My ‘Game of Thrones’ S6 Wish List

Tyrion & Varys In Meereen

SPOILER WARNING: This post covers events up to and including the first episode of S6′s Game of Thrones ‘The Red Woman’. If you’re not caught up, you probably want to hop the next boat to Essos because there’s nothing ahead for you except spoilers and regret. You’ve been warned!

After what seemed like an unusually long hiatus (it wasn’t I just was going through GoT withdrawal), one of my favorite TV shows of all time has returned to HBO for season 6 – Game of Thrones. Last season was an amazing mix of drama and building suspense as we witnessed Daenerys evolving from conquerer to ruler, endured the horrors of Sansa Stark’s betrothal to Ramsay Bolton and witnessed the coming fight with the White Walkers and their undead army. I’ve never read any of the novels but that no longer seems to matter as the show has now caught up to the novels and as such, season 6 should be as much of a surprise to book readers as to the rest of us.

To say I’m excited for season 6 would be a massive understatement but this was also true for each of the previous seasons as well. Like any dedicated fan, I find myself hoping for specific plots to take focus or characters and places to be revealed on screen so I thought I’d put together a wish list of those plots, characters and places I’m longing to see in season 6.

Casterly Rock

Casterly Rock is the seat of power for the Lannister family, an impressive castle hewn out of solid rock on the western-most shores of Westeros. The books describe Casterly Rock as almost two leagues long from west to east, containing tunnels, dungeons, storerooms, barracks, halls, stables, stairways, courtyards, balconies, and gardens. It’s popularly believed to resemble a giant lion in repose when the setting sun strikes it. We’ve heard the Rock mentioned numerous times in the television series but we’ve never actually seen it yet.

In the novels, Casterly Rock sits atop one of Westerns’ most productive gold mines which helps account for the Lannister family’s enormous wealth. Due to its legendary status, it is said visitors to the Rock sometimes believe the entire fortress was constructed out of solid gold. Artists and fans have put forth their interpretations of Casterly Rock but I really want to see how the show’s creators depict the mythical home of Tyrion, Jamie, Cerise and Tywin Lannister. Hopefully we’ll finally get to visit this epic destination in season 6 of Game of Thrones.

Cerise’s Revenge

You know a series’ writing is top notch when it can take one of the most reviled villains in all of television and turn them into a protagonist. Such was the case last season with the evolution of the incestuous Queen Cersei Lannister. Things have not been going well for Cersei for several seasons but by the end of S5 I was squarely on her side. Between being locked in prison by religious fanatics, her humiliating atonement of being forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing, and watching two of her three children violently murdered, I’d say Cersei deserves some payback.

The Mountain carries Cerise to safety

When Cersei had Tyrion wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of King Jeoffery (her eldest son) back in S4, I didn’t think I could hate a fictional character more than I hated Cersei. But the winds of change blow quickly in Westeros and given how much delight others have taken in the physical and emotional torture of the Queen, I now find myself counting the minutes until she unleashes her new pet, the re-animated remains of The Mountain on her oppressors. I’d like nothing more than to see the High Sparrow and Septa Unella beaten to death with their beloved Bell of Shame. Fingers crossed!

The Long-Overdue Stark Reunion

Ever since the end of season 1, the House of Stark has been a poster child for familial tragedy. With the death of their father, Eddard Stark at the hands of King Joffrey, the Starks were split up across Westeros, torn apart by war, distance and circumstances beyond their control. In particular, the two sisters, Sansa and Arya have not seen each other in years, nor do they even know the other is still alive. We’ve all been waiting patiently for at least 2 of the surviving Starks to get an on-screen reunion but to be honest I’m not sure we ever will.

The premiere episode of season 6 presents us with a small glimmer of hope however as Brienne of Tarth arrives in time to save Sansa and her slave turned savior, Theon Grayjoy from Ramsay Bolton’s soldiers and vicious hounds. Brienne lays her sword at Sansa’s feet and pledges her life to protect and defend her, and Sansa gladly accepts her and Podrick’s service. I’m willing to bet good Lannister gold that the first order of business in episode 2 will be for Brienne to reveal to Sansa that Arya is still alive, or at least she was when she and Podrick encountered Arya on their way to the Eyrie.

Brienne pledges her service to Sansa Stark

Will this revelation set Sansa and company on the road to find her long, lost sister? Perhaps, but more likely they will continue north to Castle Black where they believe Sansa’s half-brother, Jon Snow is alive and ready to help them. Little do they know that Jon was betrayed by his fellow Knight’s Watch brothers and killed as a traitor just a few short hours ago. Then again, perhaps Jon will be alive (and well?) when they arrive, which brings me to the final item on my Game of Thrones wish list.

