Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Book Review - Population of Loss

Title: Population of Loss
Author: Michael DiBaggio and  Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Illustrator: Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Year: 2014
Pages: 46
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

I hate big screen or small screen characters render in novel form. It's always horrible, little better than the second Star Wars book, Splinter in the Minds Eye. I want to tell future readers that this is a mashup of comic book characters set in the science fiction worlds of 1880s and 90s.

It is, but it really isn't. The prose reminds me of the classic adventure of The War of the Worlds, which it should because it is implicitly set with in that world. Each of the four short stories captures that time period perfectly, no accidental or intentional anachronistic parts at all. The Signalman does remind me of Iron Man, but he is not remotely a superhero in that vein. In fact, I know that he should be a comic book character because that is what he was designed to be, but somehow, he isn't. Nor are any of the other characters.

Its hard to describe what the Celestial Paladin is, but I can tell you where these characters came from. There are hints of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien fused with H. G. Wells. The story "In Hoc Signo" starts in Well's world of Tripod invaders and ends with a taste of Lewis's Out of a Silent Planet. The writing is more than strong, it is powerful. Reading older works is often difficult due to the changing of styles. But Mr. and Mrs. DiBaggio do not struggle with this. They capture the flavor of these works, but also give it a style all their own. The easy comparison is to the past, but the authors manage to infuse this style with a more modern frantic-ness, in the vein of Dagberto Glib ("Love in L.A.") or Louise Erdrich ("The Red Convertible"). Perhaps it is the vignette style of these 4 short pieces that capture a tiny bit of introspection by the authors, which echos through each piece.

Regarding the illustrations, they are from a very different artist from the Shell "Presto" DiBaggio, who engages with her audience on social media. They have tiny reflection of the work of Kahlil Gibran. What is most interesting about the images of the Signalman and The Cyclone Ranger, is that they show an evolution of style over 2 years. The second is more like Mrs. DiBaggio's current artwork, but still reflecting the style of that old era. Like the writing, the illustrations have a touch of modern, frantic energy, while still embodying the works of arts from the past. Instead of being caught in between eras, they are great enhancements to the stories told. They fit perfectly.

I was only vaguely aware that the book contained artwork, and I would suggest to the reader that they obtain a paper copy as paper will always render the artwork closest to what the artist intended. It is an inherent flaw in all ebook technology.

I will give this book one more read, maybe two before purchasing the next title. It was an excellent primer for the world of Ascension Epoch.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

New Year, New Plan

This year, my goal is to be up at 6 am everyday. Between 6-8, I will read for 20 minutes and listen to one podcast.

Today's choices were Astronomy Cast's Stellar Collisions and Alastair Reynold's House of Suns. I picked up the Kindle version of the book, but I also found the Audible version appealing. I might upgrade to the that next and combine the idea of listening and reading.

If you have any suggestions for books or podcast, leave them in the comments. 


Monday, September 2, 2019

Raspberry Pi Fall Challenge - What do I have?

I have a Raspberry Pi 3, 1 GB of Ram and a Canakit.

So the Pi itself has the following ports:

4 USB
1 Mirco SD card slot
1 HDMI port
3.5 mm Audio and Composite Video
Ethernet Port
40 Pin Header
CSI Camera Connector.

It also has a WiFi antenna and 1 2.5A/5V USB port for power. I also have a Pi comparable case, USB power cord and two heat sinks.

Now, for outside sourced parts, I have 16 GB MircoSD card, a Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard, a Wii Controller, a PS4 Controller, a 125 GB USB external drive (with power supply) and a 4 port powered USB hub.

Ideally, this item would connect to the TV in the living room, which has about a dozen ports. I suspect I will got straight HDMI to HDMI. One wire, one problem, one solution.

My first task is to download and install the software to the SD card from the website. One further constraint on my activities is, I only have a Chromebook with Ubuntu as a computer. That will create some funkiness I am sure.

