I was recently asked by USA Today's technology site, Reviewed.com, to sort out a feature on the best rechargeable batteries. I called in a ton of the things, in a number of sizes, and got down to testing. One of the tests that I decided to run was to pop the various AA cells I had on hand, by brand, into a battery-powered fan to see how long they could run the thing for. I opted to order the least expensive fans I could find that I felt, based on my past experience testing fans (if you work as a hardware journalist for long enough, sooner or later, you'll have tested damn near everything), wouldn't crap out on me after running for a few hours: the Honeywell HTF090B Turbo on the Go Personal Fan. In order to cut down on the amount of time it'd take me to run the tests I needed to conduct, I ordered four of them.
To my surprise, I fell in love with an $11 piece of hardware.
This little Honeywell fan can be run off of a USB connection, making it a great choice for using at your desk, or four AA batteries. When running the fan on rechargeable battery power, I was able to get a maximum run time of close to 10 hours. Not bad! It's light and compact enough that you could stick it in a carry-on bag to take with you traveling or toss it in the back of a car to keep you cool during a bit of tent camping on a weekend. Read the rest
On Strange Horizons, Rachel Cordasco reviews the latest Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, the third such volume, and makes a compelling case for exploring the amazing world of Tamil pulp, expertly translated into English.
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I love Jonathan Carroll's stories. Teaching the Dog to Read is a fantastic tale of magical realism!
Tony Areal is living a pretty mundane life, when suddenly his greatest wishes start to come true. Offered the chance to live out his dreams, Tony switches places with his dream-land alternate self and then things get really surreal.
Carroll writes relationships and change like no one else. I really enjoyed this short and fast read, and hope to read more in this world, where dreams and life interchange.
Teaching the Dog to Read by Jonathan Carroll via Amazon Read the rest
I read pretty much every Disneyland history and fact book I find. Chris Strodder's The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom lives up to its massive title.
A simple alphabetical listing of just about every First through Fifth order-of-interest item in the park. Everything from the amazing history of the Golden Horseshoe Review to fun facts about a tobacco shop that disappeared 27 years ago lies between the covers of this book. These are truly encyclopedia style entries and are chock full of facts with less emphasis on story telling. I think it'd be a great book to have at the park.
I did a cover-to-cover read through of this at home. I'd prefer to have it electronically on my phone via Kindle to look at while in the park. Go e-version if you can.
The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom via Amazon Read the rest
On the infrequent occasion I am asked for life advice I refer folks to Mr. T: The Man with the Gold: An Autobiography. It has all the answers. Read the rest
"Your first doomsday machine is a malevolent, inscrutable wristwatch.”
The Please Don't Tell My Parents series, by Richard Roberts, is a wonderful young adult series of novels about Penelope Akk and her two friends Claire and Ray. They are normal middle school kids just hoping their superpowers will kick in soon. Read the rest
In Gregor's Run a young man with a mysterious past is on the run from two of the universe's most powerful organizations. Generally broke, and with no idea of who he is or what the bad guys want, the titular Gregor just wants to get drunk.
This was a fun, fast and poorly edited Kindle Unlimited recommendation! Packed with the requisite action and adventure, Gregor's Run tells a witty and entertaining version of a familiar story. The backstory and world building are well done, and the characters interesting, Gregor is certainly a different hero.
Not-safe-for-the-grammatically-nitpicky, this remains a fine example of Kindle Unlimited fare.
Gregor's Run: The Universe is too Small to Hide via Amazon Read the rest
Tim Powers has mastered mingling our present with elements of the fantastic, creating stories so immersive and believable I'm always disappointed when they end. Down and Out in Purgatory is a new, incredible example.
Shasta DiMaio fell for the wrong guy, and it killed her. Her rejected lover Tom Holbrook still carries a torch, however. If Tom can't have Shasta he'll kill the man who took her heart, and her life, even if he's already dead.