Zombie Jon Snow

So many Starks have bitten the dust over the course of six seasons, you would think losing the bastard son Jon Snow at the end of S5 would feel like a pin prick, but you’d be wrong. Deemed a traitor by the Knight’s Watch for going beyond the wall and attempting to work with and save the Wildlings from the evil White Walkers, Jon was stabbed over and over again and left for dead in the cold snow.

Fans of the book and TV series alike have all theorized that Jon isn’t actually dead however and that he may come back to “life” as either a minion of the Walkers or as a resurrected servant of the Lord of Light, courtesy of the Woman in Red, Melisandre. Personally I think the former theory would be much more fun and lead to some seriously cool scenes where Jon takes revenge on the Knights Watch members who betrayed him, including Ollie, but the later is much more likely. Jon has king’s blood in him you see and there was plenty of it left over in a big, strange puddle after Sir Davos recovered his body. Perhaps Melisandre can work her magic one last time and defrost Jon in time for Sansa’s arrival at Castle Black. Whatever the ultimate fate of Jon Snow, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing more of him very soon.

Hopefully at least some of these wishful predictions will come true in the weeks ahead as we journey through season 6 of Game of Thrones. If they do, I’ll be sure to update this post with all the relevant developments. The Stark Reunion is by far the least likely but I’m hopeful Cerise’s revenge will soon come to pass. No matter what happens, it’s going to be fun to watch!

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UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that several items from my wish list came to pass in last night’s ‘Home’. I was extremely happy to see Cerise’s revenge lumber into action as the re-animated Mountain squashed that dude who waved his junk at the Queen during Cersei’s Walk of Shame. It felt like a medieval Michael Meyers moment and I can’t wait to see who’s next.

As predicted, Brienne told Sansa about her encounter with Arya and also as predicted, the group (sans Theon) will continue onto Castle Black. Finally, we witnessed the anticipated resurrection of Jon Snow. Can’t wait to see the faces of Team Snow when Jon walks out of that room with Ghost at his side. ‘Home’ was a great second episode (giants flinging archers against walls… splat!) in what promises to be an incredible season. Can’t wait for more!

Animated Carl Sagan Radio Interview

If you follow me on Twitter or have frequented my blog then you probably know the late astronomer, Carl Sagan, is a personal hero of mine. It was in part thanks to him I became fascinated with science and outer space at a young age. His ground breaking PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage held me enraptured when it aired in 1980 and his books and writings like The Pale Blue Dot are among my all-time favorite.

I wish this brief radio interview from 1985 with Studs Terkel was longer, but regardless it’s wonderful to hear him expound on life in the cosmos, how science strives to uncover universal truths and how religion is tied to the history of our species. If you love Sagan, astronomy or just need a few minutes to take a break from the stress of the day, press play and check it out. You can also learn more about Sagan via the SciShow’s wonderful video tribute to him they recently produced. Great, starry stuff.

Super Tribes for iOS Walkthrough Plus Tips + Tricks

I’ve never actually done a video walkthrough of a mobile game before so this is new territory for me. As such, this review of the fun, turn-based iOS game Super Tribes is a bit longer than it probably should be but I’m still learning so go easy on me! My friend @Bigzaphod turned me onto Super Tribes and I’ve been playing it on and off for about a week. It’s really fun, light and doesn’t suck a huge amount of time which is perfect.

The best part about Super Tribes is that the game length is fixed to 30 individual turns which means a typical game can last anywhere from 20 minutes to about an hour and that’s it. You play against the AI, not other people or friends. Depending on your style of gaming this may be a plus or minus to you, but I personally enjoy it. There’s tons of stuff I didn’t cover in the walkthrough but what I do cover should be enough to get you up and exploring the flat, grid-shaped world of Super Tribes in no time.

The game is free to play in the App Store, but if you do try it and like it, I beg you to purchase at least one of the in-app tribe packs to help support the developer. Games of this quality take thousands of hours to design, produce, test and deploy and we want them to continue making them, they need to eat. That’s all I’m saying. Enjoy!

Thoughts on the Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3

Full disclosure: I own stock in Tesla Motors. Now you know!

Last week Elon Musk finally announced the long-awaited Tesla Model 3. The Model 3 is the final step in the company’s “Master Plan” to bring affordable electric vehicles to the masses and judging from the number of pre-orders I’d say it’s about to become a reality. There’s a lot to love about the Model 3 including a minimum driving distance of 215 miles on a single charge and a base starting price of $35,000.

There’s also many unknowns including how many of the over 250K pre-orders Tesla will convert into actual sales. With a promised delivery of somewhere around the “end of 2017″ it’s unclear if the government’s $7,500 EV tax credit will still apply to the Model 3 at the time of its release. The credit only covers the first 200,000 units of a given model which means some 53,000+ buyers may not be eligible. In addition, thanks to an anti-electric vehicle assault the Koch brothers plan to mount this year, the entire tax credit structure may not survive in Congress long enough for owners to take advantage of purchasing a Model 3.

