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I'll be playtesting Gremlins In Space at #Strategicon

A week from Friday, I'm heading to the LAX Hilton for Strategicon, a really great local board game convention. For the first time, I'll be running sessions, where I'm going to try to lure people in to play Gremlins In Space.

I've shown bits and pieces here, but I think it's ready for the public to have at it. If you're in the Los Angeles area and like board games, come join us. If you're doing, please sign up for my play tests, it'll be so embarassing if I'm sitting there alone.

Gremlins In Space is a light co-op game, 1-4 players, plays in about 30 minutes. We're trying to get some art ready for the prototype boxes (and trying to get the prototypes ready). I'm looking forward to this.

There's also a Game Jam on Saturday, create a game in a very short time. I hope I get put in a good team!

Posted on August 24, 2015, 10:05 pm
Last updated on August 24, 2015, 10:13 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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Ant-Man, Kinda weird, a little silly, lots of fun!

I saw Ant-Man this morning. I loved it. It's very different from other more recent Marvel movies.

In the Cold War, Hank Pym and his wife Janet worked with SHIELD as Ant-Man and the Wasp. The Wasp sacrificed herself to get into a rogue nuclear missle, shrinking too far and sliping into a quatum universe. Hank abandoned super hero work, trying to find some way to get Janet back - and refused to give SHIELD and Howard Stark the secret of his size changing technology.

Jump forward to today. Hank's old assistant has almost recreated the technology. Hank needs a thief. And Scott Lang was just let out of prison...

There's something inherently silly about a superhero who shrinks, and the movie doesn't ignore that. On the other hand, there are great fight sequences that show that yes, Ant-Man is a true super-hero. Unlike the other heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scott needs training to know how to use the shrinking suit - and it doesn't come that easily.

But he learns. He has an epic fight with The Falcon, and then the main fight is on. Heroics and severe ass-kicking takes place. And you'll never look at Thomas the Tank Engine again - but the fights are still deadly and a sense of real threat.

Scott does have some sidekicks, and I think the movie would've been stronger without them. But given the decision to include them, the sidekicks step up well.

There are two extra scenes in the credits (one in the middle, one after credits) that are must sees. It's pretty clear that Ant-Man will be in Captain America: Civil War, and will be on Team Cap

If you're looking for a serious drama, this isn't it. But if you want fun and some real heroics, you want to see this movie.

Posted on July 17, 2015, 9:05 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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The End Of All Things by John @Scalzi

The latest book of John Scalzi's epic Old Man's War series comes out on August 11th: The End of All Things. But it was released as four eBooks this past month, and I've enjoyed it tremdously.

First, as much as I've enjoyed it, this books should NOT be your introduction to this series. The prior book, The Human Division, ended on a cliffhanger and The End Of All Things picks up after it. At a minimum, you really want to read The Human Division first. It's also good, and for a short time the eBook versions are on sale for $3.99. Make sure you get the full Human Division - it also was released serially so some eBook stores may still have the separate parts.

I think the Human Division will get you into the series well enough. If you want to do it right, you should first read the initial book, Old Man's War. There are three books between OMW and HD (Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, and Zoe's Tale) but Human Division picks up pretty well. And personal opinion, the middle books aren't my favorites. They aren't bad books, just not the sort of book I like to read many times.

I'm not sure what I can say without giving out a bunch of spoilers, or trying to recap five books without spoiling any of them. Briefly, the epic is about the Colonial Union, who governs, protects, and expands a number of human colonies in a universe filled with unfriendly aliens (some given good reason to be unfriendly). The Colonial Union builds its armies by recruiting 75 year old men and women from Earth and putting them into young genetically modified bodies. Old Man's War covers the early career of John Perry. The Colonial Union has been doing this for 200 years, and other than 3/4 of all soldiers dying, it works pretty well. But in the Last Colony, things go wrong. The Human Division is about the Colonial Union having to shift to diplomacy, and a hidden group causing trouble. The End of All Things is the fight with the no-longer hidden group.

Why do I love this series? First, I find the world fascinating and well thought out. Actions have consequences, even if those actions take a while. And even more, I love the characters.

Harry Wilson, in HD and EoaT, is a Colonial Defense Forces soldier who left Earth on the same ship as John Perry. He can fight and he's good at it - but he's more at ease dealing with tech, and he's been assigned to a diplomatic team as a technical advisor and trainer. I like his attitude - he takes his job serious, but not life. Ode Abumwe is a Colonial Union Ambassador who doesn't seem to like people that much - but there are layers, and she's good at her job. Hafte Sorvalh is an alien who is a troubleshooter for the head of the Conclave.  And a new major character is Rafe Daquin, who starts as a pilot and becomes a brain in a box controlling a ship - but he's a smart brain in a box.

