iPhone 4 Review with Video

I purchased the iPhone 4 (16 GB) as a gift to myself about a month ago. So far, I am very impressed. I would love to be able to fill this review with useful, technical information. Unfortunately, I am not that knowledgeable. What I can say is:

1. The call quality – so far – is excellent. I have not experienced any dropped calls. I can hear my callers clearly and my callers hear me clearly. That, to me, is the most important feature of any phone.

2. Accessing the web is 100% better with the iPhone than with my previous “dumb phone”. The Retina display is so much more pleasing to the eye. Navigation is simple, thanks to the touch screen.

3. Videos are recorded in high definition which allows for a sharp quality. Here is a quick video I shot while walking back to my office today after lunch. Disclaimer – I am hardly Steven Spielberg. Who am I kidding, my videographer skills are worse than most ten year olds This clip is not meant to win awards – and it won’t.

Along the same vein, the iPhone 4 is equipped with a 5-megapixel camera. Pictures are beautiful with amazing detail.

4. The iPhone 4 includes the iPod app, so you can listen to your favorite tunes while on the go.

There are tons of other features, like Face Time (which I am hoping to test out soon) and the ability to multitask, but the four listed above are the focus of this review. Bottom line, do you need an iPhone? Of course not. There are comparable phones with an easier to swallow price tag. The iPhone is a gadget one buys because one wants it. If you are deciding whether or not to splurge, go ahead and splurge. You won’t regret it.

A Child Should Never Be A Secret

Oprah Winfrey announced today that she has a younger sister, something she had only become aware of within the past few months. It was a family secret that only her mother and cousin knew. Wow.

I have some experience with family secrets and discovering a younger sibling. I was fifteen when I learned I had a younger brother. My father had a son with another woman. It wasn’t as exclusive a secret in my family as it was in Oprah’s. My mother knew and so did several other family members. I was the only one left in the dark.
Like Oprah, I finally met my sibling and hopefully, like my brother and me, she will develop a bond with her sister.

I’m not writing this to show a type of kinship with a celebrity or elicit compassion, empathy or understanding. I’m certainly not writing it to air my family’s dirty laundry. I am writing this for one reason and one reason only – to call a time-out on major family secrets.
Every family has its secrets, those things that the elders only whisper among themselves and will carry to their graves. I don’t believe children have the right to know everything. Some things are best kept in the past. Some things. Not a child.

One’s life is turned inside out upon learning of a secret sibling. For me, there was a sense of betrayal on two fronts – the first is obvious, that of my father to my mother and then to me by both parents for their failure to tell me. There was also a sense of loss on two fronts – my life, my world, as I knew it would never be the same plus I had been cheated of precious moments with my brother. And I was angry but honestly didn’t understand why and at whom. Was it the betrayal? The loss? My parents? The kid? Luckily, my anger subsided and my relationship with my parents went on as usual. I’ve had many years since then to think about it and now understand and accept the many layers at play in my own family drama.

My brother and I eventually met and forged a beautiful relationship. Was it easy? Of course not, situations of this nature are rarely easy when emotions are involved. It won’t be easy for Oprah and her sister either, but it’s possible. One thing in their favor is their maturity. They are able to understand things at a level that is impossible when you are a teen or young adult.

If you are currently harboring such a secret, please confess it to your loved ones. Get past your feelings of (fill in the blank) and let your family know. It will be a burden lifted from your shoulders plus your family deserves to know it’s true history and genealogy. Your intentions in the beginning may have been to spare hurt feelings but the longer you hold on to it the harder it will be to explain when the truth comes out. The truth will come out. Let your family hear it from you.

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

Note: Click here for a review of Oliver Pӧtzsch’s sequel, The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale.

This review of The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch with translation by Lee Chadeayne (Kindle eBook Dec 2010) is divided into two parts – the good and the bad.

First the good, Pötzsch did his homework. His attention to detail regarding 17th century German life transports the reader to that time with all its grittiness, smells, and rationales. Pötzsch tells the story of Jacob Kuisl of the real-life executioner Kuisls, a lineage of which Pötzsch is a direct descendent. Jacob, following in the footsteps of his fathers, is the executioner of Schongau, a small rural town in Bavaria. As Executioner, it is his duty to torture suspects until they confess their crimes and exact punishment up to and including death. This duty makes him such a feared man that the other townspeople say a prayer whenever they come in contact with him on the street. In private, however, these same townspeople visit his home in search of elixirs and balms to cure everything from rashes to sexual dysfunction. In addition to being Executioner, Jacob, a progressive thinker, is also an amateur chemist and developer of medicines.

Jacob’s life changes when Martha Stechlin – a midwife who delivered many of the town’s children including his own, is accused of being a witch and charged with the brutal murder of young boy. Jacob is certain of the midwife’s innocence and vows to exonerate her of the charges. Standing in his way is the town’s fever-pitch fear after two other children are found murdered and one goes missing. Add to that numerous sightings of an imposing figure the townspeople believe to be the Devil himself and you have a town gripped in paranoia. The court clerk, Johann Lechner, and the men of the town council play upon the townspeople’s fears by insisting the only way to rid the town of this misery is to burn the witch at the stake. Jacob enlists the help of Simon Fronweiser, the equally progressive thinking town physician’s son and his own daughter Magdalena to investigate the evidence and unravel the mystery to ensure justice prevails. In the end, however, it is Jacob who must fight the Devil to save not only the midwife but also himself.

Now, the bad, this novel is categorized as a mystery, but there really isn’t any mystery to it. I was able to identify the true villain within the first chapters. I kept waiting for the twist in the plot that would cast some doubt but it never came. The pace is slow at times, the ending is a little too tidy and there is the puzzle of the title as Magdalena, the daughter in The Hangman’s Daughter, is not a prominent character in the novel. She is Fronweiser’s love interest, but does not make much of a presence until the last few chapters. Until then, she breezes in and out like fly on a hot summer’s day. After reading the postscript, however, one gets the impression it was not Pötszch’s intention to write a great mystery but rather to provide an account of his family’s lineage albeit fictional.

Those who appreciate a good storyline will be satisfied with Pötzsch’s character interactions and the “howdunit” rather than the whodunit. This is a very entertaining historical novel. While I can’t highly recommend this novel because it doesn’t live up to its mystery label, I do recommend it because it is a good story with incredible social detail. Unfortunately, the storyline and social detail suffer due to the lack in plot development. I give The Hangman’s Daughter four stars out of a five star rating system.