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Reviews Written by
Thomas Duff "Duffbert" (Portland, OR United States)
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Brick Flicks: 60 Iconic Movie Scenes and Posters to Make From LEGO
Brick Flicks: 60 Iconic Movie Scenes and Posters to Make From LEGO
by Warren Elsmore
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.87
27 used & new from CDN$ 9.46

5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible display of creativity and photography..., Jan. 25 2015
If you like to see creativity on display with LEGO, Brick Flicks: 60 Iconic Movie Scenes and Posters to Make From LEGO by Warren Elsmore is a treat. I've been friends with Warren and his wife Teresa for years, and I've enjoyed watching them take their love of LEGO from a hobby to a business. This book is one of the latest outcomes of that work, and it's a fascinating look at what can be done with LEGO.

Brick Flicks takes 60 movie scenes and recreates them using regular LEGO pieces. It covers a range of genres, such as sci-fi and horror, drama and classics, action and adventure, and comedy and musicals. Each scene has a write-up about the movie and the LEGO recreation, along with (in many cases) the still image that the scene was created from. Interspersed throughout the book are instructions on how to build some of the smaller props, such as Elliot's back from ET and the neuralizer from Men In Black. To be clear, this does not come with instructions on how to build each scene. That is something you'd have to figure out on your own if you're so inclined.

Two things stand out in Brick Flicks. The first is the extreme creativity in what you can do with LEGO. Warren and Teresa can build just about anything, and they have a full knowledge of all the LEGO pieces and how they can be purposed. The other thing is the photography. In short, it is stunning. The lighting, the angles, the shadows... it's all incredible.

I loved Brick Flicks, and I continue to be amazed at what can be done with those little pieces of plastic.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

Saint Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel
Saint Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saying good-bye to an old friend..., Jan. 24 2015
I have enjoyed the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz over the years. It's retained all of its charm and quirkiness without any of the misses that have happened in some of Koontz's other books. Saint Odd is the last one of the series, and it lived up to my expectations. My only sadness is that there will never be any more installments.

In this, the eight episode, Odd comes back to Pico Mundo, knowing that it will be the end of his life. He's not sure how or why, just that it will be. The occult group that's been trying to kill him is hot on his trail, and Odd foresees another mass killing (on an enormous scale) if he can't stop it. Using his psychic gifts, he is drawn to the people who will be involved, but he has to figure out what it is that they will try to execute. It's a race to see what will happen first... the catastophe that he feels is coming, or his own death.

The thing that makes Dean Koontz so much fun to read is his ability to write great dialogue with wonderful characters. I think Odd Thomas is the best in that area. The self-deprecating humor, the ability to just go with his gifts even if he can't always understand and control them, and his ability to relate to others in his world. I knew the book would end in a way I wouldn't enjoy, but only because I figured Koontz would tie things up in a way that they couldn't be reopened. He does, but it's played out in just about the only way that would make sense.

Goodbye to an old friend... you were well loved.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

Soundsoul E10 Noise-isolating Sport In-ear Headphones (black)
Soundsoul E10 Noise-isolating Sport In-ear Headphones (black)

5.0 out of 5 stars Good quality/price combination..., Jan. 18 2015
The Soundsoul noise-isolating headphones are a great option for the money. I've been trying them out lately, and I like them far better than normal Apple earbuds.

I think what I like best is the curled wires that help support the earbuds while they're in use. The wires fit over the top of the ears, and it helps to take some of the gravitational pull off the earbuds. They also help to angle the earbuds for the ear canal, and it makes them very comfortable during use.

For sound quality, they're pretty good. They do isolate outside sound very well, and they have good sound over the full range. There's also very little bleed-through in terms of people being able to hear what you're listening to, so that's a positive. :)

This is a hard-to-beat combination of sound quality and price in a set of headphones. And if you need them for workouts, the over-the-ear wires make them perfect.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Vendor
Payment: Free

Polaroid Cube HD 1080p Lifestyle Action Video Camera w/Built-In Rechargeable Battery for up to 90 Minutes Recording - Weatherproof, Shockproof & Mountable - 124° Wide Angle Lens (Black)
Polaroid Cube HD 1080p Lifestyle Action Video Camera w/Built-In Rechargeable Battery for up to 90 Minutes Recording - Weatherproof, Shockproof & Mountable - 124° Wide Angle Lens (Black)
Offered by Canadian Shoppe
Price: CDN$ 99.99
5 used & new from CDN$ 99.99

4.0 out of 5 stars It's not a Go-Pro, but it works..., Jan. 18 2015
I got the opportunity to check out and play with the Polaroid Cube video camera this last week. It's an interesting device at this price point, but it's definitely not a Go-Pro.