Tesla Model 3 Interior'

I’ve read lots of strong opinions on the Model 3′s styling; from its strange lack of a front grill to the huge flat-panel display that seems overly distracting when sitting behind the wheel. The smooth nose I understand and I think I could get used to, but the large, center-mounted instrumentation panel does seem like a deal breaker, at least to me. I’m curious to see how the display looks when driving at night as well as how responsive it is to touch commands. The entire interior of the Model 3 seems overly minimalistic which isn’t necessarily a bad thing I just feel like I’ll be sitting inside Flynn’s home from TRON: Legacy.

Without a doubt the most appealing aspect of the Model 3 is its range of at least 215 miles on a single charge. Having owned a Ford C-MAX for almost a year now, which has a maximum distance of just over 24 miles on a charge, I can’t wait for the rest of the industry to catch up to Tesla. Whenever my car switches from EV mode to combustion I feel disheartened, like I’ve somehow let the environment down. Having the freedom to travel great distances without worrying about re-charging will be a huge selling point for Tesla and makes hybrid car owners like myself seriously consider it for their next vehicle.

Although I didn’t put a pre-order in for a Model 3, I am enthusiastic for those who did. The entire world will be watching to see if Tesla launches the Model 3 on time and on budget. Meanwhile, other companies like Nissan, Chevy and even Apple are eager to see where Elon Musk’s vision takes us all next. The company’s success or failure will undoubtedly influence the direction of sustainable transport around the world for decades to come. Personally, with the threat of climate change worsening day-by-day, I’m rooting for Tesla to succeed and drag us all into a cleaner, greener future whether we like like how it looks or not.

The Joy of Creation

I count myself fortunate that I have the ability to create. On any given day I create digital artwork in the form of icons, interfaces, logos, illustrations or even just doodles and I have a grand time doing it. I also enjoy whipping up culinary creations in the kitchen which is extremely satisfying to me since unlike most of my work, my food takes physical form (at least until it’s eaten :-) ). So I can only imagine what it must be like to be able to take a stack of wood and in the span of a few hours and create something as physically beautiful as the nightstand seen in this video.

Add to that the fact the woodworker has cleverly added a secret compartment into his design and you really have something special. Trust me and take a few minutes out of your busy day to just sit back and watch this table take joyous shape. Seeing the final product really is wonderful, it makes me wish I had taken wood working during my days at RIT.

Gif vs Jif: One Is My Name, The Other Is Not

Recently Apple released a new iPhone commercial and aside from the usual cool technology on display, the internet’s big take-a-way was that Apple came down on the side of the age-old debate of how to pronounce the image file format acronym Gif. According to Apple it’s pronounced with a hard G and that really surprised me. I realize the debate about what is “right” when it comes to Gif vs Jif will rage on for years, but Apple has a tendency towards respecting the rights and wishes of content creators and in this instance they have clearly failed.

Back in 2013, Steve Wichita, the creator of the Gif format supposedly settled the debate once and for all and told the world that the name is pronounced like the peanut butter. Regardless of how you personally feel about context or syntax or any other factor, Wichita’s wishes, at least to me, are the deciding factor.

I’m reminded of a scene early in Star Trek: The Next Generation when Dr. Pulaski pronounces Cmd. Data’s name incorrectly. Both pronunciations are technically correct, as is the case with Gif vs Jif (at least according to Webster’s Dictionary), but only ONE way represents Data’s actual name. When you choose to pronounce Gif with a hard G, you choose to disregard the wishes of the format’s creator, and that’s the main reason why I say Jif instead of Gif.

Lookback: The Best Gaming Mice of 2015

PC gaming is back with a vengeance and this means developers have churned out out some fantastically useful gaming accessories for players to enjoy. Making game controls faster and slicker are crucial to play feel and this past year’s range of top level gaming mice are the ideal accompaniment if you’re considering an immersive gaming experience.

Roccat Nyth

Roccat Myth Mouse

A slick mouse is a must-have for dedicated gamers, particularly those who multi-table or switch through online casino games or online slots at Royal Vegas. Never has a mouse allowed you to control as much as the Roccat Nyth. Thanks to its special selection of side buttons you are able to configure up to 36 potential combinations which gives more control over your favorite MMO’s or indeed any PC-based game you can enjoy. Its highly customisable features combined with AlienFX illumination and hot-swappable sidegrips makes this your next must-have gaming mouse.

