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The Porter’s Gate Volume 1: Work Songs


Thank you Porter’s Gate Worship Project for sending us this digital album to review!

I grew up Roman Catholic and then attended a Baptist church in my teenage years. Both of those churches had traditional hymns with only an organ or piano and vocals. I appreciate a good hymn, but I also love contemporary worship with a wide variety of instruments or even a symphonic band! Seeing a need for worship revival, The Porter’s Gate started a creative movement to compose some new worship songs with the help of first-rate singers, songwriters, and musicians.

The theme for this collaborative effort is vocation and they hope to use music as an opportunity to extend hospitality and build bridges with our neighbors. I think they achieved this goal of creating music that is beautiful, truth-filled, and inspiring in this thirteen-track album.


There’s a lot of variety in each of the songs with some of them having a male lead singer while others feature a female lead singer. Urban Doxology was part of the collaboration project too. The voices are all great and I didn’t hear any sour notes. Some of the songs feature just a piano while others have an entire symphony. There are some somber songs and others are energetic.

Like many worship songs, I have to hear the songs a couple of times to have them resonate with me. Listening to this album multiple times has been a pleasant and uplifting experience. The lyrics are God honoring and the music is catchy. I caught myself tapping my foot while listening.

The debut album is due to release on October 6th, 2017 and I highly recommend checking it out through your favorite music provider. I look forward to more inspiring music from Porter’s Gate Worship Project!

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Urban Armor Gear S7 Phone Case

Thank you Urban Armor Gear for sending us this phone case to review!

My past two phones have been Samsungs with my previous one being an S4 and my current one an S7. To protect both of them I have used Otterbox covers and have been very happy with their performance. I can’t how count how many times I’ve accidentally dropped my phone, but it happens. Between dropping my phone and it getting shuffled around in my purse it’s on its second tempered glass screen protector. The base phone itself is in pristine condition.

My pink Otterbox case has taken a beating with broken plastics around the USB and headphone connections. I was in the market for a replacement when hearing about Urban Armor Gear.

Urban Armor Gear Otterbox

On their website, Urban Armor Gear advertises their military grade cases as rugged, lightweight, and providing drop protection. Their testing requirements are dropping their products twenty-six times at a height of forty-eight inches. On top of that they offer free shipping, a one-year warranty, and US based customer support. Compared to current S7 Otterbox case prices, the Urban Armor Gear sells for $10 more on Amazon. Is it worth the extra cost?

The bottom ports are easily accessible since they are not covered like the Otterbox model. The power and volume buttons feel nice and are very responsive. The thickness is about the same as my previous phone cover so there’s not much change there.

Urban Armor Gear

I purposely dropped my phone once at my house on concrete and nothing broke. However while showing my case off to some people at church I test dropped it twice on a tile floor and my glass tempered screen protector broke. Thankfully, my phone’s screen was fine. This isn’t my first replacement screen since I have replaced the screen cover with my Otterbox, but it sure as heck survived more than three falls. Once my replacement screen protector arrives I’m be switching back to my Otterbox.

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Only by the Grace of God

Thank you Archway Publishing for sending us this book to review!

Only by the Grace of God tells the true story of the Brink family who lived in the Philippines and became prisoners of war during World War II. Each of the twelve chapters are told from the three perspectives of the children: Bill, Bob, and Pam. Some of the minor details are different in the accounts, but the main events are told in vivid detail. This family went through a lot of suffering and as the title suggests, they only survived by the grace of God.

The beginning of the 212-page book focuses on their life in the Philippines before the war. The Brink family was well-to-do with fancy furniture and servants who cleaned the house, tended to the children, and chauffeured them around. For birthdays, the kids would get nice gifts like a BB gun or a pony. The recollections of the games the kids used to play were both amusing and scary as a parent. I chuckled about the kids getting caught and punished for sling-shooting rocks at the priest’s metal roof. On the flipside, I gasped aloud when I read about the kids re-enacting cowboys and robbers and hanging one of their friends who volunteered to be the prisoner. Luckily, he was taken down in time before anything serious happened.

Once the war began the carefree lives of this family were over. The Japanese soldiers took away their belongings and father. Later they came back and imprisoned the rest of the family. In the internment camps, the family was often together and usually got a couple of meals a day. Towards the end of the war, food was very scarce and approximately three prisoners a day would die from starvation or other devastating illnesses.

During the war the children still received an education and found unique ways to entertain themselves. One amusing method was taking ants from one ant hill to another and enjoying the battle that would ensue. They even managed to scrounge enough parts to build a cart to scoot around in. While there were a lot of negative experiences, there are still some good ones and the family became closer to God in the process. The timing for their miraculous rescue couldn’t have been better.

Besides the mentioning of mischievous behavior, some other topics including homosexuality, prostitution, and minor language should be noted before letting a child read this book. It’s a great recollection of the terrors of war and the hope and faith needed to endure the trials every step of the way. This book sells for $17 on Amazon and is worth picking up. You’ll have a hard time putting it back down.

 



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The Atoning

Thank you Roberson Public Relations for sending us a screener of this film!

While I’m not typically into horror movies, the trailer looked interesting for The Atoning. My husband laughed at me for getting startled while viewing it. Like many horror movies, this one revolves around a haunted house and deals with spirits that have not crossed over to the “other side”. While unbiblical, it does provide decent entertainment.