To start, I will use NOOBS. I want the full experience, so this might not be optimal for what I want, but I want to see a vanilla Pi in action. This will allow me to evaluate my abilities and goals to see what is actually possible.

The temptation to order a newer Pi is incredible. But this project is meant to declutter my workshop, not bring in more things. But there is nothing stopping you from ordering a CanaKit.



Wish me luck, and if you have an advice, please let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Stealing Monsters

Some of the best monsters are people. And some of the most intriguing people are villains.

Jon Wilson, of Appendix M put the bug in my head to steal a villain with his post on The Rival Party. These characters are decidedly different, with incredibly cool powers and abilities. I love the idea of a rival party as adversaries.

I immediately thought of a character I want to steal for a campaign. He is the Monomach from Stephen R. Donaldson's Mordant's Need series.



The Monomach is the villain's right hand man, the most skilled swordsman in the lands. As a villain, he is totally one dimensional. He's given a target and then the target dies. Or at least that is how he should work.

He is actually simple enough to build an AD&D character class with little adaption. First, he is a fightman so he has all of the abilities of a Fighter. Second, he has the disguise abilities of an Assassin. Third, he has some ability to heal himself like a Paladin. Finally, he will gain the damage bonus of a Monk. His prime requisites are Strength, Constitution and Intelligence. To get a +5% bonus to exp, he must have at least a 12 in each of those skills. To get a 10% bonus, he must have a 15 in each.

In framing the villain as a character with a class, he can scale with the Player Characters. He can start relatively weak with the PCs and grow from there.

Let's assign those abilities by level.

On creation - +1 to Strength or Constitution regardless of race.
Level 1 - Disguise as an equal level Assassin.
Level 3 - Laying has as Paladin of equal level.
Level 5 - Damage adjustment as per Monks +1 per 2 levels.

What is the Monomach characters limitations?

They are limited to two magic items plus one magic weapon and one magical piece of armor. They are limited to only equipment they can carry, even at home. They cannot backstab as Assassins do. They do not fight weaponless as Monks do. They do not have the variety of weapons of a fighter, they tend to stick to one main weapon and one back up. They don't often use bows. They can ride horses, but can not care for them. They work alone and are likely to strike a "friendlies" as they get in the way like a berserker. This berserker tendency is not a special skill or ability, it is just a ruthless and bloody methodology. They are relatively poor in day to day skills, unable to cook, care for animals or hunt making them reliant on their master's staff for self-care.

This lack of people and daily living skills prevents them from having followers, retainers or constructing a keep, tower or other base of operation. When assigned to retainers by their master, they tend to follow the retainer until a target presents itself.

What would make this type of character too overpowered? A crystal ball and a ring of teleportation. Yeah, I would totally give my evil Monomach a ring and crystal ball.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Macaulay - Great Books, Lousy Pictures

I'm tired tonight. I glanced over at my bookshelf an noticed a set of books by Dunder Mifflin.

On closer inspection, that was wrong. Very wrong. These books are by the amazing David Macaulay, published by Houghton Mifflin Company or HMCo. Each one illustrates a historically themed location, such as Castle, City, Mill and Pyramid. The pen and ink drawings are spectacular.

I received Castle from my parents as a birthday present. The other three I picked up on Amazon, very cheaply. I plan on buying one every few months to complete the collection. I perfer the black and white editions, on paper, but he has updated the series in color and also has many titles available for Kindle.

Fast forward to something I didn't know. Some of them were adapted to documentaries by Unicorn Productions. Even better, they are on Youtube.

I have yet to find a better streaming source, but if I find these elsewhere, I will let you know.

Cathedral:



Castle:



Roman City:



Mill Times:



Pyramid:



I was going to watch a little Netflix, but this is much better. That and order the few books I am missing from the series.

