Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Geek-a-thon Gifts Continue!

Happy Holidays everyone!  As it is the afternoon of December 25th, I thought I'd update with the latest (and arguably last) round of the Nerdapalooza Holiday Gifts that came my way today...with thanks and much love to my beautiful wife, who has been so good at displaying her own inner nerd as of late!

Let the gluttony of geekness begin!

First up...the Chocolate RPG Dice!!!

That's right fellow nerds...a full set of role playing dice crafted out of chocolate love!  For the uninitiated (and if you are indeed uninitiated to RPG dice, why are you reading my blog :-), this is a standard set of 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 20-sided dice, used for pen and paper role-playing for a good 40 years or so now, harkening back to the earliest days of Chainmail and Dungeon's & Dragons.  Now I just have to decide if I'm going to eat them myself or share them with my regular weekly gaming group...

Second on our Christmas Day list...a 12-month Xbox Gold Live Membership!
Xbox 360 Live Subscription Gold Card
Why not simply have an Xbox Live account linked to a credit card?  Mostly because it's nigh-impossible to cancel an Xbox Live account once you've set one up.  There's more than one story of some innocent gamer trying to cancel an existing Xbox Gold membership that he/she attached a credit card to, only to discover that they ended up having to call Microsoft and then spend wasted hours lost in the subterranean caverns of automated voice menus and confusing phone representatives whose sole task is to prevent you from canceling that membership.  It's probably easier to take the MCATs and get into a good medical school than it is to cancel an existing Xbox Gold Live membership.  And let's not even go down the path of the possibility of having your account hacked like mine was by some loser hacker in China that snagged $50 off the credit card attached to my account before Xbox shut him down.  I contacted Xbox within 10 minutes of the incursion, and while I was promised to have a full refund either in cash or Microsoft points...it never came...even after two follow up calls ending in similar hollow promises.  But with a game card membership, there is none of that...no credit card to steal, no account to deal with...just online gaming glory.  So...time to fire up my copy of Halo 4...

Next...only a true nerd appreciates this...a Meh PC Case Badge...

There's always a ton of badges attached to laptop or desktop case...sometime more than you want and when you try to take many of them off, it leaves sticky hell for you to deal with until the next 'puter purchase.  You know...crap like 'Intel Centrino 2' or 'Graphics by Nvidia' and so on.  If you gotta have them, why not have some that you actually want to have on you PC case.  In my case, I chose the ubiquitous 'Meh,' which to most of us geeks, nerds, and dorks to be an expression of indifference or boredom or lack of interest in a topic or discussion.  Legend and lore has it that Meh was first used on The Simpsons, though there are some that try and attach an origin from the Yiddish word feh which translates literally to 'yuck.'   This doesn't really fit though...and the word has gained enormous popularity amongst nerds, geeks, and particularly the online gaming world.  Pretty normal to be chatting in World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, or Dungeons & Dragons Online and someone will eventually comment 'meh' to some discussion...

A big one now for our next one...a Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Blu-ray Disc Player...

The beauty of Blu-Ray is that you can get into a great one with plenty of features for barely $100.  Now that they're down in those price ranges, you have no excuse not to buy one and slap it into your ever-growing entertainment center.  With built-in WiFi (it connected to my home network in a snap), tons of streaming media apps (there's even a red Netflix button on the remote), and a ton of features to customize your viewing pleasure to your liking, you can't really pass up what most consider one of the best Blu-ray players for 2012.  See the review on CNet if you need more prodding to whip out your Amazon account...

With the new Blu-ray player had to come something to play on it...and the first one I got Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures!

5 discs, 7 hours of special features, and our favorite whip-slinging archeologist in all his Blu-ray goodness!  This is a great boxed set, and since Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is included, you have no excuse not to have it as a cornerstone of your collection.

And...to cap off the Geek Blu-Ray collection with what may well become the foundation of my new collection... The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy.

15 discs.  'Nuff said right there.  So far with just a casual glance at it (watching The Return of the King as I blog this), it's simply spectacular! Already have seen a good 5 min of new scenes in the past half hour that were awesome (with the added material, The Fellowship of the Ring is now 3hr 48min, The Two Towers is 3hr 56min, and The Return of the King is a whopping 4hr 23min. With all the extras like interviews and 'making of' stuff, there's over 26hrs of geek pleasure in this box ). Peter Jackson and his editor approached these as a whole new version of the original movies specially created for home HD viewing, and Howard Shore actually composed and recorded a new score for each movie with the London Philharmonic Orchestra to make sure all the new scenes flowed properly. It's a staggeringly cool piece of work that any serious J. R. R. Tolkien fan should pick up.
And with that...I wish you Merry Geekmas to all, and to all a Nerd night!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Another Great Holiday Gift, Last Night On Earth!

