Cannonball Read #9 – Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

October 25th, 2014

This book was read and reviewed as part of the Cannonball Read, click through to read more reviews and help fight cancer!

 

I have been a musician for thirty years. I sing and play a variety of instruments. I’m the kind of person who can pick up just about any instrument and have a basic capability to play within a few minutes. I have never felt like less of a musician than when I read this book. It’s not that it shows me to be technically insufficient but that he tells of a world of music which I can never hope to experience.

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SonicFyre II: The Return of SonicFyre

September 15th, 2014

Holy flaming balls of monkey poop! It’s a podcast!!

Sonic and Fyre talk about how to play games with your toddler and the impact of repetitive stress injuries on the dedicated gamer.

Enjoy!

Because I’m Writing So Many Posts For This Site

September 12th, 2014

Looking through some gaming news today, I’m struck by the amount of hilarious negativity going on. There’s this tongue-in-cheek (or is it?) pessimistic preview of The Crew, along with a whole slew of articles like “The Suck of Destiny”, “Destiny’s Squads Are Too Small”, and “Destiny: It’s a small world after all”.

Some of this is just backlash, the pushback against the half-billion dollar hype machine that Destiny embodies. We knew this was coming; we should only be glad that the gaming press and public had the good grace to wait until the game came out to begin rebelling against it.

But I’m struck with a curious idea for a project, and maybe this is so obvious that it’s already been done to death and I just didn’t notice (wouldn’t be the first idea I’ve had after everyone else). How about an enthusiast game site about just absolutely hating the state of video games? I know there are guys out there like the Game Grumps, Curmudgeon Gamer, Yahtzee, maybe more. What I’m thinking is a character who is cynical and pessimistic right up front about everything about modern game marketing and marketing-driven design.

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To Infinity and Back – Cannonball Read #8

September 2nd, 2014

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin (Please visit the Cannonball Read blog for many, many more book reviews and to help raise money to fight cancer.)

Sci Fi fantasy short story collection by the Earthsea lady. Some of it entertaining, some weird, all thought provoking.

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Finishing it up – Mockingjay – Cannonball Read #7

August 26th, 2014

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Sci Fi Dystopian Young Adult mega hit.

After a hiatus I picked this book back up. (Mad spoilers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Magpul Industries iPhone 5 Bump Case

August 15th, 2014

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Having finally made the leap to a smart phone earlier this year, I wanted to protect my fancy-ass new pocket computer as best I could. I’m not a coordinated or attentive man when it comes to things in my pockets, so I did some research and settled on the Magpul Bump Case, largely on the strength of a very positive review from The Wirecutter. I’ve been using the Bump for around three months now, and I have some thoughts.

The Bump is a single-piece snap-on case that covers the back and sides of the phone. It doesn’t particularly shield the screen, but the case does have a lip that comes up around the screen on all sides; if you lay the phone face-down on a flat table the screen is a millimeter or so off of the surface. The case has holes for all of your cables and for the phone’s speakers, and it has nice integrated buttons that allow a user to click the volume and power buttons under the case easily.

Does the Bump actually protect your phone? In short, yes. I’ve carried out several accidental drop tests with the Bump: having it slip out of a jacket pocket to land corner-first a tile floor; having it fall from the edge of a sink and hit a different tile floor face-down; and another jacket drop to land on its back on concrete. The bump protected my phone completely through this inadvertently comprehensive gauntlet, and at this point the only thing I wouldn’t trust it to handle would be dropping or crushing the phone on its unprotected screen.

The rifle is from Austria, but that magazine is all Belgian.

The rifle is from Austria, but that magazine is all Belgian.

Other than its raw durability, the main selling point of Magpul’s product is the ribbing that runs up and down the sides and back. This is the same sort of pattern that Magpul uses on rifle magazines in order to make them easy to grip when the user is wearing gloves, or when the magazine is wet. In my experience the Bump feels very slightly rubbery, with just enough flexibility to give a good grip. The ribs help with holding the phone securely, so the overall effect is that when I’m looking at a video or making a call I feel as though I have an incredibly stable grasp of my device. The material isn’t actually sticky, so it doesn’t pick up lint in your pocket or anything like that. However, the bump won’t actually grip itself for you, so if you leave it on the edge of a sink (like a dummy) or dump it out of a hoodie pocket while grabbing for your keys (like a dummy), Magpul’s case cannot save you from yourself.