Vera and Ray’s marriage is on the rocks and their son Sam is trying his best to keep them together. His attempt at cooking breakfast for them resulted in black and crispy pancakes and a huge mess to clean up. Vera is a loving mother while the father seems a bit distant. One thing that the family can all agree on is that their house seems to be haunted. Between doors opening and closing for no reason, objects moving around without explanation, and water turning on sporadically, this family is legitimately creeped out. The oddities seem to escalate at 9:45 every night as well.

Ray knows the name of the inhabitants of the house and their son Sam has seen their daughter who is about his age. The ghosts are not welcome and a medium is consulted to help remove the spirits. Unfortunately, the ghosts need to resolve their conflicts before moving onward. This involves a marital affair with an underage girl, drunkenness, and murder. To help figure all of this out, Ray consults a book that discusses occult topics like Neo-purgatory and Necrostasis. God is mentioned and quickly dismissed as soon as He’s brought up. During some flashbacks, Vera mentions going to church, but later doubts that God existed.

There’s a bit of a story twist, but this film’s main focus is on scaring it’s viewers. The demon like creatures are very creepy with their black bodies and bright eyes. After being startled from the trailer I was on guard for the movie and didn’t get freaked out while watching it. In all honesty I wasn’t very entertained either and have no desire to watch this film again.

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Pup Star: Better 2Gether

Thank you Air Bud Entertainment for sending us a screener link!

After losing to Tiny in the first Pup Star movie, Bark isn’t taking it lying down. In his local singing club, The Bark Easy, there’s a small dog with a big attitude named Scrappy that just so happens to look a lot like Tiny. Bark comes up with the plan to replace Tiny with Scrappy and have her take the fall to Bark in the upcoming season of Pup Star. Scrappy isn’t keen on this plan at first, but once her back alley home gets destroyed she’s onboard with it.

With the help of a skunk, the dog switch happens and those closest to the two dogs immediately detect the personality differences. Lots of hilarity ensues as the little dogs adjust to their new roles. Tiny’s human family considers a vet visit, holy water, and possibly an exorcism to bring back the dog they’re used to.

Many characters return including Lady Paw Paw, Simon Growl, and Dog Marley. Some new characters like Jimmy Kibble and Katty Purry are introduced. Like the previous movie, there is a character that’s extremely flamboyant. Even with the theme of deceit running throughout the movie, the pursuit of integrity and forgiveness is promoted. One final nitpick is that one of the dogs says OMG.

My kids enjoyed this movie and its over-the-top humor that adults will see coming from a mile away. Without spoiling the story, this film is heartwarming and shows the importance of family, friends, and acceptance. If you enjoyed the first movie, chances are that you’ll like this one too. This movie will be in theaters on August 29th. If you enjoy the music the soundtrack is available for purchase on Amazon.



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Windjammers Flying Power Disc

Thank you Tyler Barnett PR for sending us this Frisbee to review!

In 1994 Data East released Windjammers on the Neo Geo arcade system. In 2010, Wii owners were able to add this title to their virtual console library. Now that Data East is no longer around, DotEmu is handling the latest port to PlayStation 4 and Vita systems on August 29th, 2017. For those who are not familiar with the series, it’s a sports arcade style game with intense Frisbee action. Long Pong or air hockey, your goal is to get the Flying Power Disc into your opponent’s goal.

Like the real game of Frisbee, there are various ways to throw it to slip past your opponent’s defenses. If you want to practice your moves outside of the video game, Wham-O has got you covered. The creators of the original Frisbee have released a special edition 175g Flying Power Disc.

windjammers flying power disc

The bright blue disc is easy to keep track of in the sky and on the ground. Hopefully, you’ll have a playing partner to catch it so it doesn’t land on the ground though. The Windjammer title is displayed in English and Japanese. Both Data East and DotEmu are represented along with the original and re-release years. Wham-O’s logo and trademark text are present as well.

As the name implies, it flies accurately and has a quality feel to it. Unlike cheap imitations, this one does not feel flimsy. I doubt it would survive a big dog’s teeth very long though. Thankfully, my dog is too old to care and has never been trained to fetch Frisbees. My kids on the other hand are attracted to it.

If you’re a fan of Windjammers or enjoy playing Frisbee then this Flying Power Disc is worth picking up. The asking price is a reasonable $12 and is exclusively available at FanGamer.com

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Iserlohn’s Mini Basketball Hoop

Thank you Iserlohn for sending us this mini basketball hoop to review!

We haven’t played much basketball at our house since my mom backed into our outdoor movable hoop with my brother’s car. Sure, it’s nice to play with a real basketball outside, but there’s something to be said about the ability to play all year round in the comfort of your own room while wearing whatever you please.

Iserlohn’s mini basketball hoop comes with everything needed to get your game on. With the inclusion of 2 plush cotton basketballs, the games can be conducted in a quiet manner. The mini basketball requires inflation and the bundled-in air pump will do the job if your arms can handle the several hundred pumps required to fill it up. At first, we couldn’t find the inflation needle, but after my son dropped and broke the pump, it was located. Fortunately, we had a spare pump that was able to finish the job.

basketball hoop

The rest of the kit is quite sturdy and easy to set up. Installing the basketball net was a breeze. I like how the backboard and door clamps are padded to prevent scuffs and scratches. With the net installed, my son’s bedroom door still closes as it should. The only thing to be careful of is slamming the door open and possibly denting the opposing wall with the rim.

