March 19

Review – Oasis – An Amazon Original

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Oasis is based on Michel Faber’s ‘The Book of Strange New Things’ and stars Richard Madden (Game of Thrones – Rob Stark) as Peter a priest haunted by his past, that is asked to travel to a colonized planet by an associate David Morgan played by Jonjo O’Neill. Oasis is a planet colonized by humans and is their last hope of survival since Earth (year 2032) is quickly becoming unable to sustain life. Once Peter arrives he finds out David Morgan has gone missing. To make things worse there is something that is not quite right as colonists are seeing apparitions that are causing them to do things with fatal consequences.

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The story is intriguing and well written but one thing will need to be addressed is the fleshing out of the supporting characters which are paper thin and vanilla. I am sure if this show gets picked up their back story will receive some attention making them more viable. Speaking about supporting characters I was delighted to see Haley Joel Osment (Sixth Sense –  Cole Sear) playing Sy a botanist and one of my favorite British actors Mark Addy (A Knight’s Tale – Roland) playing Hallaoran both which Richard Madden’s character Peter meets on his travels.

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When the episode was finished I was pleasantly surprised finding myself wanting to watch the next episode and wondering if what the colonist are facing is the strain of being on a new planet, natives of the planet, or something else.

Head on over to Amazon and have a look I think you will find it an enjoyable watch.

Nerdy out!

March 18

Let the Pilots Fly!

Amazon.com is asking for help on choosing their next Amazon Original show. All you have to do is watch the pilot episode and take a quick survey of each show. Below I listed all 5 shows with a brief description and a hyper link so you can check it our yourself.

 

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Oasis

Set in the near future, Oasis tells the story of priest Peter Leigh, who is called to a remote planet where a mysterious multinational company is building the first permanent off-Earth human colony. The planet, Oasis, is humanity’s last chance to escape from Earth’s impending collapse, but it quickly becomes apparent that it may not be as hospitable to humanity as it seems.
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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

It’s 1958 Manhattan and Miriam “Midge” Maisel has everything she’s ever wanted – the perfect husband, kids, and Upper West Side apartment. But when her life suddenly takes a turn and Midge must start over, she discovers a previously unknown talent – one that will take her all the way from the comedy clubs of Greenwich Village to a spot on Johnny Carson’s couch.
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Legend of Master Legend

A dark comedy about the life of Master Legend – a real life superhero whose mission is the security and safety of the people of Las Vegas. Master Legend juggles the demands of justice with the even more complicated demands of his real family, who don’t see him as a hero at all.
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The New V.I.P.’s

Four low level employees seize control of a major corporation after accidentally murdering the CEO.
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Budding Prospects

In 1983, three hapless guys from San Francisco are lured from their sex and drugs lifestyle to the countryside to grow marijuana. They find themselves stuck in a run-down cabin in the middle of nowhere, with harsh and unfriendly growing conditions, nosy neighbors, dangerous locals, and menacing law enforcement.

So head on over to Amazon.com and have a look!

Stay Nerdy!

March 1

Review – The power of speach

So I have been using my Amazon Echo for over two weeks now.  It took some getting used to with how to phrase your question or request allowing Alexa to understand you, but I am sold. I use this piece of tech more and more each day.

The first couple of days I just used it to listen to music and I have to say the quality that comes out of it makes my ears hum with pleasure. As I started to explore I was pleasantly surprised to find some really cool things I can do with it. I have listed below some of the commands I use on a daily basis with my Echo.

  • Listen to my Spotify account. I love spotify and the music sounds great coming out of my Echo! You can also listen to your Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Tunein music as well as listen to your Audible and Amazon Kindle books!
  • To do list… If I have some tasks that I need to do and want list to show up on my phone in the Alexa app, all I have to do is ask “Alexa add “X” to my to do list” and it is done!
  • Shopping list… Just like the “To Do” list I can ask Alexa to add “X” to my shopping list and it shows up on my phone in the Alexa app.
  • Alarms… You can set up multiple alarms just by asking “Alexa set an alarm for “X:XXam” and your Echo will set an alarm! (A side note: as it stand the alarm is only good one time and you have to turn it back on each night. I would like to see the ability to set an alarm and repeat it on certain days.)
  • Timers… I have to say that this is one of my most favorite abilities of the Echo. I can start cooking something come up stairs and ask Alexa to start a timer for “X” minutes.
  • Weather… All you have to do is ask. For local you just have to ask “Alexa what is my local weather?” and she will give your current and nighttime weather. You can also ask Echo what the weather is in another city and it will answer with the weather for that city.
  • News… You can setup “Flash Briefings” and what you ask your Echo for the news it will play you the recorded news. I have NPR as my briefing and is pretty good at giving me the highlights of what is going on.
  • Control Wifi enabled household appliances, thermostats and lights. At this time I do not have any of these but hope to try it out in the near future. You can check them out here!