Unboxing

The packaging is simple and easy to open (once you find the tape holding the clear plastic package closed). You should pay attention when you unbox the camera, as the bottom plastic has a metal plate underneath it. The magnet on the bottom of the camera snaps onto it nicely. I chose to save this piece of the packaging as it makes a nice little stand for the camera.

Camera

The camera itself is simple, compact, light, and easy to move around. The included USB cable is disappointing as it is only 3 inches in length, which is not ideal for connection to my computer. Fortunately it is standard micro-USB, and I have plenty of those laying around.

The back cover easily locks into place and unscrews to access the USB port, SD slot, and the selector for 720 vs. 1080 recording.

One aspect of the camera that I don't care for is the controls. There is one button on the camera, and you have to remember the various actions to do different things... hold for 3 seconds to turn on, click for photo, double click for video, etc. It seems easy to mess up.

The pictures and videos I took were decent quality, and I love the field of vision that the camera has when recording.

I love the magnet on the bottom of the camera, as it lets you drop and stick it on any magnetic surface which is nice.

A negative - there is NO WAY to see what you are shooting short of setting it up, taking a picture or video, transferring it to the computer, adjusting, and resetting. With other cameras like GoPro you can use an app to connect to the camera, see what the camera sees, and adjust on the go for the best angles even while you are wearing it.

Overall this is a decent camera with a plethora of mounting options available. It doesn't seem like the camera is mounted so securely in them for extreme sports, though. I don't know why the mount attachments don't take advantage of the magnet on the bottom of the camera for extra stability. I would consider this an entry model in the POV / wearable camera range. It is missing some features, but for the price you can get some decent pictures and videos with it, and it seems like a fun toy to play with.

Bottom line, it's no GoPro but it works.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Vendor
Payment: Free

Skiva Apple Certified 2600mAh Ultra Portable External Battery Pack with built-in Lightning and microUSB Connectors for Apple and Android Devices (Powervault Lightning A2600)
Skiva Apple Certified 2600mAh Ultra Portable External Battery Pack with built-in Lightning and microUSB Connectors for Apple and Android Devices (Powervault Lightning A2600)
Offered by dealkings
Price: CDN$ 72.40
2 used & new from CDN$ 64.00

5.0 out of 5 stars I love the design of this charger..., Jan. 17 2015
The Skiva PowerVault Lightning A2600 battery pack is a pretty cool design. This would be perfect for someone using an iPhone 5/5S/5C or a device that needed a micro-USB cable. I love the fact that you can get rid of extra cables.

The charger is four inches long and about an inch thick, which means it's not much larger than the regular "lipstick tube" chargers you tend to see in the 2600mAh range. At that power level, I'd get nearly a full charge on my iPhone 5S, but I'd only end up with about 50% charge on my iPhone 6 Plus. I like the fact that they have four LED lights to give you an idea as to how much power is left, and whether you need to recharge it before use.

The key design here is the fact that it has a micro-USB and a lightning connector cord built into the device. The micro-USB cord fits into a recessed area in the base of the unit, and stretches about an inch away from the charger. The lightning plug is built into the cap that protects the regular USB plug you'd use to recharge it. The braided cord connecting the cap to the charger gives you about three inches of distance to work with.

The cap design is pretty cool, but it does have a bit of a drawback. If your phone has a case with thicker edges (like my UAG case), you'd need to take your case off in order for the lightning connector to make full contact with the port. If you want to use this with a case, you'll pretty much need to have a case that is very thin (like a silicone cover).

