer for years and am overall very satisfied with it - in fact, most of my books came from this store. While Vietnam has Fahasa and the Philippines has Fully Booked, I'd say Periplus, with a vast collection of books, relatively low prices, and excellent service, is the best Indonesian bookstore. By making purchases you can collect points, which can later be redeemed for more books. In addition, there are a slew of tempting promotions (discounts, cashback, etc.) which probably happen year-round. One of the most interesting benefits of being a member is a 15% discount on all books on your birthday. Books & Beyond and OpenTrolley are two contenders, yet, in terms of prices, Periplus is unsurpassed. Nevertheless, speaking of local books, I think Gramedia is still the most leading with most likely the biggest number of stores around the country.

It is probably advantageous for you to buy from foreign book distributors in your country (Indonesia, in this case), as the books seem to be less expensive. If you're looking for English textbooks, you might want to try Mentari Bookstore (online: Mentaripedia and PT Chandranaya Laksana. The former is the exclusive distributor for Cambridge University Press as well as a partner and distributor for Oxford University Press, whereas the latter is an authorized distributor for Pearson, of which Longman is a part of. I have ordered books from both and their competitive prices really made my day. I just found a company that is the exclusive distributor for McGraw-Hill and Cambridge University Press (I know it's weird): Global Books Indonesia. I haven't really explored the site and never purchased anything from it so I can't give any further comments – hopefully it delivers high quality service and offers good prices as well.

What are your thoughts on these? Do you think there are even better places to purchase books? Share your ideas in the comment section below!
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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Brands

Having been in a post vacuum for sort of a long time and 'seen' some things going on on this only known inhabited planet, some of which included the launch of an international ballistic missile by North Korea (which I believe you all know) and the second son of President Joko Widodo, Kaesang Pangarep, being accused of religious blasphemy and hate speech for his video titled "#BapakMintaProyek", as well as engaging in a debate against a friend from high school who seems to be strictly creationistic, here I am to express another thought of mine through blogging.


Well, firstly, I'm not a marketer (my brother is), so I'm not going to give you a lecture on brands through this writing. It is more to my attitude towards them. What is a brand?

I think of it as some kind of ID card. It refers to what makes something different from others. When it comes to fast food chains, names such as KFC, Burger King, and McDonald's quickly come up in our minds and top the list. They are very famous brands since virtually everyone in the world knows them. Speaking of bags, Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton are highly associated and very popular with high-class people.

Perhaps many people stick to certain brands in their lives; they develop a sense of 'contempt' towards products and/or services of other brands. However, that's not exactly true of me. I'm a kind of a person who is quite flexible and doesn't force themselves to get something at all costs out of an exclusive liking. Nevertheless, as with many, or all, things in the world, there are always exceptions.

Fashion


In terms of fashion, I'm not a picky man. I would be willing to wear any clothes that look nice (enough) on me and won't get me embarrassed in any situation. In addition, they should be comfortable for me and not cause any physical (and therefore mental) disturbances when I am doing my activities. I generally choose function over appearance. Currently I have a backpack that I've used for some time (perhaps around 2 years) and it doesn't display any sign of wear! The brand is Bodypack and I am really satisfied with it, so I'll definitely buy another Bodypack if I need another bag. My fashion brands also include Lois (trousers) and Indomaret (briefs).

Food and drinks


As I'm not an affluent man, I rarely splurge on expensive food. I will consume food and drinks that suit my taste and of course are not dangerous for my health. However, I have a preference towards HokBen (fast food) when my adventurous mode is off. For those who do not have the faintest idea (and haven't opened the link), HokBen is a Japanese food restaurant from Indonesia that provides a selection of mouth-watering dishes. Unfortunately, the prices are apparently going up so much that it seems to be becoming less affordable. Another fast-food chain worth mentioning is CFC, the name of which stands for "California Fried Chicken" – don't be fooled by the name, though, since it is originally from Indonesia. CFC has two special dishes that, I think, no such types of other brands can outdo: Onion Rings and Chicken Strips. They are simply mouth-watering and will definitely heighten your appetite in a split second.

Books


Reading is an essential activity that more or less determines the future of our planet. Therefore, choosing the right book for you is as important as deciding on your life partner – I'm not being lebay. I specialize in English and dinosaurs, so my book collection is mostly comprised of those kinds of book. With regards to English, Cambridge, Oxford, Longman, and Merriam-Webster have a special place in my heart. I find they are very reliable, informative sources which every English lover should consult. However, I am also open to other brands such as McGraw-Hill, which is an awesome addition to my collection. As for dinosaurs, brands are less important than authors! (well, strictly speaking, authors are actually brands as well) Dinosaur books by world-renowned experts such as Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. (American paleontologist) and Julius Csotonyi (Canadian paleoartist) are something I would pick even without looking at the covers first. One publisher that is worth mentioning for its stunning, rich dinosaur (and other subjects too) illustrations is DK (Dorling Kindersley), by which two dino books of mine were published.

Toiletries


Well, it is important to maintain a high level of hygiene. As a rule of thumb, I'd choose any which don't cause negative side effects, such as pimples (fortunately, my skin is not very sensitive) – Cussons Baby proves good for my hide. There is an Indonesian saying "Hair is a woman's crown", stressing the importance of hair beauty. I'm one who believes that it also applies to men. Natur is the brand I use since, as its name suggests, it contains natural substance(s) (although I know that not everything natural is nice, for example T-Rex). Nevertheless, so far so good!

Entertainment


Everyone needs entertainment, including me. Nowadays I never watch TV and play games, so I don't have any preference for certain TV and game 'brands'; I do watch YouTube videos though, and while there are some interesting channels, such as Edho Zell, I don't really limit myself to them. I'm not a moviegoer, so I rarely go to the theater and will watch any movies that attract me, regardless of the 'brands'. However, in terms of music, there's only one eternal 'brand', Jay Chou. I've been a loyal fan for a month of Sundays and personally I'd say he is the best musician in the world – his music will still be enjoyable in 66 million years' time.

That's about me. How about you? Are you a brand person or not? Share you thoughts in the comment section below!
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Sunday, July 2, 2017