Razer Naga Chroma

Razer Maga Chroma Mouse

It’s a bit more expensive than the Nyth but Razer’s Naga Chroma is great for those style hungry gamers looking for a bit of color in their lives. The mouse’s Chroma lighting allows the user to customize no less than 16.8 million different color options, brightening up any gaming experience. But it’s not just about looks, the wireless Naga mouse includes a tilt-click thumb grid and can run for up to 8 hours on a single charge.

Logitech G602

Logitech G602 Mouse

It may have a significantly low DPI at just 2,500 but what it lacks in mouse sensitivity it certainly makes up for in power. This offering from Logitech has in-game sensitivity switching and can last up to an incredible 250 hours making it the perfect gaming accessory for those avid gamers looking to make the most out of their MMO gaming marathons.

Roccat Kone XTD

Roccat Kone XTD Mouse

If you’re hunting around for a more cost effective option but don’t want to skimp on the quality of a finely crafted gaming mouse then look no further than the Roccat Kone XTD. With its ergonomic design and 8,200 DPI it’s by no means fragile and its robustness allows even the most frustrated player to give it a damn good tapping from time to time. It includes customizable buttons and also a 32-bit processor which is perfectly suitable for all your gaming needs.

If you love PC gaming, there’s never been a better time to invest in one of these high-tech input devices. Your team mates will thank you and your opponents will fear you. Enjoy!

Learning to Lighten Up

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Over the last few years I’ve developed a growing concern for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s seemingly inexorable slide towards Richard Dawkins levels of jerkdom. He hasn’t sunk to attacking children with a penchant for science or engineering, but he has been punching down at topics that either don’t bare close examination or has just been plain rude in his media appearances and it’s really starting to hurt my heart.

On a recent episode of NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me he justified why he feels the need to call out movies & TV shows when they depict something wildly inaccurate and came off as a smug know-it-all in the process. As I was listening with my wife in the car, I was actually embarrassed to call myself a fan. I get that picking apart science inaccuracies wherever they exist (even in fiction) may be Neil’s “thing” but it increasingly just makes him look petty & arrogant or as my friend John Gruber described it on Twitter, a “Killjoy”.

Tyson’s friend and mentor, the noted scientist Carl Sagan, also led the charge against scientific fallacies but unlike Neil, he never picked fights with science fiction or subjects that didn’t deserve it. Sagan had a famous beef with the pseduo-science of astrology and often railed against it, but he did so from a position of authority on a subject that many people saw as fact, instead of the fiction it really was. If Twitter had been around in Carl’s day, I doubt he would’ve felt compelled to nitpick the science behind Star Wars as Neil recently did. We all know the “science” behind Star Wars isn’t real, can’t we just enjoy it as the fun-filled escapmism it’s intended to be?

It’s always difficult when you realize your personal heroes have feet of clay just like everyone else. I still love Carl Sagan, Steve Jobs, Gene Roddenberry and Neil Tyson despite their character flaws. They are, after all, only human. In the recently re-booted Cosmos series, Neil tells us that he learned from Sagan not just what kind of scientist he wanted to be, but also what kind of person he wanted to be. I wish Neil would take more of those life lessons Carl conveyed to him to heart sometimes and focus on what matters. I love Tyson so much, but lately he’s really bringing me down. To take a cue from Star Wars, hopefully he’ll unlearn what he has learned and learn to simply lighten up.

It’s Not a Tumor!

Apple's new extended life battery case

Today Apple introduced their new iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case and I feel pretty confident in saying it’s easily the ugliest piece of industrial design to come out of Cupertino in the past 15 years. While their efforts to bring iPhone users extended battery life are laudable, for the life of me I can’t imagine how this clunky eyesore of a case got all the way through design to arrive in Apple’s product line up.

Even worse, it seems as though the design and engineering teams at Apple forgot to talk to each other because the new case seems like a perfect opportunity to make use of Apple’s much-touted terraced battery technology. When the new Macbook was introduced, Phil Schiller made a big deal (and rightfully so) about how every millimeter of space in the new Macbook was able to be used to expand the total battery capacity. But looking at the new Smart Phone case, it seems like all that incredible design research just went out the window. The bottom and top of the battery bumps on the new case could have been terraced to both maximize battery capacity and at least try and display some elegant lines instead of what we got.

terracebattery

There are times when, for the briefest of moments, lose faith that Apple knows exactly what they’re doing. It doesn’t happen often but there’s no doubt the new case is going to be the object of ridicule and rightly so. As I sit and ponder just how bad this case looks, I just can’t get Arnold’s hilarious line from Kindergarten Cop out of my head. Apple missed an important opportunity to tout new technology in a stunningly beautiful way.

Click Me. Just Once. The Answer To Annoying Click-Bait

These days click-bait is everywhere. Those oh-so-tempting headlines that promise amazing facts that will blow your mind and keep you in the know. Even the BBC, renowned throughout the world, and thought of as highly as the British royals themselves has fallen for the lure of the click-bait sirens. Yes the British Broadcasting Corporation is now producing content entitled a ‘certain amount of reasons we must do something’, trying their darndest to feed us “life hacks”.