These are all clever people solving problems, and solving them in unusual ways. (Other problems pop up that are unusual, so that's important.)

I really enjoyed the four parts of End of All Things and I'm looking forward to the final compiled book (with a few extras). I listen to audiobooks more than I read these days, and this is going to be great.

 

 

Posted on July 5, 2015, 4:12 pm
Last updated on July 5, 2015, 4:23 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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How Apple Screwed Up Audiobooks on iOS 8.4

When I got my first iOS device, an iPad 2, the audiobook support was great. Recognized chapters in the Audio Books showing chapter names, really good. Then an update came, and no more chapters, audiobooks hidden away Music App. Every change seemed to hide it a bit more, but you could modify the tab bar and put audiobooks there where it was easily acceptable.

Then shipped 8.4 which completely and utterly fucked it all up.

Understand, I'm not much of a music listener. Oh, I've got a music library, mostly folk and classic rock, plus some humor bits. I'll sometimes use the iTunes Genius Mix if I'm in the mood. But I'm not in the mood very often, I far prefer audiobooks. I've got audiobooks playing pretty much non-stop. (My audiobook library is the reason I got a 64 GB iPhone and wish I'd gotten 128B.) So Apple Music holds no interest to me. Fine, fine, not every Apple customer is like me, I'm probably in a fairly small minority. Still no excuse in ruining Audiobook playback under 8.4

First, audiobooks were moved to iBooks. On my iPhone, I usually have iBooks hidden in a folder. But launching Music did bring up an alert saying it had been moved so I could get there in one click the first time. Half point for the alert.

Entering it, it listed all my eBooks (a few PDFs I'd downloaded to it for easy viewing), all my books I've bought on my iPad (and should you happen to click on the right side of a line for one, it downloads them it), plus the audiobooks. AAAARRGGH. This SUCKS! This is going to be so annoying! Minus 10 out of 10 points for this.

After some poking around, I did see that there's something called collections available in a popdown menu. I've never used collections in iBooks on my iPad or my iPhone, but it segregates my library into lists. One of them is Audiobooks. I choose that, and we're back to my list of audiobooks I've wanted. Yippee! I'll give them back 8 of those points. Some sort of tutorial or notice (Music knew I played audiobooks so told me to go to iBooks, iBooks could have seen all those audiobooks and warned me) would give back another point. But a tab bar is so much better than a popdown menu. So much more visible. No tab bar, losing at least one point.

So I have my audiobook, start one playing. Looks like it does recognize chapter breaks - but not chapter titles, apparently. Half point for that.

Then I click back to the list of audiobooks - and playback STOPS. Stops dead. And no indication of which audiobook I was in the middle of listening to. WTF?

This is completely unacceptable. Not even a little bit acceptable. There's no warning that the itsy bitsy back arrow (which should be larger, but on the list of problems in this disaster, insignificant) that it stops playback. This means that you can't look to see what other audiobooks you have in the series, can't listen while reading, and particularly I can't look at one of my PDFs without stopping playback.

This makes audiobook playing on iOS 8.4 a 0 out of 10. 0 stars, Steaming piece of crap.

How to solve this? An audiobook player as a separte app. If you want to put it in the app store and have iBooks handle it if the separate app is not installed, that's cool. 

Posted on June 30, 2015, 10:02 am

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon


I support the ACA. But the SCOTUS got it wrong

I like the ACA. I wish it went farther to actually be a single payer plan.

But the SCOTUS was wrong.

The text in the ACA was clear. Income-based subsidies were to be provided to citizens using exchanges established by the states. I'm guessing they expected every state would create its own exchange, but only 16 states did. If the writers of the law realized that most states wouldn't establish their own exchange, would they have changed that language? Probably. The intent was to provide subsidies to all who needed them. But that's not the wording.

Roberts called the phrase at issue "ambiguous". It's not. It's very clear. He says himself, the "most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase" would only give subsidies to those using state establed exchanges. It's only ambiguous if you believe the only acceptable outcome is to keep the ACA going and so you have to work backwards from there.

Judges are to rule based on the text of the laws, only go to intent if the text is unclear or contradictory. This set a precedent that allows judges to rewrite legislation to "fix" it. And that's a VERY dangerous precedent.

I'm glad the ACA lives. I think we're going to regret this decision in the future.

Posted on June 25, 2015, 8:56 am

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon


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