If the lightning connector had about a quarter inch more clearing, this would be absolutely perfect. Even with that, it's a nice unit to have stashed away in case you forget your cords.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Vendor
Payment: Free

12mp Low Glow LTL Acorn 5210a Stealth Trail Scouting Deer Hunting Game Spy Wildlife Camouflage Infrared Digital Video Camera 940nm Blue Led
12mp Low Glow LTL Acorn 5210a Stealth Trail Scouting Deer Hunting Game Spy Wildlife Camouflage Infrared Digital Video Camera 940nm Blue Led
Offered by StuntCams Canada
Price: CDN$ 233.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Very flexible on how it shoots and records motion..., Jan. 17 2015
I'm liking this LTL Acorn 5210a scouting camera a lot when it comes to keeping an eye on certain areas at home. It's easy to set up and operate, and it takes good pictures and videos in a number of conditions.

The main selling point on this camera is the motion-activated operation. The combination of the side and front sensors picks up motion in a wide angle range, and the side sensors trigger the camera to be prepped for the front sensor to trigger and fire. Provided the animal isn't running through the field of vision, it leads to good shots. If the animal *is* running, you may end up with an empty shot or just the hind end due to the triggering speed. In my experience, it was pretty good in catching the activity, though.

I liked how I could choose both still pictures and videos to be taken when triggered. For pictures, you can set it to take one, two, or three images, as well as how long to wait before another set is taken (anywhere from one second to 60 minutes). You can also set the length of the video that's taken when triggered (1 second to 60 seconds). Depending on the size of the SD card you have in the camera, this configurability should work out well. You can also set it in time-lapse mode to track changes in the field of view over a period of time. Very flexible.

The image/video quality was excellent. The low-light black and white worked very well, and the daylight color images were crisp. The 12 megapixel images work out well for this type of activity, and there was nothing to complain about here.

There were only two things I thought could have been better. The extra battery pack (to extend shooting time) has two clips that are fragile. I snapped one off already, but fortunately it was on the side where the slotted edge will stay on without the clamp. I'd like to see those a bit more robust. The unit was also not very watertight, which is something I'd want if I were going to be using it outdoors in an exposed area. I'd probably end up trying to rig some sort of plastic bag over the unit if it was going to be exposed to rain.

Overall, this is a nice camera to have around if you want to know what happens in an area when you're not around.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Vendor
Payment: Free

Quarantine
Quarantine
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Great concept, but lost a bit in execution..., Jan. 11 2015
This review is from: Quarantine (Kindle Edition)
I was hoping for something a bit more when I decided to read Quarantine by Greg Egan. The concept was excellent, and it started off well. But in the end, it descended into technical explanations that ruined the story for me. Those who are less into story and more into "thinking" might love it, however.

The basics of the story work for me. In the future, you can download your brain to live online, and that's a big business. The story revolves around a private investigator who has to figure out the disappearance of a mentally disabled lady. She has the ability to escape from seemingly secure holding areas, and that means she's found a way to manipulate the concept of parallel universes. This has to do with the ability to collapse universes that have spawned as part of all the billions of possibilities that could happen with every choice that someone makes.

Egan does a good job of playing with the Schroedinger's Cat situation... at what point does your observation become the reality that you see and that actually happened. The only problem I had is that too much of the story ended up devolving into theory related to that angle. For those who want to think deeply about that scenario, this would be a good read. For those who are more interested in the story line, it slowed dramatically at that point, and I could have done with less of that.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

Inateck® 2.4GHZ Red Laser Wireless Pointer Control Powerpoint Presentation Remote Control Clicker Presenter Pen, Cordless Powerpoint Slide Changer for Presentations - Remote Control Range: Up to 20m, Black
Inateck® 2.4GHZ Red Laser Wireless Pointer Control Powerpoint Presentation Remote Control Clicker Presenter Pen, Cordless Powerpoint Slide Changer for Presentations - Remote Control Range: Up to 20m, Black
Offered by InateckOfficial
Price: CDN$ 24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy and comfortable to use..., Jan. 1 2015
I pretty much require a wireless laser pointer when I present, as I don't like to be tied to a computer to advance slides. The Inateck wireless laser pointer is a good choice, and I like how it operates and feels in my hand.

