One Breath, a tragic tale of free diving by Adam Skolnick

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Free diving holds a special terror for me. I've lost two friends to abalone diving, here in Northern California, and while strenuous and dangerous, it doesn't hold a candle to competitive free diving. Adam Skolnick's One Breath tells the tale of Nick Mevoli, a superstar whose death put the sport on trial.

Mevoli in 2013 was a rising star in the world of competitive free diving. His entrance in Vertical Blue, free divings version of Mavericks, was highly anticipated. Mevoli was expected to shatter records, instead he died. Skolnick does an amazing job of showing you the forces, internally and externally, that drove Mevoli to his tragic end.

One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits by Adam Skolnick via Amazon Read the rest

Better than the movie? LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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The folks who make these trailers are awfully clever. You can pre-order the game via Amazon. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens via Amazon Read the rest

The Orbee-Tuff Snoop, a treat filled dog toy

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During the rainy season I a always looking for new toys to entertain my Cavalier King Charles, Pretzel. The Orbee-Tuff Snoop is a simple, clean and easy toy that buys me 30-45 minutes of fascinated with something other than me time.

Snack filled puzzle toys tend to make a lot of noise. Not so with the Snoop, it is made of a soft rubber compound that doesn't rattle and bang when knocked around, and survives the dogs tearing at it. Simply pop the Snoop inside out, load it with some kibble, turn it it rightside out and let the dog have at it. Pretzel bats it around and then pins it.

This toy will not withstand deep interest from my Great Pyrenees, Nemo. It is perfect for 15-30lb dogs. I do worry about giving her too much food, and she tends towards the sausage shape, so I reduce her meal time kibble to allow for these kinds of toys.

Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Snoop Treat Dispensing Dog Toys via Amazon Read the rest

Z Burbia, a novel by Jake Bible

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The first novel in Jake Bible's series Z Burbia hooked me. What appeared to be a jokey take on zombie fiction quickly develops some great characters and story.

Jason "Long Pork" Stanford and his family live in a small community outside Asheville, NC. They've used the local geography and their HOA to secure the housing complex and have spent several years keeping things together. Their insular policies and strict adherence to the CC&Rs of Whispering Pines, their home, have kept them alive in the face of bandits, cannibals and of course hordes of zombies. Sadly, things are about to fall apart.

I've enjoyed the characters, Bible has an ability to write little about folks, while not having them be cartoons. The plot, once you get past the condo association stuff, is rather standard Zombie fare, but I'm very much looking forward to the rest of his series. I got the first and second books via Kindle Unlimited.

Z-Burbia by Jake Bible via Amazon Read the rest

Home, a dystopian adventure by Tom Abrahams

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Tom Abrahams' Home introduces us to a prepper nightmare. His vision of life in a post-plague America is worse than I'd imagined.

Former military expert and super prepper Battle has spent the last few years doing nothing but readying his 50 acres, wife and son for the impending doom of society. He has years of supplies, all the guns and ammo you could want, a special mineral rights deal with someone to supply never ending power to his fortress, he thought of every contingency! Sadly, his wife lets a plague ridden neighbor in for some tea.

Battle has to cope with this odd failure, while pretty much kicking the shit out of everything that gets even remotely intrudes on his home. While completely out of his control, Battle is fueled by this failure and sets out to save a stranger's son from an unknown fate. A lot of bullets fly, people get killed.

The action, motivations and organization of post-plague, Cartel run America felt right to me. Bad guys are not so cut and dry bad, unless they are at the very top, and the evolution of post-collapse society painted a scarily realistic picture. I'm looking forward to seeing where Abrahams takes this story next, and if the fallible prepper, Mr. Battle grows.

Home: A Post Apocalyptic/Dystopian Adventure (The Traveler Book 1) via Amazon Read the rest

My favorite super glue: Gorilla Super Glue Gel

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Gel-based super glue is much easier to use than regular super glue, because it's thick and easier to control. You can apply a dab to a vertical surface without having it drip. It's also slightly tacky to begin with, which helps to keep parts stick together without holding them. And because it's thicker, it works well on porous surfaces, like the ones on this elephant coffee creamer that one of our cats broke. I've had the same tube of Gorilla Super Glue Gel for years. I've used it dozens of times, there's a lot left, and it shows no sign of drying up. A 15g bottle is just $5.80 on Amazon. Read the rest

Hell's Super, a novel by Mark Cain

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In Hell's Super, Steve is hell's superintendent. Working with his assistant, the damned Orson Welles, there is an unending list of problems to be solved, but nothing can ever be fixed! It is Hell, after all!