My kids enjoy this new toy and have completed several games of “PIG” with little arguing. Anything that gets my kids to play together quietly is a win in my book. Since we have wood flooring, the mini basketball is a bit loud when it’s in use. The plush balls are quite the opposite so if you want a low volume toy, don’t even bother inflating the mini baskteball. Iserlohn’s mini basketball hoop makes a perfect gift with its reasonable asking price of less than $25 on Amazon.

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Shadows of Mordor's Sequel, Gaming and Gambling

Shadow of Mordor 2

So the sequel to the popular Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor has micro-transactions. They are loot boxes; for folks who may not know, they are randomized rewards. You have no control over what you'll get. Now you'll find opinions, fact articles and many other thoughts on the sequel in general and micro-transactions. Yet here I want to talk about gambling. No matter your stance on gambling, I feel this will slowly become a more prevalent thing in mainstream gaming, adding random loot box prizes or card packs. So here we are going to talk about gambling from a faith based and business perspective.

Luke 12:15: Take heed and beware of covetousness - for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. It is this quote that fits gambling best I would say. Too often people associate gambling to the slot machines and roulette wheels only. Remember, no matter your stance on gambling, it will lead to covetousness: you will want that skin, that rare card. Those who delve into this vice will risk becoming enveloped in the sins of envy and greed. Do not write it off as a phase just because it's not gambling for money.

Whether you feel gambling is a vile thing or not, understand that activities that involve playing the odds in anything requires a certain amount of mental toughness. If you let yourself get addicted to gambling, you won't have any medicines or physical therapies you can do to get it out of your mind. Gambling is a very strong addiction if you let it become one. Yet whatever's making money is going to follow in business. These game publishers know people will pay to make a game faster and they will exploit that without a care about someone's risk to gambling addiction. On record I’ll say that I am against loot box style micro-transactions in retail priced products that are not cosmetic only. These randomized rewards are usually designed into the game to test the gamers patience in earning them by grinding in game. Also on record, keep in mind whether you hate gambling or not, casinos are regulated in many ways including age restriction and government regulation to make sure the casino isnt cheating folks out of their money. The exploitation of those who will spend money to take a gamble at getting that "legendary" prize will most likely become more common in the games industry.

However, if you're a parent with a little gamer, keep these things in mind if they are spending that allowance on any loot box micro-transaction no matter the game.

Talk to your kids about the odds and reality: teach them that unlike buying a in-game skin or toy directly, they might not get what they want if they take the risk. Tell them if they spend their whole allowance on a loot box or card pack and they don't get what they want, that's on them. Don't let them expect an extra twenty if they didn't get the prize they wanted. Make sure they understand as well, unlike a investment or solid item, if the game shuts down, all that money they invest in randomized digital items gets flushed down the toilet.

Consider monitoring what your kids are spending money on: hey, I get kids need a little bit of room and trust, especially when learning the value of a dollar, yet if you know your little gamer has a bit of a self-control problem, keep watch on what they are buying. If they are spending a bit too fast on loot boxes or card packs, intervene as necessary.

Teach them about the tough sides to the value of a dollar early: tell your kid that if they spend their allowance fast they lose out on a lot. This can be things such as not having enough for a bag of chips on the way home from school or missing out on a sale. They are out of luck, aren't they? If they learn fast then responsibility will surely follow. Some people may find this a bit mean, but tough love can work.

So while a lot of discussion is already going on about the Shadow of Mordor sequel or loot boxes in general, please at least keep in mind that one way or another any randomized micro-transaction is still gambling. No matter your stance on if it's OK to spend money on these things or not. Please be responsible. After all if you can't provide for your family, according to Timothy 5:8, maybe that makes you worse than a non believer? Even if you're not a person of faith, sure would stink if you couldn't eat that day because you spent your money to try and get some "legendary" equipment or a skin in-game, right?

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NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible

NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible
Published by: Zondervan
Price: $24.99

Thank you Zondervan for sending us this Bible to color and review!

Kids and coloring books have gone hand in hand for as long as I can remember. Recently adult coloring books have taken off and not long ago we reviewed Inkspirations: Fruit of the Spirit which has thirty-two Bible verse themed pages to color. The NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible is attractive to both adults and kids who like to color and provides fifty-two verses to color.

My daughter took an interest in this Bible right away and I promised it to her if she colored in one of the verses. She agreed to these terms and has been taking this Bible to church with her since. The coloring pages are noticeably thicker than the Bible pages and this is a good thing. The Bible pages are thin (like most Bibles) and prone to tearing if too much pressure is applied while coloring.

One of the first coloring pages has the verse Joshua 1:9 which says: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.” That inspiring verse was the one that my daughter colored. The items to color really don’t match the verses too well in my opinion. This one in particular has a sunrise/sunset and flowers all around. The coloring page for Luke 6:27’s “Love your enemies” is filled with donuts and popsicles. I guess you can show love to your rivals by raising their cholesterol and weight. Despite the odd themes, these pages are pretty well detailed and bound to entertain artists for some time.

NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible

As a Bible, this one is easy to read and I like how the words that Jesus spoke are highlighted in red. Another cool feature is the table of weights and measures in the back that translates Biblical terms with modern day equivalents. For example, a cubit is equal to 18 inches.

There is a lot to like about this Bible. The only problem I have with it is the translation used. There has been some controversy regarding the 2011 NIV translation and this Bible does use the gender neutral verses. So if you look at the verse John 15:6 “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers...” The new NIV changes it to, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers...” The classic Proverb 27:17 is changed from “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” to “…so one person sharpens another” .

If you enjoy reading the NIV translation and like coloring, then you’ll want to check out the NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible. The hard cover sells for less than $25 on Amazon and that’s a pretty reasonable price. If you’re in need of coloring pencils, we have a review of those too!



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Mario Jackson
This is really splendid. Thanks a lot for the update here... Read More
Monday, 14 August 2017 09:56
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The Passion of Augustine

Thank you EG-PR for sending us a press screener of this movie to review!

The Passion of Augustine is a Canadian film that was originally released in 2015. Since this film takes place in Quebec, the native language is French. There is English closed captioning which doesn’t kick in until ten minutes or so into the film. The beginning of the movie starts off in Latin and the nuns are waking the girls up in Latin and attending a church service conducted in Latin. Had I not known that Catholic services used to be conducted in Latin, I would have assumed that the subtitles were misconfigured. Thankfully, we stuck with it and enjoyed the rest of the film that we were able to understand.

The rest of the film is fairly easy to follow if you don't mind subtitles. Later in the movie there is a scene where a student is singing a love song in a foreign language and I wish I knew what the lyrics were. Despite the language barrier the story is worth sticking around for. It’s based in the ‘60s and tells the tale of a struggling convent. Between the Vactican II changes and the state’s push for public schooling, the mother superior, Augustine, is doing what she can to keep the all-girls school running. Unlike the public schools, this convent focuses a lot on music theory and has won a silver medal award at a prestigious piano contest.

With the rising cost of heating oil, and the need for better musical instruments, the mother general is not fond of music and thinks that mother Augustine is too proud of her school and its students. One of the recent transfer students is Augustine’s niece, Alice, who gets into trouble and sometimes it’s not even her fault. Other times it is and Alice and another fellow classmate get in big trouble for sneaking out to a “Love in” dance club.

Mother Augustine is protective of Alice because of mistakes that she has made when she was younger. There is a flashback scene that isn’t very clear of a medical procedure being done to Augustine when she was younger. Given some later conversations in the movie, I believe that it was an abortion.

Because of the religious backdrop, there isn’t much cussing in this film. You do see some kissing, but nothing more. Part of the Vatican II changes included modernizing the church and that involves changing the attire of the nuns. There are scenes of them changing their clothes, but like the rest of the film, it is done in good taste and nothing is seen.

We viewed this movie using Vimeo which usually provides good service, but we ran into several buffering delays and had to set the quality to auto instead of the 720p maximum. Even on auto, it still had buffering issues.

Overall, we enjoyed The Passion of Augustine and recommend checking it out when it goes to video on demand. The DVD is available on Amazon but the $40 asking price is pretty hefty. Hopefully the paid rental service is more reliable than the method we used to watch this film.

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Retrogression: Vol.1

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was truly innovative on many levels upon its launch. So many great games were available on that console and given the success of the recent NES Classic, gamers still love them. Besides the fun gameplay, many of the most popular games had stellar soundtracks to go with them. Stemage has done something interesting in their recently released digital album, Retrogression: Vol.1.

In Retrogression: Vol.1, Stemage plays four popular theme songs backwards and then reverses them (individually) so you can recognize them again. To stay true to the NES’ limitations they used drums, two guitars, and one bass. The songs performed backwards are really well done and are fun listening to, even if I’ve only played 3/4 games being represented.

The four games paid homage to include Ghosts N’ Goblins, Punch-Out!!, Super Mario Brothers, and Tetris. Since the album is available on Bandcamp, you can listen to each track individually and pay what you want for it. The songs are available to download in MP3 or FLAC format. Since you can set your own price, I won’t complain about the length of the album as it can be heard in its entirety in less than fifteen minutes. While the reversed/forward songs are neat, I would have loved to hear the jazzed up songs played in their proper direction. Other than those minor nitpicks, I recommend picking up this album if these NES games hold a special place in your heart.

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Solo Velocity Everyday Max Backpack Duffel

Specifications:
Body size: 21"x13"x8"
Weight: 2.40 lbs
Fully padded 17.3" laptop compartment
Internal tablet pocket
Separate shoe compartment
Large size zippered pockets
Padded carry handles
Padded back and backpack straps

Strong Points: Unique, well thought out design; looks very nice; lots of pockets, with a very large main duffel area; laptop pouch is extra large, and well padded
Weak Points: Small number of larger pouches; no location for pens or notepads (pens do fit in pockets though); no shoulder strap reinforcements

Thank you Solo for sending us this backpack to review!