Powers has focused on ghosts, and had them as major characters in other works, but this novella gives us a glimpse into their world! His purgatory is a spinning, wild place where we learn a bit more about what death really means. While the characters are fun, the real joy of this was the mechanics, and lore Powers shares about the afterlife. If you loved his Fault Lines trilogy, you won't be disappointed.
Down and Out In Purgatory by Tim Powers Read the rest
Timothy Ellis' galaxy spanning space opera continues in Hero at the Gates! We're 9 damn books in and the central plot is finally about to get past its prelude!
I've really enjoyed this massive story. 9 novels ago Jon Hunter was a wet behind the ears kid on board his uncle's space trader. Now he's the Admiral of his own massive space flotilla, and ruler of several sections of space. The massive reveal about what the hell is going on, and what part Team Slinky Red Jumpsuits is going to play in it is near unavoidable, when our heroes set off in the exact opposite direction in this sometimes 2D universe.
The prize is tempting, but Jon can not miss the short window of time he's allowed to land on his home planet and consult the spiritual guys there who know all. How will it all work out? Gee... I'll have to start book 10.
Hero at the Gates (The Hunter Legacy Book 9) via Amazon Read the rest
Sennheiser's HD650 headphones are legendary. It should be no surprise Headfonia has offered a new review of the old classics.
I finally held them in my hand. I shook with anticipation. As I set up my system, I did notice that the build quality, although certainly a step up from the HD202, wasn’t quite at the level of the K550. It felt slightly more flimsy. As a paranoid measure, I gave the HD650 its own bed of feathers on which it still spends its nights.
As always with Sennheiser, the first time I put these headphones on, the death grip was in full effect, but after a few hours, the clamping force lightened up, and I found them to be very comfortable. My set-up here consisted of a HP laptop running jRiver media Center, a Dacport LX (which I had gotten as a Christmas gift) and a JDSlabs cMoy. I immediately recognized an upgraded HD202 sound signature. The sound has the same dark tonality, but with much more detail (I’ll take it), a more three dimensional sound (I love it), and a much stronger bass impact (YES!!!).
I bought a pair of HD650s worried my HD580s (a similarly revered, earlier version) might some day wear out. I still listen with both, regularly. I've had the HD580s since the 1990s, and have replaced the cable once, and the headband padding, once. The HD650s have never needed a thing. I pair them with a Schiit Lyr/BiFrost set, or a Peachtree Audio Nova. Read the rest
Modern civilization has all but disappeared. It falls to a fearless, dedicated and slap-stick bunch known as Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors to help humanity recover. With help like this, you might be better off on your own!
Benjamin Wallace's first installment in the Duck and Cover series is a quick and witty read. We find America highly mutated and extremely dangerous. Small enclaves of folks are trying to rebuild society, and boy do they need help! Enter the post-apocalyptic nomadic warriors: experts in a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of nothing. Two such warriors arrive at the town of New Hope, each offering to lend his aid. New Hope sends one away and accepts the aid of the other. Did they choose wisely? Did they even need to choose? How did humanity survive at all?
This read was a good time! The characters are a lot of fun, and standout for this style of novel. The contrasting styles of the two titular characters, and the passing of focus back and forth, really makes this tale roll along. The story is predictable, but Wallace's wildly mutated landscape, and slowly emerging backstory, made it hard to put this book down.
Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors: A Duck & Cover Adventure Read the rest
I've wanted a set of bluetooth headphones for a while. The cord free-ish operation, and no need to actually be tethered to my phone seemed too good to be true. This $25 pair does it all.
The earliest generations of bluetooth headphones seemed that this technology would never take to quality listening. It may still not be for the audiophile, but for active folks, who enough spending time moving around a bit more, these AYL QY8 Bluetooth headphones do the trick.
The earbuds fit easily into your ear, come complete with several varied size tips for a more custom fit, and have a simple pressure latch that holds them in your ear. Controls, from activation, to volume adjustment, are made via button press on the right side earbud. Pairing was easy, and charging was quick.