So, with my mother-in-law jet-setting down to Florida for the holidays, we got this side of the family together for an early Christmas earlier this week.  And with that, came another great geek gift for the holiday season, and one that was extremely apropos considering the end of the Mayan Calendar today...

I played Last Night on Earth awhile back at my local game shop (Total Escape Games) when some of my gamer buddies and I were looking for a quick break from the Warhammer Fantasy Battles we were playing at the time.  I enjoyed it, added it to my Amazon Wish List, and voila, there it came in some seasonal wrapping paper.

Overall, it's pretty simple, one or two players play the zombies, the rest play the heroes - those unlucky characters that have to both slaughter the wandering (and aggressive) dead and survive whatever scenario you're playing.  Zombies and heroes are represented by plastic minis that run about on a somewhat-randomly generated board (which changes enough so that it's fairly replayable) that have locations like 'the high school,' 'the gym,' and 'the gun shop.'  Some locations have set items that the heroes can grab, like guns or gasoline cans, and some allow you to search for random items.  Each hero has a card with special abilities on it along with spaces to keep track of wounds.  Zombies don't need cards to track such things...they're zombies and pretty much do what zombies do.

Zombies come from 'The Zombie Pool" and zombies killed simply go back into the pool to respawn depending on rolls and cards drawn...there's a limit of 14 zombies at any given time on the board (since you only have 14 zombies in the box :)  At first glance, the games seems lean toward the heroes...zombies are killed with one hit, and in most cases heroes get two dice to roll vs. zombies with one die (hits go to the highest die rolled, ties go to the zombies), all of this of course can be modified in various situations.  However, the walking dead just keep coming back, and seem to swarm at just the right time.  Weapons run out of ammo and break just when the hero needs them, and as more and more zombie cards get drawn into the zombie player's hand, the tougher the game gets for the heroes to win.
In the game my wife and I just played (a 2 player game pits the zombie player against the hero player controlling 4 heroes), it looked like the zombies were in for a rotting flesh butt kicking as my wife quickly racked up a solid 8 zombie kills.  But then the game shifted, and a huge wave of 8 or 9 shambling corpses began to swarm two of the heroes that got cut off on the wrong side of town, and while they valiantly scored kills, the first hero, the nurse,  fell (for the heroes to win, they had to kill 15 zombies before nightfall - 15 turns - and for the zombies to win, they had to either kill two heroes or hold out to dusk.)  Then, just when the 14th zombie dropped, another got a lucky swipe at the priest and killed the second hero to seal the game in favor of the Zombies.

So far, it's a great game, with a fast pace (easily 45 minutes tops), good replayability, and simple enough rules while still maintaining some good strategy and planning on both sides.  With multiple players (there can be up to two zombie players and four hero players) the coop playstyle should really shine.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Geek Gifts for a Nerd's Birthday

So my 44th birthday rolled around last Monday, and aside from having a pretty great day overall, I was overjoyed to have a truly geeked out set of gifts come my way, all from my beautiful wife...

Here's what I got for the Old Cuatro dos B-Day:

A folding hobby lamp.  Serious light for painting plastic minature spacemen.  Been wanting one for a long time!

Product Details

Ultra Pro Magic the Gathering: MTG Mana Magnetic Flip Box Green.  Keeping those Magic Decks safe from wear and tear...

Product Details

Large White Skull Dice Bag.  What else can I say?  It's large, it's a skull, it can hold about 3 pounds of dice.  'Nuff said!
Large White Skull Dice Bag

Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition.  Have dabbled with Savage Worlds a couple of times...been wanting the latest rulebook to start looking at creating some new settings to RPG in...
Product Details

Star Wars Family Decals.  Aside from the 'cultish' feel to everyone that seems to be putting little decals of their family members on the back windows of their cars, these things are just creepy to begin with.  So if you're gonna do it, why not do it with Star Wars??

All of them!

Awesome birthday...awesome nerd gifts!!

Thanks everyone...