We’re living in a world where even the Beeb are trying to capture us with cheap, over-egged headlines. It should come as no surprise that the main culprits lie with the likes of The Daily Mail and Buzzfeed however.

clickbait

You can hardly miss it, and one brand who has taken a stand is Ladbrokes Bingo. They’ve created a clever answer to click-bait with the Lingo Bingo generator to poke fun at the ridiculously over-the-top posts that are plaguing our collective web browsers.

Their headline generator allows users to generate Facebook, Daily Mail, Hollywood, Reddit and Buzzfeed titles with dozens of different headlines to choose from, putting to shame national newspapers and widely read sites with posts that are equally as unbelievable.

clickbait_headline

With titles such as ‘Lauren Goodger narrowly avoids torrential rain’, now you too can join the click-bait parade and openly mock the horrendous nature of stories hitting the web. And while ‘How to pick your nose like a pro’ remarkably hasn’t yet appeared on Buzzfeed, it feels right at home on Lingo Bingo.

It really is depressing how plagued the web has become with these kinds of fluff-filled headlines, but perhaps the most worrying part is we wouldn’t really be surprised if they actually hit the press or at least became the basis for Onion articles. At least for now we can take solace in fooling friends with our own home-grown click-bait shared via social media ourselves. After all, who wouldn’t want to catch all their followers with a finger up their nose?

How Modern Game Engines Are Improving Mobile Gaming

Batman_Arkham_Full

The widening selection of game creation tools available to mobile developers have come a long way in improving players’ experiences when gaming on the go. Game engines are special software frameworks designed to augment the strengths of modern gaming hardware and aid the rapid development and creation of new and exciting titles. Modern game engines contain all the necessary tools for developers to be able to create their kick-ass games more quickly and easier than ever before and the results have been impressive.

Thanks to the advent of smartphones, tablets, phablets and now wearables like Apple Watch, the monetary worth of the gaming industry is enjoying exponential growth. The mobile gaming market alone is predicted to hit $9 billion in 2016. The convenience of playing both casual games like mobile bingo, as well as pulse-pounding, hyper-realistic racing games have all helped the industry set new records. With the continual improvements of next-generation of gaming platforms and quality titles like Splatoon and The Witcher 3 to go with them, gamers are enjoying a bright future packed with high-quality titles from a host of publishers, and powerful engines are driving their success.

The Unreal Engine has long been a favorite among developers and has been responsible for helping to create such popular titles such as Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, Injustice, Borderlands Legends and the Infinity Blade series. To date, the Unreal Engine 3 has been installed on some 2.25 million computers worldwide and comes complete with an integrated Unreal Editor suite which has helped revolutionize the way developers build and develop their mobile game projects.

Plants vs Zombies title screen

For PopCap Games’ popular tower defense game Plants vs Zombies and OMGPop’s rather addictive mobile app Draw Something, the Marmalade SDK helped provide the facility and resources needed to create cross-platform C++ games.

The software development kit gives developers the ability to compile their Xcode and Visual Studio projects for Android or iOS which helps cut development costs while widening their potential audiences at the same time. Marmalade also provides an acceleration tool called Marmalade Quick which provides an even more flexible, open environment for developers to experiment with. This is particularly useful for those companies looking to get their games up, running and monetized more quickly.

Other game engines such as Unity can make 3D development a breeze whilst the Corona SDK helps solves issues of cross-content publishing giving developers more freedom to concentrate on other aspects of their games.

There’s little doubt that the modern state of game engine development now offers something for every type of game developer and this means more and more players are reaping the rewards. From casual to hard-core and everything in-between, these advanced tools in the hands of talented studios can only lead to every-higher quality mobile gaming experiences. What a great time to be a gamer!

A Good Day to Dye!

Star Trek's Worf in rainbow gay pride uniform

Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 decision struck down gay marriage bans in 14 states effectively making it legal for gay and lesbian couples to finally marry throughout the nation. The announcement sent ripples of rainbow-colored hope throughout the country and on social media. The hashtag #LoveWins quickly spread through Twitter and Facebook and people started updating their online avatars with the bright colors of the gay pride movement in a show of solidarity that I won’t soon forget.

I created the fun image above to help celebrate the historic announcement. Star Trek has always meant so very much to me, and like millions of others who grew up enjoying its themes of peace, diversity and tolerance, the image of proud, honorable Worf standing with his brightly colored rainbow uniform just seemed perfectly appropriate. I also love a good pun and hence I made it sew (see what I did there?).