The Bump is available from Magpul for around $30 and only fits iPhones; as usual Amazon has it for somewhat less. There’s also a very similar case from Magpul called the Field that fits a much wider variety of devices, including tablets and Samsung phones.

-ssr

Masstiny

July 21st, 2014

I’m pretty excited for Destiny, the mashup of Borderlands and WoW from mega-successful Halo developers Bungie. It’s been a while since I had a game that I regularly plop down and play with friends when I have some gaming time, and Destiny sounds like it might have the lifespan to fit the bill. Something’s been nagging me about the look and art style, if not the actual experience of playing Destiny, though, and with the latest update from IGN.com regarding the way that Destiny will treat sequels, it hit me.

Oh, Mass Effect. It’s Mass Effect. Duh.

Look at those purple psychic auras around the characters, the smoothly planed guns, the portable black hole attacks. Bungie is trying to beat Bioware to the punch of making the next multi-game sci-fi epic. I enjoyed the stuffing out of Mass Effect, but I didn’t play it for the shooting, and I’m not 100% sure that Destiny is going to have enough scenery and story to take and hold my imagination the way Mass Effect did. I’m glad that the market for this kind of setting is strong enough that Activision was willing to sink a reported half a hojillion dollars into propping up the franchise, though. And I’m truly intrigued by the idea that if a player buys Destiny 2 and likes it, they’ll be able to go backwards and play Destiny 1 with the same character. How will that work? And does that mean that the world and story of Destiny will have to be fragmented and episodic enough that it can be played through in any order? How will they have a sense of narrative arc in that case?

Problematic. But this is what you get for trying to puzzle out the entire structure of a large new franchise based on brief promotional videos. I should probably know better by now.

-ssr

Getting Out Your Ingression

July 16th, 2014

I’ve just begun playing a new-ish mobile game called Ingress. It’s been out on Android for a while but only became available on iOS this week. Ingress is an MMO that allows you to interact with a world map based on where you are in real life – landmarks such as churches and public art installations appear on the map and can be tapped in order to gain territory around them, as long as you are physically within about 40 yards of them. Likewise, a currency called XM is scattered liberally around the streets of the map, and you pick it up by physically walking by. You spend XM to build up friendly landmarks, which then give you weapons that you use to break down enemy-held landmarks and eventually take them over.

The game so far is rather rough in some ways while weirdly polished in others. The tutorial is hidden away in a menu and I required multiple attempts at it before I understood what I was trying to do, yet the map is gorgeous and the missions in the game are fully voiced. The best thing about Ingress is the combination of watching your little phone scanner screen moving you around the map and realizing that there are probably other players out there who may notice you moving toward their territory – in real life, wandering around peering at your phone concernedly like you are trying to use a Swedish GPS app – and prepare to retaliate.

Ingress is free to download and play, and as near as I can tell does not bother you for money. The game will occasional reward a successful hack with an in-universe news item via YouTube, so it’s possible that they are making their money off of YouTube views somehow. Or it’s possible that Google is just fronting the whole thing as an experiment. Either way it costs you nothing to download Ingress and try it out; I’m enjoying the creepy vibe and strange mix of Foursquare and Watch_Dogs.

-ssr

“Please by my vampire wife, mmmmkay?” – Cannonball Read #6

May 9th, 2014

Immortal Ever After by Lynsay Sands. I read this so you don’t have to.

Valerie Moyer is kidnapped and held captive in a basement with several other women. She frees herself and manages to call 911 before jumping out of a window. Anders (his first name will be addressed a little later) is an Immortal who works to contain other immortals who rick exposing themselves and all their kind by preying on humans for blood.  Anders and his team respond to Valerie’s 911 call and our romance is off to the races.

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Why the book reviews sort of suck right now

April 18th, 2014

I have once again taken on the Cannonball Read Challenge. Read and review 52 books in one year. I have never actually completed it. Reading books is easy and fun. Writing reviews is really, really hard. I do this to make myself write because I want to be a better writer. The more reviews I write, the better they get. I have written a couple of reviews that I am extremely proud of. I know I can write passionately and well when I am enthused about the subject matter. I can hate it or love it, as long as I have energy I can write a great review.

I’m flexing this muscle on books I don’t have a lot of energy around. I run slow to run faster later. I bike slowly up big hills to do it faster later.  This is just another way to get better by working at it.

-fh

P.S. The Cannonball Read is a fundraiser to fight cancer in honor of Alabama Pink, someone I never met but whom I miss dearly. Check it out.