To find your history of what you have asked your Echo all you have to do is open up the Alexa app and you are greeted with it.  If you want to manage any of the lists, alarms, or timers just click on the menu icon on the upper right hand corner and it will open up a menu giving you the option to view or edit anything you wish on your Echo. This where you can connect your music and book accounts as well as changing your settings for the Echo.

If you do find it difficult to see what you want on your phone there is an option to allow you to access that same page from a web browser. As long as your Echo is connected to your network via your WiFi you can open the following address in your browser giving you an easier way to access the site. alexa.amazon.com

Combined with the Alexa App for my Android phone the device is very powerful indeed.

So as you can see it is more than just a speaker it actually has kept me from burning my dinner, over sleeping, and forgetting things at the grocery store!

Stay nerdy until next time!

February 20

Review – Alexa! Can you hear me?

Setting up the Amazon Echo was super easy…. I mean a monkey could do it…. well maybe not that easy. First thing you have to do is to plug the Echo into a wall with the included power adapter. Once you do the light ring on the Echo will turn blue, and then Orange where you will here Alexa’s voice for the first time greeting you. This is where the fun begins….

Echo Blue
Echo Blue
Echo Orange
Echo Orange

Next you need to download the free Alexa app for your chosen device. To download the Alexa app, go to the app store on your mobile device and search for “Alexa app,”.

You can also go to https://alexa.amazon.com from Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer (10 or higher) on your Wi-Fi enabled computer. Your device operating system will need to be Fire OS 2.0 or higher, Android 4.0 or higher, iOS 7.0 or higher.

Once you have the application installed it is time to connect your device to it. This is easy just open the Alexa app and then follow the instruction. The first thing it will do is connect your Echo to your local Wi-Fi. Once that is done it is time to start speaking to Alexa. The Alexa app has a nifty little setup process called “Voice Training” that gives you 25 statements to read to Echo to allow it to learn you speech patterns and help Alexa understand you better.

That is it… Alexa is ready to listen to your request. Just say for instance “Alexa play “Bring Back the 80’s from Spotify.” and she will respond with a confirmation and then start your request. I know do not judge me I still love to listen to “Karma Chameleon”!

Next time we will delve into my first couple of days of using the Echo!

Stay Nerdy!

February 18

Review – Can you hear that Echo?!

I have been looking the Amazon Echo ($179.00) for sometime. I have gone back and forth on just how useful this tool would be in my household. I decided to take the plunge…. Today it arrived in all its glory!

The Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo

When I opened the box I was greeted by the attractive packing. As you can guess it did not take long for me to bust out this puppy so I could take it for a test drive.

Outer case removed
Outer case removed

As I started to manhandle the box the first thing I noticed was the weight. I mean this thing weighs in at 4 pounds! This guy is a sturdy piece of equipment and the weight shows it.

What is in the box
What is in the box?

As I opened the inner box I found the Echo loving tucked into a cozy little nook. I gently pulled it out and set it aside so I could remove the other contents. Which included the power supply, setup instruction, & a quick start guide.

Fintie Protective Case
Fintie Protective Case
Fintie Protective Case
Fintie Protective Case

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many know I am a bit of a freak when it comes to my electronics and with the money spent on this device I decided to purchase a Fintie Protective Case for Echo ($17.99). It snapped on very easy and is wraps the Echo tightly. Not only does it have a strap to slip your hand through and secure it from being dropped it has a separate bottom cover to protect the Echo from being set down into something less than desirable. There are so many color choices that anyone can find something that tickles the fancy. I chose purple because, well it is my favorite color and I am a Baltimore Raven’s fan!

There are two minor things I questioned….

  1. The weight of the Echo makes it hard to take with you, whether it be the office or someplace else.
  2. There is no battery. The Echo has to be plugged in all the time for it to work. (I did some research and found this nifty solution by Echo Battery Boot that tackles this deficiency. They are running special pricing ($69.99 12-14hr, 59.99 9-10hr, 49.99 6-7hr.) for those that pre-order. I think you should really consider doing so if you want your Echo to be portable.)

