Category Archives: Review

Bedtime Stories for Cynics is absolutely Checking Out

I mentioned in an earlier post that  Amazon added Audible Channels as a Prime Membership Benefit, and as soon as I signed up, I started exploring the channels. Sure, there are a lot of podcasts in the channels, but I really wanted to explore the Audible Originals.

I immediately found a gem, it’s Bedtime Stories for Cynics, Presented by Nick Offerman.

When I see or hear Nick Offerman, I can’t help but picture his Nick-Offermancharacter on Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson, and his voice and style in Bedtime Stories for Cynics matches perfectly. I love the lines near the end of the introduction “If our language offends you, then you are a child. Congratulations, you have your whole life ahead of you, don’t F**** it up.”

The first story is “Todd the Dragon Slayer”, read by Lewis Black. I don’t know who was in charge of picking out who does the reading, but Lewis Black was perfect. After listening to the story, I realized that it would probably be a good idea for me to see if he’s ready anything else. I hope he comes back for more.

Of course, you can tell that I highly suggest checking it out. To locate it, start the Audible app on your device, then open the menu, and choose Channels > Browse All Channels (you may have to select the “Featured” Tab to see Browse all channels) > Audible Originals, and you should see a banner for “Bedtime Stories for Cynics”.

Great Website for Book Reviews–Good Reads

The other day I wrote about the Coldfire Trilogy, and was thinking about some of the other great books I’ve read, and I realized that I should take a look through my bookshelf on goodreads and see which other great books I would recommend.

Then I realized that not everyone in the world knows about Good Reads. I need to fix that, well, at least for whoever reads this article.

Goodreads is the self described “largest site for readers and book recommendations”, and their mission is to “help people find and share books they love”. As of this writing, there are 30 Million members.

Goodreads has quickly become my go to site for looking up book info. Along with the website, they also have a mobile app. Here are the two biggest reasons that I love them:

Good Reads makes it easy to find what series a book is in, and what’s next.

I’ve always had issues finding what series a book falls in, and what order I should read the books in. Good reads takes care of that. Just look up the book you want, in this example I’ll use “Black Sun Rising” by C.S. Friedman.

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As you can see, it’s the first book in the list, and directly below it is the series it’s in. In this case, I’m going to click on the book.

The title of the book is followed by the series name in parenthesis.

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The best part? It’s a hyperlink to the series’ page. Just click on it.

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The screenshot above shows that “Dominion” is book .5 in the series (a prequel), then “Black Sun Rising” and after that there’s two German language versions, followed by “When True Night Falls”, which is book 2.

The only bad part about this is that at the time of this writing, it doesn’t work on the Android version of the app. I don’t know about the IOS version.

Goodreads makes it easy to keep track of what you want to read

In the screenshot above, you can see that each book has a “Want to Read” button next to it. If you have already read a book, you can mark it as “Read”, and the button will be labeled accordingly.

However, marking it as “Want to Read” will put in on your to-read shelf, which you can sort in the order that you would like to read things.

Way more reasons than this

There are many, many reasons to love GoodReads. For example:

  • you can “Friend” people, and see what they think of books, as well as what’s on their list.
  • Each book has a list on it’s page of books that “Readers also enjoyed”. I’ve found quite a few great books from those lists.
  • When you mark a book as “Read” it goes onto a list of books you’ve read. Every need to find the name of that book that was so  good? It’s on that list.
  • There are a huge number of lists of books, such as “The best of epic fantasy”. It’s easy to see what lists a particular book is on, and then find other great stuff there too.
  • Discussion groups, book clubs, the list goes on and on.

Really, check them out.

The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman

Not too long ago, someone who enjoyed fantasy asked me for a book recommendation, and immediately the Coldfire Trilogy came to mind.

These have to be one of my absolute favorite series of books.

The series seems to take place in your standard magical type of fantasy world, and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by letting you in on this, but what really happened was that mankind left earth, and ended up on the planet  Erna, where thoughts are unknowingly shaping the planet’s energy, creating what we think about.

This may sound great, but all of the popular monster stories that we’re told start creating the monsters that used to be fictional. The use of machinery becomes impossible, because worrying that it won’t work, makes it not work. Thinking that your gun may backfire, makes it backfire.

Mankind is reduced to using only the simple tools that our minds can easily grasp, swords, axes, saws, etc.

The planet was colonized 1200 years before the stories start, and our origins have been forgotten, and mankind has just continued on with their lives. The end result is the medieval world of swords and sorcery that is the backdrop for the story.

My wife was never into reading Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but I talked her into giving these books a try. Now she’s hooked and she pretty much only reads fantasy now. If you like that type of stuff, I really suggest you check them out.

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What I didn’t realize until I wrote this post is that there is a prequel story. It looks like at Amazon it’s only on Kindle, and right now it’s $1.99. The main series was released between 1991 and 1995, but this prequel was released in 2011.

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The first book is “Black Sun Rising”, it’s available on Amazon here in kindle format, as well as paperback and audiobook.

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The second book is “When True Night Falls”, available here on Amazon in the same formats.

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The third book is “Crown of Shadows”, available here on Amazon in the same formats.

C.S. Friedman’s page about the Coldfire Trilogy has some really nice summaries, and you can also read the really long Wikipedia article about the series.

Compare two files on Windows for free with WinMerge

So you want to compare file differences on a Windows computer, and don’t have anything installed yet? Let me introduce you to WinMerge, a sweet, free application that does just that. It will compare files, let you edit those files, and merge the two. Trust me, it beats the pants off of Windiff.