It's slightly less than 5.5" long, and it lies nicely in the palm of my hand with the thumb over the controls. The buttons are flush with the surface, and located at the top end of the device. The three main buttons on the top are Page Up, Laser, and Page Down. Holding down the Page Up button will trigger the equivalent of Play/Escape, while holding down the Page Down button will black out the screen. It didn't take long for me to learn the sequences and make them automatic when I'm speaking.

There are two switches, one on each side, that aren't as important to use on a regular basis (which makes the placement ideal). The left side switch is for turning it on and off. The right side is a multi-function rocker switch. Pushing it forward selects a hyperlink on the screen, and holding it down allows you to switch between active windows. Rocking it back opens a hyperlink, and holding it down closes the active window. Those are not functions I use often, so I'm happy with them not being on the top of the unit where my thumb would be most active.

I love the design of how they store the wireless USB dongle in the laser pointer. It's a given you'll lose one that's just floating around, but this dongle slides into a slot in the bottom of the pointer. You can easily remove it for use, and then click it back in when you're done. Voilà, no missing wireless dongles!

If you're looking for a good remote presentation device, this would be a great selection.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Vendor
Payment: Free

Deadline (A Virgil Flowers Novel, Book 8)
Deadline (A Virgil Flowers Novel, Book 8)
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Never took off like I thought it would..., Dec 21 2014
John Sandford's latest Virgil Flowers novel, Deadline, didn't capture me quite as much as others in the series. I'm not exactly sure what it was that kept me from getting into the story that deeply. I think it was a combination of two plots that didn't interact much in conjunction with a fair amount of dead time in the stories.

Flowers ends up in a small town in Minnesota to look into a missing dog situation called in by one of his friends. He figures this will be one of those "in and out" cases where he can't do much of anything. But it does appear like there's some organized dog-napping going on, and the worth of the dogs could make it a felony. While he's poking around, Lucas Davenport calls him to start looking at a dead body that was found in the same area. Flowers starts getting some bad vibes from a number of the townspeople, and it looks like people are willing to go to great lengths to cover up certain activities.

One of the reasons I like the Flowers novels is his attitude and dialogue. That was present here, so I didn't dislike Deadline. But I kept waiting for either of the plot lines to kick into high gear and get me totally absorbed into the story, and it never happened. I felt like this could have been trimmed by a third and it would have read much better.

If not for the Virgil Flowers character, this would have been a meh. Flowers bailed it out.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

Ready Player One
Ready Player One
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I read this year..., Dec 21 2014
This review is from: Ready Player One (Kindle Edition)
I'm really surprised I had never heard of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline with all the reading I do. I like the cyberpunk genre, and this falls squarely in that category. A friend of mine had asked for reading recommendations, and this book was repeatedly suggested. Bottom line, it was excellent.

The year is 2044, and the world is in chaos. About the only thing that makes it bearable is OASIS... a virtual world (think Second Life on steroids) that is an obsession with nearly everyone. Wade Watts, the main character, is a teenager who basically lives in OASIS like most of his friends. The creator of OASIS, James Halliday, was an eccentric personality who was stuck in the culture of the '80s. When he dies, he sets up an online treasure hunt in OASIS, leaving his fortune (and the ownership of OASIS) to whoever can find three keys and gates hidden away in the virtual world. Gunters, those who devote all their time to solving the puzzle, have spent years looking for clues but to no avail. That is, until Wade, aka Parzival, inadvertently discovers the first key and starts a life-and-death battle for the fortune and future of OASIS.

This book was wonderful in so many ways. For those of us who grew up in the 80's, this is a continual flashback to those times. TV shows, movies, music, and video games of that era all figure prominently in the story. The author's creation of OASIS is perfectly executed, using a mix of existing tech and plausible fantasy/technology to make it believable in a cyberpunk way. He also goes beyond the technology to establish characters that have feelings and emotions that they have to sort through as part of the adventure and conflict. I quickly got absorbed into the story and had a hard time putting it down each night.

I would *highly* recommend this book for a number of audiences... cyberpunk, near-future earth sci-fi, techie, even young adult (since the main characters are of that age). It's a great story, excellent plot, and a great "blast from the past" when it comes to reliving the 80's.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Vendor
Payment: Free

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