Tomorrow I will go over the setup and my first day using it.

Stay Nerdy!

August 11

TV – Outlander

I have read most of Diana Gabaldon’s books in this series so when I heard Starz was creating a show based on the books I was very intrigued. What attracted me to the story was the time travel aspect with a bit of paganism (albeit small) thrown into the mix. Oh did I mention men in Kilts (admittedly most are nothing to look at…)?

Clair and Frank
Clair and Frank

The story takes place (in the beginning) a few months after World War II in 1945. Clair Randell and her husband Frank go on holiday to Scotland to reconnect after they had been apart during the war. They arrive at Inverness just before Samhain (Halloween) and spy on a pagan ritual (dancing only, no blood sacrifices here) being performed at a stone circle. Clair decides to visit the standing stones again to collect some flowers she saw the night before, but when she does she is teleported back in time and find herself in 1743 when she touches one of the stones.

Standing Stones
Standing Stones

She must get her barrings and adapt quickly to survive so she can make it back to the standing stones and return to her husband in 1945. However there are things that stand against her, one is her husband’s ancestor Jack Randell and the other is her heart as she slowly falls in love with Jamie a curly red head Scotsman (who look good in a kilt).

Clair and Jamie
Clair and Jamie

The show debuted on August 9th and I had to say I have already watched it 3 times. It does the books justice (if my memory recalls the books correctly) and at the end it leaves you wanting more.

Well done Starz and the cast and crew!

I cannot wait for the next episode!

August 4

RPG – Monte Cook Games is a bit Stranger!

Who is Monte Cook you ask? Really… Well if you do not know who I am speaking about you need to come out of the cave you have been hiding in and look him up. He has worked for several RPG companies the most notables are TSR, Wizards of the Coast, and Paizo.

I had the privilege meeting Mr. Cook and I am sure he remembers me from Gen Con (Right Mr. Cook? ::Chuckles::) I mean you only met thousands of fanbois during that 4 days!

Most will know him for his contributions to 3rd Edition Dungeon & Dragons… well until recently that is. In September 2012 Monte Cook Games turned to Kickstarter to crowd-fund a new RPG that was set a billion years in the future in a science fantasy post-apocalyptic setting called Numenera. The rules (Cypher System) were streamlined to focus on the story and action of the players characters. The Kickstarter raised over $500k which was over 25 times the funding amount needed and with that extra funding was able to add supplemental books and accessory for the setting. The list can be found on the kickstarter page.

Numenera RPG
Numenera RPG

Bruce Cordell (You know who he is right, please tell me you do!) came up with a concept for another setting that used the base mechanics of Numenera (Cypher System). Just over a year later in October of 2013 MCG launched their 2nd kickstarter called The Stange looking to raise $60k. In November 2013 they successfully funded The Strange pulling in over $400k which allowed them to add supplemental and accessory for the setting. The list can be found on the kickstarter page.

The Strange RPG
The Strange RPG

What caught my attention The Strange kickstarter was one paragraph.

“The Strange is a game that crosses multiple worlds, called recursions, which player characters can explore and defend. In The Strange, your characters change with each world they travel to, taking on new aspects suited to help them function in that recursion’s unique laws and structures. But dangers found in these recursions threaten not only characters, but also our very own Earth. If characters persevere, however, they can not only save themselves and Earth, they may even gain the ability to create a recursion of their own!”

I love the idea that characters change depending on the recursion they are in. How can you ever get bored of a character that changes to fit into the world they enter? Two of the recursions that have been revealed are Ardeyn and Ruk and these are just the tip of the iceberg. I was however very intrigued with one recursion that I saw on a map posted by MCG and the name is Oz. Yes that is right recursions can be brought into existence by the fact millions of people are aware of a fictional place and it’s occupants. This is explained in detail in the core book but one line says it all.

“Many recursions were seeded into the network by the creative resonance of pure imagination (so-called “fictional leakage”), and over time these recursions have matured into places that are quite real.”

This opens up so many worlds that you and your friends can explore, the list is practically endless. You can bet I will be creating a recursion of Middle-Earth, the Walking Dead, and who knows I might even create a Harry Potter / Zombie mash-up!