On a more serious note, the momentous events of this week still have me in a hope-filled, optimistic daze. Obamacare being upheld for some 6 million Americans who rely on it for health insurance was much welcomed news but then the Supreme Court finally recognizing gay people’s right to marry was the proverbial icing on the cake. This has been a long, long time coming and there are some who didn’t think it would happen in their lifetime.

For opponents, the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage represents an unlawful power grab that defies the Constitution, but for the majority of the nation and the court, it represents just the opposite. The Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees that all US citizens are to be treated equally from state to state. Justice Kennedy’s closing paragraph stands as a pillar of legal and moral truth that gave me goose bumps when I read it:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

In their decision, the court didn’t construct a law giving gay people the right to marry, they simply struck down the state laws that were keeping Americans from being treated equally under the Constitution. They re-affirmed gays rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that the rest of us sometime take for granted. For the religious-minded among us, the court was reminding everyone of the age-old proverb, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Return kindness with kindness. Respect with respect and love with love. What a wonderful time to be an American. Today is indeed a good day to dye.

‘Fury Road’ Inspired LEGO Creations

Fury Road LEGO

I love it when a movie, TV show or book takes hold in someone enough to inspire fan creations. I was skeptical when I heard all of the hype surrounding the new Mad Max film, but my fears were quickly buried in an awesome heap of twisted metal once I saw the film. A strange mix of classic action and modern, diverse storytelling, Fury Road really did live up to my expectations.

The film has inspired tons of art from fans from all corners of the globe and now comes these amazing LEGO roadsters from build master Calin (_tiler). I love every single bit of these builds especially the simple lines and bits of canvas and string used for the bedroll. Be sure to check out their Flickr page for even more amazing Mad Max vehicles.

These images take me right back to how I felt when I first saw the Kenner’s Landspeeder toy. I would spend hours in the sand playing with that thing until my mom would be forced to call me in for supper. It’s great how something so simple and fun can evoke the child in all of us.

Via Brother’s Brick

Creating the Ultimate Gaming Lair

There’s a lot more to gaming then just having the latest game play systems. Surrounding your arena with a plethora of luxurious gadgets can give you that all important edge in the heat of battle. If you’re thinking of pimping up your gaming space, then have at a glance at some of these fabulous extras:

Gaming Chairs

gaming chair

To kick off your lair you will certainly need to be comfortable. If you’re planning on being seated at your desk for hours on end, and you regularly find yourself involved in some epic gaming adventures that you won’t want to tear yourself away from, then you owe it to your butt and your back to feel relaxed. A gaming chair that offers neck and back support is crucial for arduous sessions but it’s not just any chair, it’s your throne and an entire gaming accessory in itself. High-end gaming chairs not only provide comfort but also boast integrated surround sound and rumble motion to further enhance your gaming experience and truly immerse you in the gameplay.

Monitors

The most important element to consider whilst piecing together your new gaming man-cave is the monitor. You may have picked up a PC or console that comes complete with its own monitor but that might not quite fit the bill. A tailored gaming monitor can handle rapid motions more effectively whilst high definition screens are built to promote wonderfully vivid colors. Ultra HD and 4K monitors are the best of the best but make sure that your games, and of course your graphics card and GPU’s, can even handle this sort of resolution. Swift monitors can help you master fast-paced games and, if you partake regularly at Sky Casino, they can help you harness skills like poker multi-tabling.

Game Pads

gaming keypad

Gaming keypads offer a much more versatile approach to controlling the overall gaming experience. Unlike the standard PC gaming keyboards out there, these more specialized alternatives give players a more ergonomic way in which to play their favorite games. They come with adjustable features that let you control palm and wrist support and some will include thumb mounted joysticks to further comfort and maneuverability.

Headsets & Headphones

Headphones are useful for two different reasons; to help you immerse yourself fully in the gaming environment whilst blocking out background noise and to ensure you don’t drive everyone else around you mad with the constant rattle of virtual gunfire. Headsets also give you the ability to chat and interact with other online gamers via an attached and mounted microphone with wired and wireless options available. There are a number of great options available, so many that it can sometimes be difficult to choose.

Apple, Take Me Away!

LoyaltyTagsRight before the annual developer pilgrimage to Moscone Center, the interwebs become flush with wish lists for Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference and this year is no different. I can’t quibble with my peer’s desires for Apple to focus on fixing bugs and increasing stability rather than adding new and shiny features, but there is one tiny area I’m secretly hoping will play a major role in iOS 9 – Apple Pay Loyalty Programs.

Without a doubt, Apple Pay has been one of the best advancements out of Cupertino in the last 10 years. It makes paying for goods and services generally quicker, far more secure and reduces the amount of “stuff” I need to carry around in my pockets. When it was announced, Apple hinted at upcoming upgrades that would allow retailers to offer loyalty programs and incentives if people used Apple Pay at their retail locations. That was then, and this is now.