David Macaulay
On Amazon
Kindle or Print

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Cord Cutting

A few weeks ago, my kids killed our TV. I think it was a dog toy to the middle of the screen, perhaps followed by a large dog. After about 3 days of searching for a replacement, I found this great TV on Amazon. 50" for less than $400. I bought it.


Then disaster struck. Our cable bill arrived with a new price increase to $233 a month. Thanks Spectrum. I could buy a new 50" TV every two months, forever for less than the price of cable. Hmm. That is some bad math. I canceled everything but the internet which was a $178 savings.

But what to do about this brand new TV? Well, most of the time our TV is used for our PS4 and all of the games and videos we have for that. My wife, Kitty hated that answer. As for other movies, we already had Netflix. $54 for internet, plus $11.99 for Netflix. And then I remembered that the PS4 also could show Amazon Prime Videos which was another couple of bucks. Now, I had two different sources of movies and was still saving over well over $100.

Click here to try out Amazon Prime. Try Prime Discounted Monthly Offering

Kitty pointed out that we didn't have local TV channels. What if the schools closed? What if there was bad weather and we didn't know? Ok. I was about to order an antenna and digital converter from Amazon, when someone told me about CBS All Access. It will show your local affiliate's programming, including the news.

Click here to try CBS (one month free): Prime Members Start Your Free Trial of CBS All Access with Prime Video Channels

I wish I could tell you that saving money was my Prime (see what I did there?) motivation, but what I was actually thinking about was CBS's new Star Trek show. My daughter was pleased that we could also watch Young Sheldon and Big Bang Theory. We loved all three shows.

This was getting pricey, I figured I might as well go all the way. I asked Kitty what TV show she'd miss from cable. She answered, "Golden Girls." A quick search showed me that it was available on Hulu. Another monthly charge, but still under the price of cable.

Another problem entered the mix. My wife asked about the TV in the bedroom. How would that work? How would I fix that? I had a refund coming to me from Google for a broken phone, so I used that to purchase a Google Home Mini and a Chromecast. Why not? If I was going to cut the cord, I wanted to make sure everything "just worked". A laptop or a phone could control the Chromecast in the bedroom and the PS4 in the living room would do everything else. The Home Mini was just bonus.

Service or Item Price
Netflix $11.99
Hulu 7.99
Amazon Prime Video 10.99
CBS 5.99
Google Home 39.00
Chromecast 35.00
Cable54.99
Total$165.95

My figures ignore the cost of a new TV because I had already bought it. It also ignores the fact that I had Netflix and Amazon Prime from the get-go. Two pros and one con are tabled, so to speak. The Home and Chromecast were purchased with found money as I used a refund credit for them. As an added bonus, Amazon Prime also has a music selection which had gone unused to this point. Kitty can control that from her laptop and display it on the bedroom TV. One more feature go on the positive side of the list, which is free benefit of Prime.

Click to try Amazon Prime Music: Try Amazon Music Unlimited Free Trial

For less than $175, I managed to get the home A/V system I always wanted and I am now using almost every feature of every service. My monthly cost is a mere $91, down from $230+.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Research for Pio

Pio is a novel set in Italy before Mussolini's rise to power. It has sat on the back burner for a while and there it will remain until I do some more research.

To that end, I am reading How Fascism Ruled Women. While it is set at some point after this novel's timeline, the effects of fascism were already becoming a powerful force on society. Reading the end point is kind of backwards, but helpful.

I order a physical copy from Amazon, which was a little pricey but worth it.

What I have found is that I need to back up in time to really capture what and why things were happening in Italy between the World Wars.

I love research!


Monday, January 16, 2017

Clamshell iBook Hard Drive Replacement Alternative

My aging Blue iBook is suffering from a lack of space. This machine shipped with a 10 GB hard drive way back in 1999. Since I launched theseoldgames.com, the need for installation space has gone up noticeably.