Friday, December 7, 2012

Jelly Bean'd my Samsung GS3

So Jelly Bean finally (finally) came out for the Samsung Galaxy SIII here in the U.S. of A.  I did the download about 48 hours ago...here's my impressions:

(BTW...as a quick note this will not be a discussion of my incident where I received my brand spanking new GS3, immediately ordered a case for it, and then two days after I got the damn phone I dropped it in a parking garage, shattering the Gorilla Glass before the case arrived a day later.  It will also not be a discussion of the unbelievably painful procedure of getting the insurance claim processed and then having to shell out $199.00 for a deductible...the exact amount that I paid for the damn thing with a 2-yr. contract renewal.  Nor will it be a discussion of the Otterbox case I promptly wrapped my replacment GS3 in to hopefully prevent such from happening again.  Still after all that, the GS3 is such an amazing piece of technology and such a warpspeed jump ahead from the Blackberry Torch I had been previously using, none of things I won't talk about I've listed above mattered one bit in the long run...)

So...I won't digress on those subjects...

Firstly...the update took a long time.  A loooooonnnnnnggggg time.  Like attach my phone to my laptop after loading Kies onto my laptop and go to bed and get up the next day and see if it's done installing long.  At one point before hitting the sack I commented to my wife that it's somewhat poignant that my phone takes so much time to update and has a larger operating system than many of my computers I've owned in the past.  However, to it's credit, the update and install did everything on it's own.  We all know what it feels like to start an update, go to bed, and get up and see that it was waiting for a response from you for some step that it hit at 11pm the night before and now has another 11 hours to go.  Not so with the Jelly Bean for me...the phone was done when I sat down with my morning coffee.

Jelly Bean's calendar is much improved...more data displayed on appointments within the main calendar, better colors and highlights, all make it easier to glance at your month/week and know what's coming. 

(We'll chat about Google Now in a bit).  The new Google Search is supposedly the Siri-breaker.  To be honest I can't really comment on this as I've never experienced Siri personally, but I gotta say, Google Search with voice recognition seems to be pretty darned good.  my only issue is that I have been experiencing problems getting my Google Search to come up when I say "Google."  This leads to much laughing in the household when I am yelling "Google" at my phone.  So far I have to hit the microphone icon to get it to work.  This may be me doing something wrong...but we'll see.  When it is up, Google Search is kinda scary cool...it seems to get what I'm asking 95% of the time and searches pretty well.

Google Now.  Terrifying.  Amazing.  Let's see how it works over time though.  I mean this is really cool if it works well.  Essentially, Google Now will send you info cards on your phone based on what's going on around you.  Drive by a good restaurant...Google Now will bring you up a card about that restaurant.  Commuting to work...Google Now will tell you how long it will take at a given moment to get there.  Miss the football game...Google Now will pop up with the score for you.  And on and on.  Apparently it will also learn based on your search history and your habits and get better as you go.  This could be the goose that laid the golden egg for Android...it could also turn out to be a duck...so we'll have to see.  First impressions however?  Awesome...

Yea sure...the UI of Jelly Bean looks pretty much like the UI of Ice Cream Sandwich...but it does seem to run smoother, cleaner, and somewhat nicer.  Or is that just me thinking it does because they told me so?  Hmmm...

Can't comment on the new Jelly Bean keyboard...I use SwiftKey 3 and will never, ever go back to anything else.  Swiftkey is simply friggin' great...

Jelly Bean notifications.  Yea, their much better, more detailed, and frankly a big step up from ICS.  I really like the new notifications...consider it a big win overall!

So there's probably more...but those are the big ones.  My final score is pretty high for Jelly Bean...so plan a night to download Kies for your 'puter if you haven't already done so and plug your 'Droid in to update to Jelly Bean.  Then go to bed...



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hoth comes to Angry Birds Star Wars

We get the free Hoth update to Angry Birds Star Wars today...which is good if you've already worn out your phone's touchscreen slinging Luke and Obi-Wan around Tatooine.

Gaming Blend has a post up today about the release.  Hasn't unlocked on my phone quite yet, so I haven't had a chance to give it a spin yet myself, but one must assume that we will be seeing one-armed Wampa Ice Creatures, elephantine Imperial AT-AT Walkers, and warm-bellied Tauntauns indigenous to the icy planet that are just ripe to be eviscerated for the sake of saving your buddy from a frozen death.

Limber up those fingers everyone, and get ready to work out the best physics for catapulting avians into porcine-constructed defenses once again!



Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday Free Shipping on ThinkGeek!

Free Shipping
That's right nerds...free shipping on ThinkGeek today with no minimum!!!


So there's no better time to order that Star Trek Oven Mitt...

Or Batgirl Hipster Panties...

Or Canned PBJ Sandwich...