Existence is pretty humdrum until Flo comes to the underworld. Flo is a force of good, who comes to hell to help ease the suffering. Something is certainly kindling between them, can there be love in Hell?

Can Steve use duct tape to hold everything together, including his love life?

Hell's Super (Circles In Hell Book 1) by Mark Cain via Amazon (free via Kindle Unlimited) Read the rest

The RAVPower 16750 mAh portable charger

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I've gone through a lot of portable USB charging batteries. My current favorite is this model by RAVPower.

I love these batteries for keeping my iPhone going in both music, and GPS mode, over long motorcycle rides. By GPS I mean Waze, and Waze is a pig when it comes to battery power! Even with the screen off, and giving only audio cues via bluetooth, that app drains power. I'll also charge the helmet audio system up whenever I stop for coffee,a meal or to stretch my legs.

Two 2.4A smart sockets can full speed charge two tablets at once. The 16750 mAh capacity will charge an iPhone back up 6 or so times, or keep just it running for 2-3 days of heavy use while riding. It does take a good 3-5 hrs to charge this brick back up, so make sure to plug it in before you go to sleep.

The flashlight on these batteries is just a farkle, but one that can come in handy.

RAVPower 16750mAh Portable Charger Most Powerful 4.5A Output External Battery with iSmart Technology via Amazon Read the rest

Kraut makers delight! A $9 cabbage shredder

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Xeni got me addicted to making my own kraut. Life has me addicted to specialized kitchen tools. Combine the two and I've decided I just love this cabbage slicer/shredder.

The strong handled, wide stainless steel bladed tool easily converts a cabbage into kraut size slivers. Perfect for mashing and smashing in your kraut jar. Gone are the careful slicing and cutting down of a cabbage with my chef's knife. This feels a lot safer!

Cleaning is as easy as rinsing the blade off and lightly wiping it down. The tool is also dishwasher safe.

If you like making kraut, this shredder is a cheap and easy way to cut down the cabbage.

Westmark Germany Cabbage Slicer with Stainless Steel Blade via Amazon Read the rest

Star Wars Rebels mid-season trailer connects to Force Awakens

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Star Wars Rebels second season has been a roller coaster! This mid-season trailer promises that the second half will be even more packed with must-see lore and heartbreaking resolutions than the first!

The second half of the season, which returns on Wednesday, January 20th, will re-introduce old friends, take us to an ancient Jedi temple, and reveal an oddly familiar lightsaber with cross-guard! Fan-favorite Ashoka seems destined to facedown her old master, and we hear anguish in his voice. While Ezra's force-abilities develop, Yoda can not help but meddle, but Darth Maul may be edging in on his business!

...and I particularly enjoyed hearing her royal highness explain why she fights. Read the rest

Kontrol Freek Grips help old hands play console games

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Kontrol Freek Grips help make the Xbox One control comfortable, and keep my hands from cramping up.

Lately, we've been playing Star Wars Battlefront. There is nothing quite like watching my daughter force choke some other player. Thing is, I can't play much of anything for very long, before my hands ache. I've previously written about how Kontrol Freek's button extensions help my hands, and now I find their Grips pretty amazing.

These thin foam pads simply peel and stick to your controller. They are moderately reposition-able and maintain their stick for a few peels and move-arounds. It is fairly simple to get them right the first time, however. Once in place they add some much needed cushion and thickness to the controller.

We've been using one for several weeks. Over time the cloth layer that covers the foam will start to separate, but it really isn't a big deal and doesn't impact the effectiveness of these pads. I've found Control Freek Grips, matched with the button extensions, change my video game experience from one of needing some anti-inflammatories to relatively pain-free play!

KontrolFreek Grips - Xbox One via Amazon Read the rest

Bicycle Big Foot playing cards

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I figured Pesco might enjoy my magic tricks more, if I was using Bicycle's Big Foot deck.

The backs on this deck are just lovely. An absolutely homage to the Bicycle Rider Back, but done with Big Foot. Each face card is an illustration of a specialized, geographical Big Foot, and you'll rapidly learn the names from Ucu to California Desert Sasquatch. The numbered cards each include some Big Foot trivia!

I'm trying to come up with a Yeti themed trick!

Bicycle Bigfoot Playing Cards via Amazon Read the rest

Help your kids learn to code with "The Official ScratchJr Book"

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ScratchJr is a simple, free, tablet based programming language kids can use to make simple games and animations. The Official ScratchJr Book has been a great guide for my daughter and I.

I first heard about Scratch, when one of our attendees gave a brief show-and-tell on it at Boing Boing's Weekend of Wonder. It sounded pretty accessible. It came to mind again when recently, in an attempt to get my daughter to use the iPad for more than watching Bratayley, I decided to try and interest her in creating something. She loves art, but Minecraft was far too confusing for her and I was looking for another kid-friendly programming option. ScratchJr is a tablet based, even simpler version of Scratch, installing was as easy as any other app.