I have always cared deeply about what kind of backpack I have used. I went through several cheaper ones before I finally settled upon one that has lasted – a Swiss Gear. The build quality was a huge step above the several cheap ones I used before that; despite the ~+50% price increase, it has been worth every penny, because it has lasted well on the order of ten years. Sometimes it's worth it to pay more, because it may last more than twice as long. But despite this, my excellent Swiss Gear is finally starting to show its age – flaking ends, the logo was lost years ago, and more signs that it needs to be retired soon. So, when I had the chance to review a new backpack, I jumped on it.

Now, it needs to be said that I am nowhere near as rough on backpacks as I used to be. I no longer regularly take the train to work, nor am I a college student any longer (thankfully). So, a bag that looks good, meets my basic needs, and holds my stuff is more than enough.

Having only really owned a school or work oriented backpack, I was more than a little shocked when I saw not only a well padded laptop compartment, but a place to put my shoes! While probably not important for many students, I was surprised how useful this could be.

solo duffel

In order to really put this backpack through its paces, I decided to bring it to work as fully packed as I could. I just so happened to have a scheduled ping pong tournament game at work, so I had a good excuse to bring my gym shoes along; I then filled up the shoe compartment with my size 12 shoes. I packed both my massive gaming laptop, along with the requisite power brick (large enough to be confused with a masonry brick), and my work MacBook Pro and power supply. I also included my fancy headphones and amp, as well as filled up the pockets with an umbrella, Wi-Fi hotspot (perk for being an on-call IT person), and various cables and adapters like I usually do.

The total weight was 20.5 pounds. I have to carry my backpack through a parking garage, up the stairs, up an elevator to the ninth floor, and over to my desk. Thankfully, the backpack not only held up well, but was comfortable to carry. It looks sharp, and believe it or not, it got complimented, as a few coworkers noticed me no longer carrying the company issued laptop bag that I have been using the last few years. I have used it since, and I am pleased with the performance since then.

The main color is a dark grayish blue, with a gray bottom. There are also black zippers along with yellow handles and other accents. I like the look. The front seems oddly flat at first, but the front zipper actually pops open to a central access door, as well as access to all of the uniquely located pockets lined along the opening on each side. It's an unusual design, but it works well. You can hold fairly large things in that main pouch, even if you decide to pack shoes also. If I had an overnight trip away from home, this would be the perfect thing to bring – you could easily pack shoes, a change of clothes, toiletries, and of course a computer, and be ready to rock. It even has a water bottle or umbrella holder on each side, and they are large enough to actually hold said things (unlike some other backpacks I've used with token worthless pockets on the side).

solo duffel

While there is indeed a lot to like about this backpack, and indeed I do like it, I have some nits to pick. First of all, there really isn't a good single larger pouch available for cables, adapters, or other miscellaneous things like most backpacks I have used. There isn't really a good place for a notepad either, as the laptop pouch doesn't have any dividers outside of the tablet pouch (which may be able to fit a notepad if you like). Thankfully, it's tall enough where I can sneak my power brick below the laptop without issue.

Without that large pouch, this one forces you to be organized, and take advantage of the many smaller pouches available. I have adjusted for the most part, but until I remember where everything is, it takes me a bit longer to find my things. Also, the tablet pouch is a bit thin, so if your case is a larger one with a keyboard, it may not be large enough for you. Finally, the shoulder straps are not reinforced like the toughest backpacks I have used. In cheaper packs, it's always the place where the shoulder strap joins with the body that breaks first. It's too early to tell if that will happen here, though they do seem firmly attached. The many handles on the top, sides, and even bottom are well made and very strong.

In the week or so that I have had this backpack, I have used it every day and really enjoy it so far. While I have had to adapt to its quirks, it can hold a lot, it's very comfortable, and it protects my things well. It looks nice, which is also important. If you are looking for a backpack that can double as a duffel bag, with a single, cavernous compartment, then I highly recommend checking out Solo's Everyday Max Backpack.

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Iserlohn Non Stick Silicone Baking Mat Set

For the reasonable price of $12.99 you can get 2 FDA approved and BPA/BPP free mats that measure 16.5” long , 11.6” wide, and 0.03” thick. These are the perfect size for half-sheet baking pans. The corners are trimmed so they’re easy to lift up as well. Because these mats can withstand temperatures up to 500 °F, you can use them instead of wax paper or aluminum foil to protect your baking pans. Alternatively, you can freeze them as long as your freezer doesn’t go below -40 °F. The mats can be cleaned up with soapy water or ran through the dishwasher. They’re pretty flexible (pun intended) when it comes to storage as well. You can store them flat, folded, or rolled up to save space.

The two mats have different designs and I used the one with the inches and centimeters on it for rolling out some pie dough. I’d much rather sprinkle flour on and roll on top of a baking mat than my kitchen counter top. Pizza dough will be another great use for these mats. Having both of them will come in handy for really big pizza crusts! Here’s the recipe I use for making deep dish pizza.

With Mother’s day around the corner this set would make a great gift for mothers out there that enjoy baking. As an added bonus, a bright red silicone spatula is included. I can never have enough spatulas and the red one will be much easier to find in my silverware drawer too. My family and I look forward to many more meals and desserts made with the help of these baking mats. They seem pretty durable and I’m sure we’ll be enjoying them for many years to come. This set is priced lower than competing models and comes with a bonus spatula. How can you beat that?