Or Bluetooth Handset Glove...

And as we all know...no true nerdy geek is really his/herself without a ThinkGeek Eviltron (if you don't know what this is...then you need to educate yourself on this one...)

Don't forget ThinkGeek's huge selection of geek T-shirts and Apparel either!

So get out there and get your geek loved one something they'll really want for the holidays!

(Just in case...here's links to my personal ThinkGeek Wishlists...with a few samples for your surfing pleasure!)

Flagrant Nerd ThinkGeek Wishlist

Flagrant Nerd ThinkGeek T-shirt and Apparel Wishlist

 Front View



Friday, November 23, 2012

Kingdom Death: Monster Kickstarter

So for quite a while I've been following Kingdom Death, a 'boutique nightmare horror' miniature board game concept that's in development.  The miniatures and concept designs of the mini's are out of this world, and I received and e-mail today that their cooperative board game set in a nightmare-horror world titled Kingdom Death: Monster is in the kickstarter phase...

Aside from some extremely high-end miniature sculpts (see below) the game is quite simply some of the freshest and most creative work I've seen lately.  I can't say enough about Kingdom Death...

Kingdom Death: Monster is their coop board game that will release in late 2013, and it looks even more spectacular than what I've seen so far.  If you're a fan of the horror genre, tabletop miniature gaming, and/or coop board games, I highly recommend that you drop by their kickstarter page and give them a couple of bucks...for as little as $10 you get a digital art book with concept art, artist bios, etc.  The best deal IMHO is the $100 pledge which gets you the game when it releases...and there's a Black Friday deal today for $85 at this level...tough to pass up.  Even at the $100 level, that's arguably a bonus when you consider that any coop board game can run you upwards of $70 these days...so you're getting a really awesome looking game and giving a little bit to support the project to boot (would also make a great holiday gift for next year...).



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy T-Day fellow nerds and geeks!

Nerdy things to be thankful for today...

Angry Birds Star Wars

Halo 4

Disney purchasing Lucasfilms guaranteeing the Star Wars franchise will live on...

Wizards of the Coast allowing us to play test D&D Next, thereby giving us a ray of hope that they won't completely fuck it up again.

The Big Bang Theory, making it hip to fix your glasses with duct tape.

Duct tape

Samsung making phones that allow us to skip standing in line for the next 'new' iPhone.

Cheetos and Mountain Dew (and the hope that someone will buy the rights to keep making Twinkies)

The first of three Hobbit films releasing in 21 days.

And last of all... The fact that I resisted buying the full sized version of the latest update to the WH40k rules... Games Workshop gets way too much of my money as it is!



Friday, November 16, 2012

Close Encounters Turns 35

The movie that thrilled and terrified and had us chasing dreams of Devil's Tower in Wyoming turns 35 today.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind opened on November 16, 1977 and aside from battling back and forth with Star Wars for awards (Close Encounters would go on to be nominated for eight Academy Awards), the movies nevertheless formed the seminal groundwork for the future and resurgence of science fiction cinema.

While I favored Star Wars in my youth over Close Encounters, Spielberg's movie still garnered a hell of a lot attention for a then 8-year old boy.  I remember being utterly fascinated at the brilliantly multi-colored spaceships that Richard Dreyfuss chased around in his company truck, and utterly freaked out when the spidery, long-limbed alien first came out of the mothership, even though it raised it's hands in welcome and peace.


 I still marvel at how Steven Spielburg worked so many awesome alien contact concepts into the movie.  From the abduction of 3-year old Barry from his home to the military cover up of close alien encounters that have been happening to growing obsessions of those 'chosen' by the aliens to meet with them at the summit of the iconic mountain, everything held us spellbound with the concept of peaceful otherwordly life showing up and inviting a select group of people to the party.  People abducted were returned (still the same age as when they left even decades ago), fake quarantines kept the public away from the coming alien appearance, Richard Dreyfuss became fascinated with his mashed potatoes while being sunburnt on one side as his family fell apart, and ice cream cone shaped spaceships few at tree top level along midwestern blue line highways.

Even better was that we never really saw the aliens in their spectacular ships.  Oh we got a dazzling backlit glimpse of some short, rubbery fellas without distinct facial features, but never a really good look at the little green (gray) men.  It all just added to the wonder of it all, and we so much wanted to be Roy as he was escorted alone to the mothership by a crowd of the visitors.

So Happy Birthday Close Encounters...and thanks for the five musical notes that will always remind us that we are most likely very not alone...