The Official ScratchJr Book does a great job, with friendly illustrations, of walking us through the basics. My daughter prefers the painting and drawing of characters, and backgrounds, to the organization of blocks, but the book did a great job of walking us through it all. Having gone through the book together, once, she can now refer to it one her own, if she runs into a problem. Generally, her problem is me grabbing the tablet and adding things.

I am not going to tell you we've made high art, but I think I could throw together a decent 1980's King's Quest parody.

The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code via Amazon Read the rest

Morgan Parker's "Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night"

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The title grabbed me in such a way, I had to buy Morgan Parker's Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night without reading a single line. I tore through about half the poems, before realizing I was exhausted and emotionally drained.

Parker is an accomplished poet, publisher and creative writing instructor. She builds vivid pictures, and transmits such strong feelings, in so few words, I am thrilled! Parker shares a vivid portrait of life in America, pulling no punches and guided by an unerring moral compass. This collection of poems observes life, from how we use social media to outright discrimination, with an immediacy and power I've rarely found in modern American poetry.

Here one of my favorites (via Pank Magazine):

If My Housemate Fucks With Me I Would Get So Real (Audition Tape Take 1)

I didn’t come here to make friends. Buildings spit their stomachs at me and I spit back, down the sidewalk into a bitch’s hair. I am a forehead careening in clouds, a dirty tree branch brushing against the shingles of the production room. I am groundbreaking: two as one. Brooding tattooed over my art. Otherwise, black. Can do angry, can’t do accents. I need little coaching, provocation. Opinionated and Everything a man wants. Lips and boobs camera-ready. If I hear you’re talking shit about me in your confessional interview, please know seven birds have fallen dead at my feet right out of the sky. I learned this right hook here when I was only six.

Read the rest

How my daughter and I make Adventure Breakfast

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A hot, filling breakfast is important to get my kid's school day off to a good start! I'm a disorganized mess of a dad who frequently wakes up late. Luckily, we've come up with Adventure Breakfast, a method that leaves us with piping hot oatmeal ready to be eaten anywhere we want.

I learned this method years ago. Bob's Red Mill shares it in a few places but this post is best.

What I am doing is simply this: take a 25oz Stanely Vacuum Bottle and fill it up with a cup or two of boiling hot water. I then wait 5 minutes for the thermos to heat up. I use the hot water from the thermos to clean something in the kitchen sink, and then I put 1 CUP of Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oatmeal in the bottle. I add 2 cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt, close the Stanley, and shake it a bit.

When we wake up in the morning we've got steaming hot oatmeal waiting for us!

We usually take some bowls, brown sugar and raisins (or whatever fixings my kid decides on that day) with us in the car. We stop someplace with a fantastic view along the route to school, and enjoy what has become known as Adventure Breakfast.

This recipe makes enough oatmeal for us to have a friend along too, but we can generally finish it between the two of us. You can use smaller and larger thermos, and adjust the volume of oatmeal/water to match. Read the rest

Two indie zombie novels that may make Christmas Eve pass easier

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I've read a bunch of new indie zombie novels, via Kindle Unlimited, this week! Here are two very funny, fasted paced stories that will help pass the time, as you wait in ambush for an overweight, red suited home invader to exit your chimney.

David Achord's Zombie Rules series was a serious page turner. I read all 4 novels in the series, Zombie Rules, Z14, Zfinity, and Destiny, in about a day! Achord tells the tale of Zach, an under privileged 16 year old who turns out to be the smartest, and most important guy on earth! Told from the pov of a teenager who is full of himself, the story never lacks for silly.

Achord writes great action, and builds a fun post-zombie apocalypse world. This is a really fun series, where the gore isn't too gory, and the plot has some unexpected twists and turns! The action and world building are good enough you ignore the plot holes and ridiculousness of some situations, as they are done to keep the pace up. Watch Zach save the world, and just not understand girls.

Second up is Chaos Theory by Rick Restucci. A super-sized survivalist, a teenaged girl, and an escaped convict make their way south, from New England to the Gulf of Mexico, trying to survive the zombie menace. The convict also happens to have been bitten, but did not turn, so naturally the remnants of the US Federal government are after him. Being a criminal, he doesn't seem to care much about helping the world find a vaccine. Read the rest

Review—Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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As a huge Star Wars fan (previously), I went in expecting to love The Force Awakens, and was not disappointed. But I think you are going to love it, too, because this film is pretty much the opposite of the reviled prequel trilogy.

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