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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The Most Thrilling And Mind Blowing Video Games Of 2017

The Most Thrilling And Mind Blowing Video Games Of 2017

What was just considered as a hobby a few years back that some freaks used to play sitting in their living room or any other place is now an art that every human being in the world enjoys participating. Whether it’s your friend next door or your elder brother who is working in a firm, everyone is now playing the astounding video games.

So, with reference to the sneak peaks and the interesting early gameplay footage, 2017 launched many breathtaking video games and is proved to be one of the best gaming years of the era. Moreover, the well-known technology stores around the world also made it sure that you can grab the latest games at any point of time as soon as those are launched in the market. So, you can find these stores always updated with their stocks.

But with so many games around you, it might be too perplexing for you to choose the one that stands out. Thus, without further hassle, here are the top and mind blowing video games which you’ll be much excited to know about.

  • Platform PS4

It is one of the most surprising and striking video games of the year which is a sequel to the very famous Vita adventure. It leads you to battle evil in a captivating imaginative world with an ability to turn the world upside down. The Gravity Rush 2 walks through with a creative streak which runs across the two heartfelt heroines of the game i.e., Kat and Raven. And moreover, the fascinating land of Heskeville will be a wonderful place to explore.

Running short of time to hop into a store for buying this amazing game? Then you can order it online from various leading stores of the UK like Argos. And on doing so, you can purchase and get it delivered to you both in a frugal way through various deals, discount offers, Argos free delivery discount code etc. 

  • Dandy Dungeon

 It is a brilliant mobile game where you’ll be brave Yamada, an upcoming games developer and a defeated lothario who is trying to impress his beautiful neighbor with his skills in coding. In this puzzle game, you must find the right path for the hero to the exit while avoiding all the traps and beasts on his way. It’s a funny yet an extremely interesting game. 

  • She remembered Caterpillars

It is an eccentric and adventurous puzzle game where you’ve to build bridges and make paths through the nominal insects. The logic puzzle in the game is appealingly wicked and enthralling with various unique elements added in a smart way. Thus, this game will certainly lead you to end up unwinding yourself into a whole new world.

  • Nioh

It is a fantasy RPG which lets you to explore the vast battle-field, hunting Yokai. It might be hundreds of hours that you’ve played but new excitements and discoveries will always keep on coming towards you. You’ll be continuously finding fresh an rewarding things to do. It is an absolutely fantastic game which includes a strong sense of charm.

So, if you’re a yet another teenager or someone in his or her 20’s, 30’s 40’s or of whatever age who is one of the biggest fans of video games and still now haven’t tried your hands on these phenomenal new-ones in the market, then you should explore those soon. And moreover, browsing through Dealslands you can even save your huge bucks as you can grab the lucrative deals from the UK’s high-end technology and games selling stores in this money-saving voucher site. 

*This post has been provided by Dealslands*

 

 

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Should You Still Play Fallout 4?

When you work for any games publication, you're gonna play a lot of games. Shocker right? As games have evolved over the years, one of the biggest game changers is story. Long gone are the days where you simply had to pretend the pixilated dots on screens are airplanes and missiles. Sure we have great indie games that can draw you in with even the most minuscule or goofy plots on a meaningful level, yet how much of it is the gameplay and not the story? Likewise, can a game be ruined by a mediocre story, or can the gameplay carry the experience? I thought I'd do a few look overs of older games and see if they are worth playing purely on gameplay vs story. The first game I will look at is Fallout 4. This title has already been reviewed by our big boss lady Cheryl Gress, you can look at said review here. Today is just a journey to see if this game is good as a game despite supposed controversies of the story.

So let's start with the game's story. Long story short? It wasn't fun. In previous Fallout titles, whether the early top down RPG games, or Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, you can easily pretend your character is whoever you wanted it to be. Yet Fallout 4 decided to do a fully voiced protagonist with a large backstory. It doesn't pan out well. The more you give a character a face, the more you have to put effort into emotional investment. Allowing me at least 10 minutes to enjoy my apparent married status and child before the nukes are dropped doesn't help me get invested in my fake family. Sure I am a married man in real life, so I tried to pretend that I was playing as myself and it did nothing to help the investment. Trying a different character file did nothing to help immersion either. Whether I was male or female, I was a lone parent hunting for my child that might not even be alive.

Some people may say, "wait were the previous stories in Fallout games really that good?" If they were stand alone books or movies, no, they would be rather mediocre. Yet by giving the player choice on how to approach a game you manage to bring that much more interest in the investment of the story. Previous Fallout games made you the story; Fallout 4 does not. Wide focus doesn't work for a book or a movie, yet we have many famous games that tell rather fun or compelling stories when it allows you to choose how much you want to care.

The reason character builds in previous titles helped define the character was due to that use of imagination. When I made the person with one strength but 10 agility in Fallout: New Vegas, it was not about playing optimally or providing a challenging. It's because I was playing as the skinniest, weakest gunslinger in the post-war west. No matter what gender, shape, or build I had in Fallout 4, I was a concerned parent that had to get by while dealing with other people's problems. It doesn't help that unlike the other games, you'll have to deal with most of these problems from other people whether you like it or not. If the game is still a ”RPG” then at the very least let me find my son first.