Ifixit.com has wonderfully detailed instructions for repair of a variety of consumer products, including the iBook. They are my "go to" site for most repair projects. However, replacing the iBook drive has 10 sections, 36 steps and no time listed for the upgrade. It is also marked difficult. Since I trust them, I believe that this is within my skill range, but will exceed my patience for the task.

When I upgraded my old computers hard drive the task took all of an hour. This is a much bugger project, one I am not convinced that I ready to start.

I had been using a USB thumb drive as an alternative to upgrading the drive, but having a little dongle sticking out the side of the computer was always a recipe for disaster. What if I broke the one and only USB port?

Well, that is where the SanDisk Cruzer Fit USB drive comes in. It's a tiny USB drive with more than adequate storage. This 32 GB drive was less than $20.00, on Amazon. Now you can get several of them for a less than $20.

The SanDisk Cruzer would not be my first pick because I am clumsy and forgetful. Under normal circumstances, I would lose this thing in less than a day. However, once it is plugged into the iBook, it's sleek, small form is perfect for this machine. As you can see in the next picture, the SanDisk Cruzer doesn't extend past the edge of the case.

Perfect! Drive problem solved, no particular downsides other than loosing the use of the USB. Aside from a floppy drive and Wacom Table, I have nothing that uses that port. To be honest, I won't need to use either one for this laptop.

One caveat when plugging any drive into a OS 9 Mac - Sometimes the Mac will want to initialize the disk into a flavor or form it can use. Most modern machines do not have this problem, so plugging the drive into the Mac first, formatting if needed, then putting information on it using a different machine is the route to go.

In a perfect world I'd upgrade the hard drive, but this solution is so handy compared to the real fix, I'm gonna run with it.

Pros: Cheap and easy.
Cons: Can't boot from USB. Utilizes the only USB port on the machine.


Monday, January 18, 2016

The Martian by Andy Weir

Yesterday, I started reading The Martian by Andy Weir.

This is a gripping novel about biologist and astronaut Mark Watney surviving Mars after an accident leaves him alone and stranded. Watney must overcome challenge after challenge, none of which seem contrived to hold on until... What?

No one back home knows Watney is alive, there is no rescue coming. He has supplies for a 50+ day mission for six, machinery that isn't designed to last more than 30 days and no hope. Watney has to make his own way, with only his know-how and the equipment left behind.

Watney comes to us via logs and down to Mars first person narratives, which are heart pounding, humorous and chilling by turns. No hands are waved on this techno-thriller, the story is pack full of details and observations that could right from NASA. No surprise here, Andy Weir is a life long programmer for a national laboratory and space enthusiast.

Pick up a copy today; Audable, Kindle or Watch on Amazon Prime.




Monday, December 28, 2015

Google Docs Templates for D&D

Google Drive shared files and templates are a rich find for gamers of all types.
Under templates, you can find a ton of D&D resources.
My personal favorite is Benjamin Connell’s 3.5 Character Sheet. I plan on making the standard for my 3.5 campaigns.

As time permits, I will be loading pre-genned characters in the top bar. Right now, I have characters for D&D and AD&D. I also have a link to my own AD&D character sheet for Unearthed Arcana. Additionally, if you like having secondary skills for PCs or stat'd up NPCs, try my book Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners.

If 3.5 isn't for you and D&D or AD&D are tired, why not try the New e5 Edition? The starter set is wonderfully priced.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Fire 7"

Oh, did the family score this Christmas. We each picked up a Fire, 7" Tablet.
These little devices work with almost any computer. I tried it on a Windows 7 and a Chromebook and both worked well. I was able to make some magic and install Google Play and Google Drive without too much trouble.

Here we have DoubleTwist from the Google Play Store displaying Matt and Kim from Amazon Music.

Between the native Amazon app and the Play Store, I have the best mix of software available on Tabbies today. Below you can see my new favorite NewsHog, available from the Amazon store. It beast the heck out of Google News.


In the coming days, I am sure I will be adding more great software. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this thing.