Icewind Dale Port

icewind dale for ios

I’m playing the Icewind Dale port on my iPad right now. While it’s not a perfect port — not everything works well with a touchscreen, and the instructions still ask you to hit a letter key to toggle different AI scripts — some things have held up very well over the last 10+ years.

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Blog Book Tour: Purgatory Origins

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In Purgatory Origins: Powers of Darkness, archeology professor Harrison Standish, is investigating an Egyptian tomb, and discovers a set of messages, not consistent with when the chamber was supposedly sealed, and strange half-human skeletons. While he’s investigating the skeletons, he hears reports bout the same kind of bizarre half-human, half-wolf creatures running wild in Wyoming, and of course, the professor has to investigate. He finds much, much more than he could have expected.

This book is a fast-paced adventure, with many different plotlines and characters. Some characters lean a bit towards thriller archetypes, but Dedicated Investigative Reporter and Evil Nazi Scientist appear in so many thrillers for a reason, and Olsen does a good job differentiating each character and giving them their own motivations. Readers will stay invested in different plotlines thoughout this novel, and will be surprised in the ways the different storylines connect. Not everything is resolved at the end of the novel, leaving an opening for the next novel in the Purgatory series.

 Darryl Olsen is also the author of Children of the Gods.

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I received a copy of this book from Whirlwind Virtual Book Tours for review.

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DNF: Driving’s Not Fun

So I’m giving up on a second audiobook, Blackberry Winter. It’s not awful, like my previous audio DNF, just flat characters doing predictable things, with a dash of melodrama. Also there were some weird moments where I couldn’t quite picture what was happening. How can Abby be pointing, eating a forkful of pad thai, and opening a folder? Is she secretly an octopus? How can Ethan step away from Cassandra so that she can’t hear his phone conversation and yet still be so close she can be feeding him? For that matter, how can Claire see him through a doorway, when he can’t see her?

It’s underwhelming, but at the same time, it’s not really worse than plenty of the books I’ve contentedly read in other situations. It’s nowhere near as bad as some of the books I’ve been assigned to review. I’m not enjoying it, so it’s going back to the library tomorrow, and hopefully my next find will be a better fit.

I don’t know if I’m not very good at picking audiobooks, or if I just enjoy the act of reading so much that I’m already happy and I’m not so harsh on novels. I don’t particularly enjoy driving (Understatement. Actually, I deeply hate it. Driving is annoying, stupid, expensive, and environmentally wasteful, but I just haven’t been able to convince my entire company to move into my building), so I’m already not enjoying myself.

Anyway, suggestions for audiobooks would be greatly appreciated! Books I’ve enjoyed listening to include The InterestingsGame of Thrones, Hunger Games, Chasing Harry Winston, Citizen Girl, and Baker Towers.

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From Clippings to the Cloud with Recifoto

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ReciFoto was described to me as the secret lovechild of Instagram and handwritten, old recipes. Those are both things I like, so I had to check it out.

holiday punch from recifotoUsers can add recipes by scanning or photographing recipes from handwritten index cards, magazines, old church cookbooks or other sources. You can also see other people’s recipes. Like every other social startup, this app is only as good as the community involved, and so far, there’s gorgeous food photography, classic magazine clippings and archived family recipes all available for browsing, liking, and commenting. One way to use Recifoto is just to scroll through an endless stream of recipes and food photos for inspiration. It’s nice, especially with all the holiday baking going on, to just enjoy all the treats other people have cooked and see how they’ve styled their plates. (Let’s be honest, haven’t we all fallen for a recipe with simple or everyday in the title, and then discovered the prep calls for an immersion blender, nutmeg grater and a Madeline pan?)

Browsing seems to the main use of Recifoto. The search function is greatly limited by dozens of users all calling different recipes by the same name, and since the recipes are images, not text, it’s difficult to find which fudge contains condensed milk. Recipes can be tagged, but, again, this facilitates browsing more than searching. Searching for a hashtag is only useful if the poster happened to tag a recipe with the term that the searcher is thinking about… instead, it’s easier to stumble upon an interesting hashtag, and browse recipes sharing that tag.

One of many tasty fudge recipes.

One of many, many tasty fudge recipes.

Users of Recifoto can publicly or privately share recipes, so users can also scan and save family recipes, either to share with family members or just to have stored safely where nothing can spill on them.

I’ve collected quite a few women’s guild, temple sisterhood, and community cookbooks from used bookshops  (These are amazing historical and regional primary sources, with little notes about how everyone always loves Connie’s Christmas cooks or that Dorothy O never has any leftovers with this recipe. Sometimes there are even handwritten notes! Plus, yummy food.), and it was great to see others sharing my weird love of self-pubbed community cookbooks.

I added a Catherine Newman recipe to my Recifoto, by basically screenshotting her recipe page and adding that image. (She’s blogging now at Ben And Birdy. Hey, remember when she used to blog at Dalai Mama? And it was banned in China? And I had to use a proxy to illegally read stories about Ben getting a haircut or about fall coming to Amherst? That was awesome.) I kind of love her recipes, because they’re all pickles from scratch or roasted chickpeas and so forth, and they all use the kind of equipment that I actually own.