It is very nice having no extra cord dangling from my head, into my jacket or back pocket, when I'm walking the dogs. I'm frequently working two leashes, and I hate it when the phone gets tangled in the mess. The other place I'd hope to use them is on the motorcycle, but inside a helmet, with no ability to control the unit, its kinda limited to just playing music. Also, when I did manage to get the button jammed up against the foam, it just held it in and powered the unit off.
The sound quality on these phones is certainly good enough for an afternoon out walking the dogs. fishing, or paddling. When compared to other $19-50 bluetooth headsets, as well as my in-helmet Sena bluetooth communications system, sound better. Read the rest
In Jack Hunt's 'The Renegades,' a small team of High School students survive the zombie apocalypse. At no point, however, will you be crying out "Wolverines!"
Castle Rock, Nevada has nothing going for it but an annual halloween-time zombie run. Naturally, several of the local High School's less-fitting-in sort have named themselves, titularly, "The Renegades" and are quite good at making it past all the fake zombies. The world has changed, and finally these bozos have a useful skill. Rapid fire teenage jokes and abuses result.
Hunt's story is someplace between Red Dawn and the Bad News Bears, except it needs Buttermaker. The Renegades filled a void I didn't know I was missing, sort of 'what would a John Hughes zombie story be?" Probably, something like this but with less poop jokes.
This is immature, but fun zombie comedy.
NOTE: The author of this post has only seen the 1984 Patrick Swayze 'Red Dawn' and not the 2012 re-make.
The Renegades (A Post Apocalyptic Zombie Novel) via Amazon Read the rest
I really like Finger Ease guitar string lubricant. While I doubt the spray does a thing for the sound of my strings, I find it allows me to play for quite a bit longer.
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Teen hacker Gibson Vaughn embarrasses a US Senator, and is made an example of. Now, ten years later, the same folks who turned him into a pariah need his help solving one of the greatest abduction stories in US history. Part political thriller, part who done it, The Short Drop is a fantastic read.
This novel has it all. A teen hacker unfairly made an example of by the government and struggling to make his way, the establishment's front-running presidential candidate being overtaken by an upstart US Senator, and a 10 year old missing persons case to tie them together. This is one heck of a fun novel to read this primary season!
While some of the plot twists and turns may be a little more obvious to the reader than the characters in the novel, the pacing and story line are a lot of fun. I really enjoy the small details FitzSimmons colors his story with, and his representation of the Internet as a personality. I think he gets is right.
The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons via Amazon Read the rest
I wanted a Space Opera, and found Nathan Lowell's series Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper. I've spent 2 weeks reading through the series, and am worried about what I'll do when I reach the end!
Lowell's space trading epic follows the career of Ishmael Horatio Wang, cast adrift by the untimely death of his Mother and meal-ticket, in the apparently trade focused Confederation. Wang finds a berth on a solar clipper, and joins the spacer culture. As he rises through the ranks we meet a cast of colorful characters, and watch as Ish, and his various crews, solve the problems one may encounter in the Deep Dark.
I'm nearly done with the final book in the series. I've found each book to be a perfect distraction for the things that have plagued my last few weeks, and I have hardly wanted to put my Kindle down. Highly reminiscent of a less bawdy/abuse focused Bio of a Space Tyrant, by Piers Anthony, Lowell's first book Quarter Share rapidly sets up a world that is easy to understand and fun to predict where things are going next.
Lowell's novels follow our hero Wang through each pay-grade in the life of a crewman, officer, and finally owner. I'll be looking for other stories by this author. The entire series was free, with my Kindle Unlimited subscription.
Quarter Share (Trader's Tales From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper) (Volume 1) via Amazon Read the rest
Matt Ruff is a spectacular and versatile science fiction writer who is perhaps most commonly considered an absurdist, thanks to his outstanding 1988 debut Fool on the Hill, but whose more recent works have highlighted his ability to walk the fine line between funny-ha-ha and funny-holy-shit. The Mirage was one such novel, but as brilliant as it was (and it was), it was only a warm-up for this book, Lovecraft Country, a book that takes a run at the most problematic writer in today's pop culture canon and blasts right through him. Read the rest