Now let me do another long story short. As a game Fallout 4 is still a top notch experience. I find the settlement management side of the game rather relaxing for when I don't feel like exploring. The loot system is fun, crafting is a joy and the game combat is enjoyable. Exploring the world just to loot and survive is still just as fun as in previous Fallout games. This is a case where I can say the weak story did nothing to prevent me from enjoying a game  as a game. Maybe one time I'll run through Fallout 4 on mute with my own music and I will just make up my own dialogue for the characters.

Modding communities should not make or break a game's review score, yet that doesn't mean modding isn't valuable. Fallout 4 has thousands of mods to extend the life of the game; this includes new quests and dialogues for characters. Even at the age the game is now, you'll get your money's worth from the game and its DLC.

The story is not good, yet the game is better than people may give it credit for. It can have some interesting thinking points in the game as well. Fallout 4 is still a great game to pick up to this day despite its problematic story.

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Learn to Program With Small Basic

basic

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us this book to review!

Learn to Program With Small Basic: An Introduction to Programming With Games, Art, Science and Math is 317 pages long and written by Majed Marji and Ed Price. This book teaches you how to program with Small Basic, a programming language created by Vijaye Raji designed to teach children how to program.

Learn to Program With Small Basic teaches you the different features of Small Basic and how to use them. It has 19 chapters, each one covering a different feature of Small Basic. The first chapter introduces you to the language while the rest have you coding in it. It teaches you how to use features like if/else statements, subroutines, events, etc. To enforce these topics, code examples are given and there are named programs they want you to save. At the beginning of a program, you can tell if you need to save it if it says the name of the program as a comment. In the later chapters, you top most of them off with a game that uses the feature taught in that chapter. One of my favorite programs I made is the image viewer that lets you view pictures from Flickr.

Sometimes the book will show you a possible output of a program you wrote. There are also (optional) program ideas labeled in boxes that say “Try It Out.” After you write a program, there are sections explaining how the program works. For some of the larger games you would program, the book breaks the program up into steps, then explains what each step does. Sometimes the steps are small, and other times the steps are larger. Occasionally there will be a picture shown to help you understand the concept better.

As I went through the book, I found it fun at first, but then I lost interest about half-way through it. (That seems to happen with all of the programming books I tried.) Despite that, I’d say the book is pretty good. It’s very thorough on making sure the point gets across. The paperback version sells for $25.49 USD on Amazon. Surprisingly, the physical copy is cheaper than the Kindle version!


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Whelek Self-Inflating Camp Pad

Thank you Whalek for sending us a review sample!

Family camp-outs are fun and our kids aren’t too picky when it comes to just using a sleeping bag to separate themselves from the tent and gravel/dirt terrain underneath them.  My husband and I appreciated the foam padding we brought along, but sadly, foam often breaks apart over time.

The Whalek sleeping/camp pad is pretty durable and has many nice features with my favorite being the self-inflation.  The valve is easy to use, though if there was an instruction manual included, I would have gladly read it.  The construction is solid and looks like it can take a bit of a beating.  The carrying bag on the other hand isn’t as forgiving as I can already see some loosened stitches.  This can be problematic as we all know that putting things back in their original containers is never as easy as removing them!

 

My 5’7” body fit nicely on this sleeping mat, but my 6’2” husband had his feet dangling off the end a bit.  In conjunction with a sleeping bag using this camp pad is more comfortable than without. However, if I had a choice between a sleeping mat or an inflatable air mattress I would choose the latter without a second thought!  A couch still trumps an air mattress if there isn’t a bed available.  

The asking price of $60 is a bit more expensive than the others available on Amazon or Ebay.  The sleeping mask is a nice add-on though and I enjoyed using that more than the mat.   I do plan on bring this along on our next camping trip and I enjoy the compact size after a couple of attempts of folding and squeezing it back into its carrying bag.  The Whelek Self-Inflating Camp Pad is great for camping trips and I recommend picking one up if you love sleeping outdoors.

 

 
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The Marijuana Project: A Story Of Medicine And Morality

Thank you to Ascot Media for sending us this book to review!

Sam Burnett is a self-employed security consultant, highly respected in his field. Sam came from humble beginnings and built a successful consulting firm through hard work and determination. Sam’s services range from security risk assessments to designing physical and electronic security systems for private companies.

One day Sam receives a phone call from MedLeaf, a medical marijuana manufacturing facility seeking a license in the state of New Jersey. Sam’s reputation in the security industry results in MedLeaf reaching out to Sam for help in designing and implementing a multifaceted security system to protect manufacture of the controversial drug. Sam, however, is married with two children and a conservative. He wrestles with his morals, faith, and the legality of marijuana. His world is turned upside down in a compelling story that weaves not only comprehensive information on security systems but serves as a great introduction to the marijuana debate that continues to polarize our country today. 

The Marijuana Project is a fictional novel written by Brian Laslow (pseudonym). It chronicles Sam’s uneasy decision to work with MedLeaf over a two-year period that becomes increasingly demanding. At first, Sam battles with his conservative values whether or not to work with MedLeaf because he is against all types of marijuana, legal or otherwise. He seeks advice from his wife, friends, and business associates. Sam concludes that since marijuana is a highly priced commodity, it still needs protection regardless of his personal views. MedLeaf is eventually granted a license to produce marijuana, allowing Sam to begin developing the complex security system that will protect the manufacturing facility. 