I did a quick run through of the easy install here if you’re curious to see it.

Here’s a brief rundown of what it can do.

Explorer integration

By default, WinMerge includes explorer integration, which I think is great. No looking for icons, just find the file you want to work on, right click, and choose “WinMerge”.

If you select one file, right click and choose “WinMerge” from the menu, it will open up a dialog to find out what you want to compare it to. After all, it’s not much use comparing a file with nothing. Here’s a shot of WinMerge on the right click context menu.

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And a shot of the dialog if you only selected one. This is pretty handy if the files are in separate locations.

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What if I select two files?

If there are two files selected, right click, and choose WinMerge from the menu, then WinMerge will open up with a side by side comparison.

What if the files are the same?

The example files I used were identical, and when I opened them using this method, I received this handy message:

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How does it look when comparing files?

I made a change to my example files, and it automatically highlights the changed line, with the change in a different color (click on image to see a full sized version.

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If there’s a whole slew of changes, then it highlights them as expected, with a handy location pane that shows the length of the file and where changes are located. (click on the image to see the full sized version.

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Has some nice navigation options, as well as merge options. You can copy individual lines, or entire files, from left to right, or vice versa. You can also edit either or both files from the windows.

If you exit before a save, you’re prompted to save either, both, or neither file.

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I like it, it’s free, straightforward, and it just plain works. Good job guys!

Z Nation Episode 01 – My two cents

So the first  episode of Z Natione, titled “Puppies and Kittens” has now aired, and we’ve had a chance to see what the show is all about.

If you’re like me, you probably have a alert set up, or maybe have read a review or two. To make it short and sweet, I liked it. Quite a bit actually.

If you’re familiar with SyFy’s other TV Shows and movies, the effects aren’t always the best. A TV series just simply doesn’t have the budget of a big screen movie, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m willing to forgive quite a bit along those lines, and being a fan of Eureka and Warehouse 13, I was expecting the effects to be a bit off.

That being said, I thought it was pretty well done. I only had a few problems with the episode, and I’ll elaborate on that after the spoiler warning.

I’m going to discuss specifics about the first episode below. If you haven’t seen the episode, you’re going to spoil it for yourself. You’ve been warned!

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The Walking Dead Vs. Z Nation

Many of the reviews that I’ve been reading are making it out like Z Nation in in a competition with The Walking Dead. OK, they are the same genre, but is there really only room on TV for one show about Zombies? Of course not. If a genre is popular, there can be all sorts of shows, look at crime or medical dramas these days, how many of those are on TV?

Yes, the popularity of The Walking Dead most definitely paved the way for more Zombie shows, but Zombie media has been around for a very long time, and although it hasn’t been in the mainstream, it’s had it’s following.

Let’s judge the show for it’s own merits and shortcomings. Personally, I welcome anything that brings more Zombies onto the TV.

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Zombie Law

Craig Engler, a co-creator / writer / co-executive producer for Z Nation did a “Ask me Anything” on reddit, and he was asked about the rules for his Zombies.

We’ve only seen this one episode, and right now the zombies all seem pretty darn fast. Like “28 days later” fast. Craig said that the rule is that the fresher a zombie  is, the faster they are. After a Zombie has been around for awhile, they slow down.

This is kind of a foreign concept for some, but it’s zombie behavior that I’ve started noticing in some books, and I whole heartedly approve.

In most of the popular zombie works, the cause of the dead rising is a virus. The virus based theories follow the premise that the body is being reanimated, and controlled by a virus which solely wants to replicate to other hosts, driving the zombies to hunger flesh (or brains).

If a virus is reanimating the body, you would think that the body would be most capable right after death. Once things start rotting, and tightening up, the zombie would slow down.

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Dormant Zombies

This one threw some for a loop too, in the scene, some survivors come upon some “dead” bodies floating in the lake. We are then shown more of the lake, and it’s just chock full of floaters, all appear to be dead.

Then one zombie opens it’s eye’s, and that’s all she wrote. All of the zombies get up and give chase, killing everyone, and overrunning the survivor camp.

If memory serves me correctly, I believe that Max Brook’s “World War Z” (the book, not the movie) was the first place I saw this behavior. The zombies are perpetually in a state of search and destroy. They travel around until they find something they want to pursue and eat. Once they catch it, they keep searching.

However, if a zombie becomes trapped, or some other way immobilized, say buried, or locked in a closet, they go into a sleep state. It conserves energy, and doesn’t move. Once there’s some stimulus that the zombie notices, it goes back to its normal behavior.

In this case, maybe the zombies get tossed into the lake somehow. They aren’t coordinated enough to swim, they don’t sink enough to walk on the bottom, eventually they figure out that they can’t do anything, so they just go to sleep.

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Baby Zombie

Me no likey baby zombie. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with a baby becoming a zombie,, my problem is a baby becoming a super zombie. Suddenly, a baby that can’t walk is able to run all over the place willy nilly. A small human who is still working on soft mushy foods can suddenly rip into human flesh. Sorry, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief that much.

Conclusion

Even if I didn’t like the first episode, I would still be watching, at least for a couple of more episodes. As it turns out, I really did like it, and I’m looking forward to seeing more. I’m not planning on writing a review of each and every episode, but I thought I should at least write my impressions of the first one. We’ll see about the rest.

All photos courtesy of SYFY’s Z Nation Web site Give it a visit, they have lots more!