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Speculative Fiction Saturday: WarGames, and PAX Prime
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WarGames

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Since I’m at PAX Prime this weekend, I am posting this Speculative Fiction Saturday review in advance. This is a film with video games as a big part of the storyline. I will have to tell you this was one of my favorite movies back when I was a teenager, and I would have to say there is an influence that I can sense today, not just in me, but other films as well.

WarGames was not only a film that jumpstarted Matthew Broderick’s career, but it addressed something that we all fear: nuclear war. The film opens with two men who are controlling nuclear silos, and the codes come in for them to turn the keys to begin World War III. One of them just can’t find it in his heart to do it, and the other pulls a gun on him.

I didn’t like how the scene suddenly ended, but it cuts to a group of generals and other military uppity-ups at Cheyenne Mountain. Apparently, this is some big military place that really exists, the headquarters for NORAD (North American Aeorspace Defense Command). The military men, along with a man named McKittrick (Dabney Coleman), who believes that it would be better if relays replaced the flesh-and-blood men that might defy an order from on high.

As it so happens, McKittrick has developed a computer system known as the WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), which is programmed to run all kinds of nuclear war simulations. And, if you haven’t seen this film yet, just watch it on Netflix, because I did the other day, and it is even better than I remember it, even if it is somewhat dated. I’ll go ahead and post the rest after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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on August 29th, 2015
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PAX Prime 2015, Day One
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I’ve had an awesome day at PAX Prime, and one of the best part of it seeing all the cosplayers. There are just some that I was able to take pictures of, and I saw want to have more pictures by tomorrow.

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I thought this was Poison Ivy, the Batman villain. Was I wrong! This is the fairy from the The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.

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It’s Amethyst from Steven Universe! Yes!

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Kim Possible fans will know this character as Shego. I got her to pose with my book.

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These ladies are from an anime, and I’m not certain that I got the name right on it.

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Anyone who knows the God of War franchise knows this as Kratos. He didn’t mind posing with my book either.

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These are characters from Borderlands. Also, they like my book, or at least were willing to pose with it.

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I believe this is a Final Fantasy character.

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This is Pac-Man with a Final Fantasy character. I got them to pose with my book.

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It’s Pearl from Steven Universe! Hooray!

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This guy is a male version of Sergeant Calhoun from Wreck It Ralph. He didn’t understand that “kitten whispers and tickle fights line either”.

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on August 28th, 2015
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The Wii U Niche Market and Mario Party 10
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Mario Party 10

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As I reported a while ago, I bought a Wii U a while ago and enjoyed Super Mario World 3D
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. I have also reported the possibility that the days of Nintendo could be numbered
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. The thing is, I have had Mario Party 10 for a while, and I have just recently started playing it. I believe it is the Wii U’s niche market.

If you are not familiar with the Mario Party series, it is essentially a board game that you can play on television. The difference is instead of a bored “board”, it is a very active place of play. Sure, you have to shake a controller to do a dice, which is completely unnecessary in a random number generator. As always, the players are characters from the Mario franchise, and the action is part game and part movie.

Mario Party 10 is unique as it is the first of its type for the Wii U. As far as I can tell, the game is really the juvenile type where you just roll a dice and move forward until you get to the end. The issue is the Wii U has that big controller with the touchscreen that probably costs half as much as the console. I’m guessing very few Wii U users have two of these.

Fortunately, Mario Party 10 allows four Wii controllers as well as the big Wii U controller. I had a chance to play it with my family, and it is quite fun. You see, the big controller is used to play Bowser, who goes after the four other players. It’s kind of like a chase, with Mario Party’s trademark Mini-games when Bowser catches up. It is possible for Bowser to take out the players one at a time, and even for him to win.

I have no idea if Mario Party 10 is like any of the others, but I think that perhaps Nintendo is really finding its market with younger players, and those who have families. I guess I’m thinking that is a good niche audience to have, but considering the power of PlayStation and Xbox, I believe that Nintendo will have to do more to compete to stay alive in the console world.

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on August 28th, 2015
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Review of the Ozobot Bit
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Ozobot

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The first time that I saw Ozobot, it was at CES. There was a table with these little things the size of little bugs oozing around on the table. All I could think about was how cute it was. The Ozobot movies through two micro-motors for some serious maneuverability.

As it is, the Ozobot Bit is one of those STEM toys. For those that don’t know, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and there are a lot of toys out there that I reviewed before like the LEGO Mindstorms

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and Makeblock Mbot
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.

The Ozobot Bit is one of those toys that you can code, because everyone knows that kids like to code. Okay, I might sound a little sarcastic there, but kids that are raised doing coding are definitely more ready for adulthood programming. In the case of Ozobot, it uses Google’s Blockly to create OzoBlockly which is a very simplified visual programming language similar to others like Scratch, Hopscotch, App Inventor, Tynker, and Tickle Apps.

So, you might think that you have to program this using some kind of cable or Bluetooth to program this. That is not the case, as you can load commands into the robot with flashing lights. You can teach it to follow paths along the table that you can make with magic marker, and it will follow whatever colors that you program it with.