If you think this sounds cool and intresting just head on over to www.montecookgames.com and read more about it on their blog or better yet get the free preview here!

Stay tuned Nerds next up “Creating a Character” in the Strange!

August 1

Review – #Guardians of the Galaxy

Oh My F…… God! OK Nerds you have to go see this movie. I mean really… leave now and hit the theaters! I saw it last night and I have to say it is the best Marvel movie to date for me. The music was was awesome! The story was incredible! The acting was Phenomenal!

Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy

The fact you can sit down and not know anything about these characters and become vested almost immediately is impressive. I love the fact the writers understood the characters and took the time to make sure they stayed true to their paper counterparts! I found the balance between action and comedy to be spot on and the story line moved at a good pace.

It is hard to sometimes look at a CGI character and suspend disbelief and fool your mind into thinking they are actually real. I had no problem doing so whatsoever with Rocket, Groot or any of the other CGI characters.

Well done to the cast and crew of Guardains of the Galaxy! I cannot wait to see more of this franchise as it comes to life on the big screen!

Oh and one last thing… if you are like me and stay to the end for the little skits Marvel Studios likes to do. I just have to say it quacked me up!

Later Nerds!

Category: Movie, Review | Comments Off on Review – #Guardians of the Galaxy
July 29

Review – Halo Belt

As some of you know I am part of a awesome group of people called the “Guardians of the Community”. We offer our first-aid, first response, and safety expertise to different local festivals. One of our pieces of gear is a nite-ize arm band that illuminates red. This allows us to be seen at night and designates us as a Guardian. So earlier in the year I saw a kick-starter for the something similar in belt form and thought how awesome that would be to use at festivals. They called it Halo Belt 2.0 and marketed for use as a safety piece of equipment for bikers, joggers, or anybody else that would be out at night and needs to be visible. So today I went to the mailbox and what was waiting for me? My red Halo Belt!

Halo - Skaters
Halo – Skaters

One of the cool things about this belt is that it is chargeable through a Micro USB connection (cable included). I am impressed on how sturdy the construction of this 2″ wide 3M reflective adjustable elastic belt is. The illumination strip is 16″ long which comes in 3 different colors red, blue, & green and can either flash or stay solid. It is weather proof and fits up to a 46″ waist. Right out of the box it is bright and consistent along its length.

Halo - Jogger
Halo – Jogger

I was barking mad when I went to their site to find that they are now making dog collars as well to keep your canine companion visible when you decided to walk them at night!

Halo - Dog
Halo – Dog

So if you are out prowling at night and want to be seen I recommend looking into getting one of these. I hope you will check it out!

Later Nerds!

July 23

Software – Syrinscape: Adding a little ambiance to your RPG…

I have used music in the background of my gaming sessions to give them some ambiance. During a Pathfinder panel at GenCon last year I heard about a piece of software that had promise it was called Syrinscape. This piece of software allows you purchase different sound sets that you can use to set the mood of an encounter. For instance they have a “Dragon Battle”, “Bugbear Battle”, “Witchworld”, and “Brindol Town”. There are many more to choose from (23 to be exact) and more coming out each month!

Brindol Town Sound Set
Brindol Town Sound Set

How does the software work? Well as you can see above, it is like a soundboard. Choosing a sound set displays what scenarios are available to you. When you choose a scenario like the “Busy Market Day” it will begin to play, melding all the tracks together continuously. You can set the volume or turn off and on any of the tracks giving you control of what is playing. A feature I like is when you turn it off or pause the scenarios does not abruptly stop but tapers off . Another feature is you can also choose to use sound bytes to play during the playback. These are located at the top of the sound board (see above). Brindol Town includes a roster’s crow, a cow’s moo, and a horses snort. Also at the bottom you will find other sound bytes, like a Lightning spell or a fireball spell. You get the picture.

So when I opened Syrinscape today to see what was new I noticed something that made be giggle with glee! They are now offering sound sets for Pathfinder’s – Rise of the Runelords adventure path! The first bundle is out and has been made for the Burnt Offerings adventure. I love this so much and cannot wait to run the adventure path with a new group of players so I can use them! To see it in action and hear what the “Glassworks” sound set is all about you can go to their YouTube page!

In closing this is a great piece of software that delivers. If there was one thing I would change it would be the ability to make my own sound set. But these guys have that down to a science!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Until next time Nerds!