I made it private, though, because Recifoto makes it so easy to share recipes onto social networks or to pin the image, which is good for recipe index cards and so forth, but I think it’s a bit shady to steal things off people’s blogs.

The Recifoto app is free, but monetizes on an in-app purchase that permits users to add publicly shared recipes to a personal collection.  The free version still permits users to save and share recipes, as well as to like and comment on other recipes, in this recipe social network.

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Seventy-Five Rings

high school story

Gamer students are available to join your school in High School Story, but they cost premium currency. And girl gamers cost more, of course!

gamer girl epic party

 

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Status: It’s Complicated

My work is starting to decorate for Christmas. Most (maybe all?) of the Jewish staff happen to work in my room, so naturally we were joking around about putting up a menorah or a Hanukkah Bush.

“I didn’t know you were Jewish,” another coworker said to me.

“Oh, yeah,” I said, “well, my dad being a pastor tends to throw people off.”

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Things I’m Not Good At: Television

Coworker: Do you watch The Walking Dead?

Me: No. I heard there’s blood, yelling, and ignored children in it, so I can’t.

Other coworker: So Game of Thrones is right out for you, then.

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On Air

on air

At Work.

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Instagrammar

Instagrammar – (n.) Communication entirely or largely through hashtagged words.

Usage: Check out my #new #word Instagrammar! #OED #Dictionary2.0 #improvingtheEnglishlanguage #WOTD

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Open Source for Digital Creativity

Recent story on OpenSource about my work:

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Youth Digital just moved into their new offices, tucked away in a nondescript office park in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s a big step up from their humble beginnings, when company founder and director Justin Richards hauled a laptop to his students’ houses, tutoring them on web and graphic design. Their first office was barely more than a closet, and now they have an expansive space complete with conference rooms, recording studio space, and their own 3D printer.

Teaching kids about graphic design and programming without using open source software would be prohibitively expensive. As I learned during my visit to the studio’s new office, cost isn’t the only reason why Richards and his team use open source tools. The freedom of creating custom application packages for their students and the opportunity to improve the software that they use means that everyone learns with the same easy-to-use technology. It doesn’t matter whether they’re sitting in a classroom in Chapel Hill or tuning in to Youth Digital’s online courses halfway around the world.

via Open source tools help kids discover digital creativity

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Hello Kitty Bottlecap

hello kitty bottlecapOne of my best discoveries at Richmond Comic Con.

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Berry Chat With Blabcake

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Walking Thumbs’ new Blabcake Messenger App lets users chat with their friends using expressive animations and cute interactions. This social app is often described as emoji chat, but actually users have cute berry avatars. Individual Berries can be personalized with color, hair and mood, and they can be customized by adding clothes and accessories, so each Berry is unique.

blabcake

Avatar customization with Blabcake’s Berry

Chatters can animate their berries, with a variety of actions, from emotional reactions (a broken heart, a sleepy face, or an angry scowl, among others) Users can interact with the friends’ Berries too, by sending them hugs, blowing flower petals, smiling at each other, or other friendly interactions. Or turning their friends into animals or cupcakes, whatever. They can express not-so-friendly emotions too, but even the table-flipping sequence is pretty cute.

blabcake custom

Obviously this is what I would look like as a Berry.

The app is geared for tweens and young teens, and with so many cute sunglasses and hairstyles, it’s clear that BlabCake is primarily aimed at girls in this age range. But did you notice that the logo is not pink? Yeah, it’s not pink!

Like any social app, it’s only as safe as the chatters using it. I mean, tweens COULD be talking about overthrowing the government next to their adorable lil Berry avatars. But the provided content in the app, the accessories and animations, is fun and tween appropriate.

Walking Thumbs’ new Blabcake Messenger App is available free for iOs and for Android mobile devices. And, it’s actually free, since users can use wifi instead of data or SMS. The app doesn’t yet have any premium blabbery yet, but I think it’s safe to guess that the app will monetize on paid upgrades of premium adorable blab art, like seasonal decorations and Berry accessories.

app logoFinally, the logo for Blabcake is not pink. Yes, it’s entirely possible to make something cute and tweeny without defaulting to Mattel pink. I mean, I knew that I had strong feelings about this, but didn’t realize just how much I was predisposed to like this app simply because the logo and branding wasn’t pink. Blabcake is an example of brand art for a tween-girl targeted product that is unashamedly cute and sweet, without falling into the usual pink-it-and-shrink-it trap.

Features:

  • Free Texting With Your Friends
  • Eye-popping Animated Messages
  • Group Chat
  • Physically Interact Via Smartphone Sensors
  • Vivid Full-Screen Animations
  • Notifications When Friends Interact With Your Berry
  • Totally Customizable Berry Avatars
  • 23 Different Animated Moods
  • Tons of Berry Accessories
  • Colorful Themes, Chat Bubbles & Berry Floors
  • Share Photos

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This post is brought to you in partnership with Walking Thumbs, because I am an expert on cuteness and on making apps for girls without pink logos.