What is interesting is that the Ozobot communicates back with blinking lights as well. It is possible to download free apps as well as build some custom maps, and play some games with people.

Okay, there is really no way that I can describe how much that you can do with this, so if you are interested in it, you can find out more about it here

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. The Ozobot 2.0 is available for about $59.95 on Amazon
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.

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on August 27th, 2015
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Case Logic Kontrast DSLR Shoulder Bag
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Case Logic Kontrast

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Well, I had another chance to try out some Case Logic products, and was pleased to receive the Kontrast DSLR Shoulder Bag. I have to admit, when it arrived, I thought I had received some kind of lunchbox or some kind of old-school binoculars case. I don’t know how many of my readers got that reference, if you will even call it that.

The zipper on top is made to open up and you can insert your DSLR camera. Then there is a place for the camera as well as a lens with this thing that looks like it could hold a drink. You can even take out the lens holder, as Velcro is the only thing that keeps it in there.

Then there are some terrific pockets for whatever. There is one on each side, one in the front, and there is even a pocket on the lid itself.

Now, carrying this around could feel like you are carrying a heavy burden, but it fortunately comes with a strap. You can know that it will be safe, and the DuraBase gives a sense of security to all you photographers out there.

You can get the Kontrast DSLR Shoulder Bag on the Case Logic site

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for about $79.95.

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on August 26th, 2015
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A Bad Habit that Christianity Needs to Quit
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I’m going to be honest when I say that I love Christ, but there are times when I hate Christians. I suppose that a certain group of people following biblical doctrines will produce very similar response, and I have to admit that I am a Christian because I like the good responses. Unfortunately, there is an opposite side of the coin.

The issue that I have is that Christians love to put their own on a pedestal, and this always fails, sometimes spectacularly. The case of Josh Duggar, which I mentioned yesterday, is one example. The man became a public figure with 19 Kids and Counting, and for some reason, whenever Christian people get in the spotlight, they just have to promote themselves as role models.

In all honesty, I guess this makes sense, but at what point does a Christian role model become a celebrity? Oftentimes Christians love their Christian celebrities more than the rest of the world adores movie stars. This is especially true for any Christian who is involved with Christian entertainment, but moreso for those who are known outside Christian circles.

Some of you are old enough to remember singer/songwriter Carman, who is pretty talented, but he often over-promoted his own merchandise at his concerts. Now, Carman would hold free concerts and more than likely used the funds to support his ministry, and I am assuming that he didn’t do this to line his own pockets. Still, his merchandising video that he played before his concerts was more than a little tacky, honestly.

This has kind of led me to instinctively not like anything that has a Christian label. I know that a lot of people like the Duck Dynasty show for their Christian values, but I have to admit, that hasn’t made me want to watch it. If anything, it has actually caused me to not want it. In fact, I’m now just waiting around for the Robertson family to do something like the Duggar family.

I realize this is going to come off as negative toward Christianity, and I’m going to have to declare that perhaps there is more than black-and-white here. Yeah, I’m not going to talk about gray areas and how permissible certain things can be.

I just finished a work by Navy Seal Chris Kyle called American Sniper. Some of you have probably seen the movie that Clint Eastwood made of this. I found that Mr. Kyle was very candid about his admission of killing insurgents, swearing, drunkenness, and pornography. He still claims to be a Christian, and I’m not really going to doubt that. I will say that I’m not going to fully accept his opinion that he was fighting “evil”, just because the author has demonstrated Christian values. The book does give me chance to step back and see “the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military History” was just a man doing his job, and paid a price for it.

There is one thing that he is, or sadly was (Chris Kyle passed away very recently), and that he is human. Humans are capable of several vices, and we should not be surprised that they can. In fact, we should even be surprised that they are capable of great heinous acts like genocide. Christians shouldn’t indulge in vices, but if we believe that there are some Christians who are not even capable of such acts, then we set ourselves up for failure.

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on August 25th, 2015
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Ashley Madison, My Response, Part Two
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Trustify

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Well, it would appear that the Impact Team has made good on their promise to bring the information from Ashley Madison’s 37 million subscribers online. I’m not going to put where you can get this information, I am told that downloading it requires a special browser but you’re smart enough to read this from a computer, so you can probably figure out how to do this yourself.

Since Mr. Josh Duggar was discovered as having an Ashley Madison account, the same question has come up from suspicious lovers. I’ve heard that the website of Trustify can discover if your suspicious loved one has an Ashley Madison email account. So far, he’s the one that is getting all the press, and that is the last thing that man needs.

Well, I really don’t want to talk about Josh Duggar, but someone challenged my attitude on Ashley Madison the other day. You may have noticed that I said that something about me is glad that the Ashley Madison accounts were hacked, but here’s the thing: if I am glad at that, should I rejoice that other big accounts are hacked?

The thing that I have discovered lately is how strange morality is. I guess as wrong as I believe it is for a married or committed person to have an Ashley Madison account, it’s just as wrong to hack into said account, for any reason. These ends just doesn’t justify the means, and I guess I am going to have to let those who have secrets keep those secrets.