Although Tim Cook’s Apple Pay has made impressive in-roads in the space, many retailers have remained skeptical and have refused to join in the secure fun either because they are lazy, cost conscious or can’t get access to the kinds of information that Apple won’t make available via Apple Pay – customer data. Retailers currently have no way to say to Apple Pay customers “If you buy from us, we’ll give you loyalty points you can use for a future discount!” and that’s a problem. As a consumer, I desperately want to reward businesses that make my financial transactions more secure and I want them to recognize my choice by giving me the kinds of incentives I’ve come to enjoy over the years.

Like me, you probably carry around loyalty cards on your keyring or wallet that the cashier swipes when you check out at the grocery store. I hate these things desperately, they need to die a violent death. I absolutely love paying for my lunch via Apple Pay at Panera Bread, but I wince when I have to reach for my wallet to hand the cashier my Panera card just so I can get credit towards next month’s free cookie. It makes no sense.

If there’s any single thing on my wish list for this year’s WWDC, it would be for Apple to give me the ability to never have to carry loyalty/reward cards around ever again. With Apple Pay, Cupertino has made good on its original Passbook promise – A safe, secure and digital wallet without the physical wallet. I’m really hoping that they’ve found a way to integrate loyalty programs into Apple Pay for iOS 9. Doing so is good for the consumer, for businesses and ultimately the economy as paying for stuff electronically gets easier and more secure. Now if I could just get rid of my car’s key fob. Maybe one day.

UPDATE: BINGO! At today’s WWDC keynote address Apple unveiled that they will be adding merchant rewards cards to Apple Pay with iOS 9. Yes Virginia, sometimes dreams do come true!

You Will Adapt Your User Interfaces to Service Us!

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Everywhere you look, more and more people feel they are entitled to something they’re not. I and others have written about the obscene level of entitlement some users feel is owed them when they download apps from the App Store, and to be sure this is still a huge problem today. Lately however, I’ve been observing another form of app entitlement and honestly, it has got to stop – iPhone 6 Plus users who think all interfaces should be designed to both fit their jumbo phones AND still allow one-handed use.

When Apple introduced the iPhone 6 Plus and it’s enormous 5.5″ screen, it clearly filled a much-needed gap in the iOS universe. Users had been clamoring for more screen real estate for years and when it finally arrived, they rejoiced. Over time however, these users have developed a sense of entitlement that the apps they run should place all controls at or near the bottom of the screen where they can be reached by the thumb. Sorry, but like Captain Picard in First Contact, I’m drawing a line in the proverbial sand. No, iPhone 6 Plus users don’t get to dictate interface design for the rest of us.

Like it or not, buttons at the top of the screen are not going away any time soon. Developers need every bit of screen real estate to logically lay out controls consistently across a host of device ranges and configurations. From the tiny iPhone 4 to the popular iPhone 6 and the iPad there’s a method to our madness. It might seem like a great idea if every single button, tab, actionable element and control were within thumb’s reach, but that simply isn’t possible, nor is it actually desirable.

When Apple developed iOS, the experts charged with designing its interface laid out regions of the iOS screen for specific interactions. Since the entire navigation stack generally flows from left (where you were) to right (where you are going), the button for closing or going back a level is at the upper left. Creation of new content or taking action on that content, like adding a calendar event or sending an email or a tweet, is usually found at the upper right. Tab controls can be either at the top or the bottom, though generally they are usually found at the bottom. In this way, a user who picks up an iPhone 4 has a reasonable expectation that similar types of controls will appear in similar places when she picks up an iPhone 6 Plus. This helps maintain usability and UI consistency for all apps, not just those that run on jumbo phones.

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There are ways that developers can help facilitate one-handed use when it’s appropriate. The swipe to go back gesture is a great innovation Apple introduced back in iOS 7 and is a thumb-saver on larger phones. Many apps no longer require you to reach up and tap “Back” to go back, you can simply swipe from the left edge of the screen to navigate back one level. Apple also implemented Reachability (double tap the Home button to lower the entire screen temporarily) to help reach interface elements at or near the top of the screen. But for some users, these gestures are simply not enough. The thing they forget is that by opting for a large device they gained a huge, highly readable screen but they also sacrificed some level of UI convenience. iPad users have been dealing with this trade-off for years, that’s the nature of the beast, like it or not.

When I first heard about the rumored existence of the iPhone 6 Plus and its huge screen, I wondered how Apple would reconcile its long-held tenet that one-handed use reigned supreme with that of it’s upcoming larger device. Apple even built an entire marketing campaign around the advantages of smaller iPhones vs their larger Android counterparts. But when the Plus was released, Apple quickly abandoned that philosophy in order to sell millions of 6 and 6 Plus’. Funny how that happened.