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Happy All The Time

Happy All The TimeHappy All The Time by Laurie Colvin tells the story of Guido and Vincent, third cousins and best friends, and of Holly and Misty, the two women they eventually meet and marry. Character-driven stories are great, even better if the book’s really all about personal relationships.  It’s not only romantic relationships, one of the most delightful minor arcs is between hardworking Misty and the wealthy dilettante who owns the company and indulges his whims in managing her department.

The novel is all about people interacting with each other. There’s almost no tension in this book, mostly we watch people going about their lives and making the sort of minor choices that lead to larger outcomes, and understanding or misunderstanding each other. The tone reminded me of a Maeve Binchy novel, if all the characters were wealthy Manhattanites, that is.

I love stories about developed characters and personal relationships, and in this novel, there was almost no plot to distract from the personalities in the book. Instead of tension and drama with manufactured arguments and reconciliations, this was just a gentle rumination on why we fall for the people we love, and how relationships grow and change.

Happy All The Time is hardly a dramatic page-turner, but it’s still really hard to put it down.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher to review.


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#wheretowatch’s Most Memorable Movie Moments

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Entertainment startup WhereToWatch has compiled this video of memorable movie and TV moments… I’m a little embarrassed to tell you I only recognized about half of these, but you’ll probably recognize all of them.

(If you’re reading this via feedreader, you can watch the video here to see how many you recognize.)

wheretowatchWhere to Watch is a new site allowing users find a simple (and legal) way to watch a show or movie, whether that way is getting a ticket to a local movie theater, physically renting a at a kiosk, or watching on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, or about a thousand other distribution channels I’ve never heard about. You can also set an alert to be notified when programmes you like becomes available the way you want to watch it.

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Posted in partnership with WhereToWatch. Because, let’s be honest, I’m pretty interested in lazy ways to watch good shows. 

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Felix Felicis

“Have you ever taken it, sir?” asked Michael Corner with great interest.
“Twice in my life,” said Slughorn. “Once when I was twenty-four, once when I was fifty-seven. Two tablespoonfuls taken with breakfast. Two perfect days.”

We’re hiring a new summer camp director at work, and he was being introduced around, and asking what everyone does, and when it came to me, I said I teach app design in the studio, I work with our online students creating and curating game and tech news for our internal community, and I work with our parent community on social media, which means creating content, amplifying positive user-generated content and minimizing any negative feedback.

And when I finished saying that, I was thinking, YEAH, that is exactly what I should be doing! And I seriously haven’t felt like this since, I don’t know, maybe at Next Island before some of the complete craziness went down? I’m doing good things! interesting things! that have meaning! and things I am good at doing! and things that match who I really am on the inside!

I felt really happy and I want to remember this and what it feels like to be contented and happy, instead of realizing later, oh I really liked writing for that outlet or that team used to be really good. I tend to only really recognize a good situation in retrospect.

And then I left work early to work on editing essays for Checkpoint, and I’ve gotten such good pieces, and the ratio of mass-mailed form letters and mistargeted garbage to thoughtful essays is finally tipping the way I want. And some of these pieces are from friends that I’m just delighted to work with again, and some are from strangers so I didn’t even have to beg them for submissions. So, there’s that.

I was pretty tired (I’ve not been sleeping terribly well recently, and I am not great at life when I need rest), so I was considering just heading home to bed, but I didn’t want to miss the game theory after hours at the science museum in Durham. This is more like something I’d do in Brooklyn, and seriously going out is much harder here where everything involves driving and navigating and parking, and, oh, let’s be honest, once I figure out how to get to whatever event, it’s kind of a sad mini-version of what I miss in New York, which is terribly depressing and makes me wish I’d stayed in with a book.

Not this time! We went to the science museum after closing, and joined all the other adults drinking beers and playing with the science museum exhibits and game demos all around the exhibit halls. It reminded me of IndieCade East last year, and I mean the interactive museum space and playful spirit and the crowd in general, not the part where that blizzard kept half the attendees away.

Then Harold and I got PBRs and went to a science classroom for a lecture on game theory. The professor used really clear examples where it was all arithmetic you could do in your head to follow the principles, and there were a couple of demo games to illustrate points, including Two Card Poker (from a custom-made Women In STEM deck, naturally) and a game where you try to guess two-thirds of the average of everyone’s guess. I’m a level 2.5 reasoner, which is, a level 2 reasoning plus a little variance for the Fabrice Effect. I mean, it was a self-selecting group of people who wanted to go to a game theory lesson, so there probably wouldn’t be that one friend who doesn’t quite get it, but on the other hand, PBR was $2.

I looked down at my two cards, and the plastic denarii for betting, and my PBR, and I actually felt good. Oh, ok this was worth driving around Durham. This isn’t a sad little version of a Brooklyn evening, this is a pretty nice time anywhere.

Then I went home and slept a good sleep.

denarii

Two-Card Poker, Denarii, and PBR

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