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on August 24th, 2015
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Speculative Fiction Saturday: Seeking a Friend at the End of the World
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Seeking-a-Friend-for-the-End-of-the-World-UK-Poster1

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I don’t know if we are at the point where we can label anything a comedy. I don’t know when it was considered acceptable to do a film about the end of the world and call it a comedy, but there have been several films about “the end of the world as we know it” in this decade alone and they are played for laughs. It is quite possible that we got afraid of that whole 2012 Mayan Calendar thing and decided to try and laugh it off and make films like The World’s End and This is the End to be released one year later. In 2012, there was Seeking a Friend at the End of the World.

This is a comedy starring Steve Carrell, who is capable of both comedy and drama. The film begins with Carrel as Dodge, a man with a serious irony in his name. He is listening to the radio with his wife, played ironically by Carrell’s real-life wife. They hear that some shuttle that was supposed to stop an asteroid from destroying the Earth has failed. In other words, the way that they prevented the destruction of the world in Armageddon and Deep Impact just outright failed.

What happens next feels kind of outright predictable to me. With the world realizing that there is only a certain amount of time left, it kind of let’s loose. In the case of Dodge, his wife commits suicide, and he is one of the many who do so before the big crash.

I’ve actually seen this type of behavior before. There was a short-lived television show called The Three Moons over Milford. The show was about an asteroid that hit the moon that strikes the moon and splits it into three parts. Most people believe that the world is coming to an end, so they start indulging in formerly repressed behavior.

Now, The Three Moons of Milford was about a possible end of the world, but this is the scientifically proven real deal. It seems like the world is facing denial, but no one panics, at first. There is even a scene where Dodge is at a dinner party and people are going around the world sharing what they are going to do before they die. It is terribly cavalier.

There is a scene where Dodge’s friend’s wife openly hits on him. Her response is “no one belongs to anyone now that this happens”. It is probably the best description of the situation as any.

Eventually, the world starts panicking, complete with riots. Dodge decides to leave town as he receives a letter from his “one that got away”, and decides to leave town. He gets a friend on the way with Penny, played by Keira Knightley.

This is a set up for an end of the world road comedy, and introduces some interesting characters. They meet a driver who had a hit taken on himself, and it works. They then meet a restaurant where the workers act like extreme hedonists. They get pulled over by a cop who apparently lives in a lot of denial as he sees a need to arrest both Penny and Dodge. This leads them to Penny’s ex, who has a bomb shelter and believes that he will survive all of this. This is one of those films where the characters just go from one misadventure to the other.

I’m going to spoil this film in one part. There is a scene after Dodge and Penny leave the aforementioned hedonistic diner where they just have sex. It feels less like them attempting to fill lost love then finding lost love. I don’t know how I would act in this given scenario, and even one of my favorite books, On The Beach, addressed this issue in the sense that humanity would embrace its mass extinction with humility and dignity.

This film does show that the end of the world somehow brings out the best in everyone, even though I think we all know it could get very terrifying to see the human race come apart at the seams. In short, I will have to say that Seeking a Friend at the End of the World is either a hidden gem or what we want to hear, but the ending is bittersweet as it is good.

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on August 22nd, 2015
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JFK Can Track Cellular Phones to Predict Wait Times
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Blip systems

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Most of us have been told that we should arrive at the airport a few hours early to catch our flights, because TSA lines take a while to go through. Personally, I never lost my patience, because I never wanted the TSA to take me out.

New York’s JFK Terminal 4, there is some new information in the form of some screens that show how long the wait time will be. The screens use Blip Systems’ wireless beacons that can record, encrypt, and timestamp a device’s MAC address. Then the system counts the number of mobile devices, and figures out an accurate wait time down to the minute.

In case you might be worried about privacy, the information is promised to be very secure, and it cannot be tied back to the user. It also uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to track mobile devices, so what about people with multiple mobile devices?

Well, if this works at JFK, I would imagine that we will see these at amusement parks, where we really want to know how long it will take to wait in line.

Source 1

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and Source 2
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on August 21st, 2015
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The Helmet from iFamCare
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iFamCare Helmet

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What you are seeing here is not necessarily a helmet, and I am not really certain why it is called that. I guess it kind of looks like one…anyway, the iFamCare is a good way of watching your connected home.

The iFamCare Helmet has 360 degree coverage on the horizontal and 70 degrees of vertical. You can install the Wi-Fi to your home network and view anywhere on 3G, 4G, and WiFi. It shoots video in 1080p, and you have a MicroSD card for media storage. You can communicate to whoever is on the other end via two-way speakers, and there is something made for you pet as well.

The helmet has a three laser movement patterns so you can play with your pet from a distance. There is an application so you can “go public and let the world see your video feed”.

I don’t really see a place where you purchase the Helmet, but I see that it has had a successful Indegogo campaign

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. You can also find some more information on it on the iFamCare site here
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.

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on August 20th, 2015
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