The problem with these users is that they often think like the Borg – they want the best of both worlds – larger screens and an interface that lets them use every app one-handed. As someone who designs for the screen, I’m here to tell them that until humans evolve longer thumbs that simply isn’t possible. At some point (iOS 10?) Apple may come up with a completely new interface paradigm for iOS, but in the meantime it’s best if they start dealing with reality. Whether it’s assimilating Starfleet personnel or playing with your apps, sometimes you just need to use two hands.

Four Innovations I love in Gaming

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A lot of times, particularly where technology is concerned, we’re so focused on the future that we forget to enjoy the present. With ridiculously capable laptops, tablets, and smartphones at our disposal, many are looking ahead with hope to Iron Man-style hologram displays. With powerful cars setting new standards for safety and efficiency, we’re seeing advertisements for driverless vehicles. And in gaming, many seem to be turning their focus toward wearable, virtual reality options that will no doubt be widely available in a matter of years—not decades.

That’s all well and good, but as a bit of a gaming nut, I like to focus more on the present and what I can play today. Furthermore, there have been some pretty great innovations—some small, others large—throughout the gaming industry in the past few years. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed in particular.

The Spread Of Open World

Open world gaming is nothing new, but the concept has exploded in popularity over the past couple of years. A decade or two ago, a video game employing an open world format felt unique and special. For example, pretty much the only thing that made Skyrim remarkable (in my opinion) was the sheer size of its world. Well, now it’s just about the standard for action and adventure games. Look through this list of the 12 best open world games, and you’ll find a lot of releases from the past couple of years, such as Far Cry 3 and Grand Theft Auto V. To some extent, the concept has even extended to mobile platforms, with Minecraft Pocket Edition now offering a limitless world creative option!

Narrative Gaming

Narrative gaming is nothing new on the console level, other than that it’s gotten better. Not long ago, it was a common complaint among gamers when a game attempted to be too cinematic in nature, but that’s because it was usually done via interspersed, non-playable graphic clips used to move the story along. This is still a problem in some titles, but generally speaking most now have natural, free-flowing narratives that make them more interesting. Even in sports games, “My Player” and “My Career” modes let you play out the story of an athlete or franchise. The trend toward sharper narratives is also particularly prevalent in app gaming, where indie developers like Simogo focus as much on story as action. In my view, this is a positive trend.

Live Dealing & Interaction

This is a trend that exists primarily in the casino gaming industry. Given that this industry now occupies a significant portion of the video game business as a whole, it still feels noteworthy. Live interaction is nothing new. The best online casino sites allow players to face live competition, and even some of the popular poker and blackjack apps, most of which operate with play money, allow for live online games. But one fascinating trend that I first noticed here is the idea of using an actual video feed of a live dealer in roulette and card games. Naturally, this concept makes the games feel a great deal more realistic. While there’s not an obvious parallel in non-casino gaming, the implications of using a live feed in gaming are interesting. One can imagine in-game video chats with other players, Google Maps feeds of real geographical areas, etc. helping to make other games more realistic.

Retro Appreciation

And finally there’s this, my single favorite trend in modern gaming. As mentioned, we have a tendency to always look forward when it comes to technology. But thanks in large part to new-ish formats of gaming, such as mobile app stores and console download stores, there seems to be a broad recognition of retro games going on. In part, we see it through the continuation of old, beloved franchises, with the most relevant example being the coming Street Fighter V PS4 game from Capcom. But mostly, the retro appreciation is seen in apps and downloads. On modern consoles, players have access to huge libraries of old games, either for free or for just a few dollars. In app stores, we can play with all kinds of old characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat fighters, and so on. According to ZDNet, we may even soon have a Mario game or two available on iPhones! This is a trend any serious gamer can get behind.

Valar Morghulis – The Return of Game of Thrones

The new season of Game of Thrones premiers on HBO in just 8 days, on April 12th, and I simply cannot wait. Season 4 was my favorite so far and with the introduction of new characters like the Sand Snakes and Alexander Siddig as Prince Doran Martell, I firmly believe season 5 will be even better. I eagerly await catching up with all my favorite characters, visiting new locations and enjoying the memorable iconic phrases highlighted in this wonderful GoT supercut. Winter is coming, my friends!

Mr. Spock and I

So many wonderful things have already been written about Leonard Nimoy on his passing this week. I’ve been awash in stories about his life, his contributions to our popular culture and his humanity, but I keep coming back to what he’s meant to me these many years.

I could write a book about Leonard’s portrayal of Mr. Spock but I’ve decided to record my thoughts in audio form instead. Just a couple minutes to try and summarize why I loved him so much, on saying goodbye and an amazing, chance encounter I had with Nimoy as a teenager, growing up in New England. This life-long fan will miss him dearly.