Admittedly, I did not know much about marijuana other than it’s a drug that can produce a “high” due to its THC content and that it kills brain cells. Regarding medical marijuana, I knew that it is beneficial for people dealing with pain and is helpful for cancer patients. Laslow provides a wealth of information about marijuana that ranges from its addictive qualities, to whether it’s a gateway drug and laws regarding the legalized sale of marijuana to the public. Besides the information about marijuana, the author clearly demonstrates his knowledge of security systems with comprehensive attention to detail. This includes the physical protection of the manufacturing facility, the product, the transfer, and its employees in addition to policies, procedures, and protocols. 

In the story, Sam also researches medical marijuana and its effectiveness in treating patients with medical issues. Once more, Laslow provides a bulk of information regarding the different types of strains used in treating patients with a variety of health-related complications.

There were two issues I had with the book. Sam is portrayed as a conservative Catholic. Sam’s use of profanity occurs a few times in the story. I originally dismissed it as stress from the situations Sam was experiencing. A story from the Bible, however, is taken out of context to justify Sam’s choices. In another example, Sam reminisces about an experience he had while serving on a Catholic school board. I was dismayed at his use of language and approach to dealing with a diocese. Although Sam has a strong will and determination, I viewed him as someone driven by pride who wasn’t afraid to show it more than a man led by God.

The second issue I had with the story was the ending. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched too many action movies or read too many of those types of books, but it was disappointing because I expected something more extravagant. Although the ending made sense, it did not seem plausible, as the buildup to the climax was intriguing and kept me hooked. Nevertheless, I applaud the author’s style of writing. It was clear and concise and left no holes. Further, Laslow remained objective throughout and only provided facts ultimately leaving it up to the reader to decide whether marijuana has merit in the medical industry today. 

With the wealth of information from the book, I researched many of the marijuana facts on the Internet and discovered they were correct. It also led me to read about security for the protection of marijuana manufacturing facilities and the types of crimes that can occur here. I can clearly see Laslow did a great job in providing an authentic fact-based fictional story about security systems and medical marijuana. I learned a lot and I highly recommend The Marijuana Project for readers looking for a thrilling ride as well as those interested in learning about marijuana in a fictional setting.

 


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Power Rangers 2017 Movie Review

Go Go see a different movie. That's all I can say about the 2017 Power Rangers movie. It was truly an odd experience for the ages. I want to make a few things clear before I write why it was so awful to me. Power Rangers has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, so I guess you could consider me a fan of the series. This includes what Power Rangers is based off of: the Super Sentai series in Japan. I would also like to make it clear that I am working with a slight bias: while things like the Power Rangers should be meant for a younger audience first, this doesn't mean I can't enjoy things not targeted towards me. So let's rush to the command center; this is a Power Rangers movie.

Power Rangers starts with Zordon, leader of the first team of Rangers on Earth 65 million years ago. His Green Ranger, Rita Repulsa, has betrayed her team and she is ready to rip out the source of Earth's life, the Zeo Crystal. After Zordon hides the power coins, he calls on Alpha 5 to send a meteor crashing down to Earth. We then fast forward to years later when our first protagonist, Jason, is caught stealing the football mascot of a rival school. As punishment, he loses all opportunities given to him and is forced to attend detention every day as a troubled student. Along the way he meets the four other future Rangers. The characters Billy, Kimberly, Trini, and Zack end up in the same spot the coins are hidden. When they try to escape gold mine security, they end up getting hit by a train. Though it seems this is the moment they die, they wake up at home faster, stronger, and better. Eventually they meet Zordon and Alpha 5, who warn them Rita Repulsa will return. If they can't learn to morph and work together within eleven days, the world shall end.

So first let me give thoughts on the two elephants in the room. Billy is made to be an autistic kid, and they let you know very earlier on how different he is. Speaking as an autistic man, it seemed more like they were playing autism like it was down syndrome. He would constantly remind the movie audience that he was autistic. He would also have a lot of strange quirks that replaced character. Not only was he token, he was a poorly developed character. Trini, the lesbian character was a much bigger token. I'll hate myself later for putting it this way, but she was a “millennials'” version of coming out. In the scene where she admits to her team she's gay, she says, “My family is just so normal, all they care about is labels.” This story arc doesn't go anywhere and it seems to be just thrown in for brownie points. While it seems people on different sides got worked up over these characters, the controversy wasn't worth it. They used these things to replace actual character. The theme song could have been "Go Go Token Rangers anyway". Jason was token jock, Zack was token smooth talking loner and Kimberly was token cheerleader brat. 

The Rangers might as well have been a super hero retelling of the Breakfast Club without any real character development. Despite a scene around a bonfire sharing their deep dark secrets, none of them really have any reason to work together and the audience doesn't really know them. Like I said early, they go through the movie as character traits, not characters themselves. By trying to make these Rangers more “realistic and relatable” they come off as more fake and unrelatable. They hate their town right until they face Rita Repulsa. Most of their time as Rangers are spent training in montages. When they can finally work together, they spend about 5 to 8 minutes of time fighting in the suit while the rest of the climax is a long zord battle. The only two characters that at least tried to be a little fun was Zordon and Rita. I actually found it quite interesting that they tried to set Zordon up as a previous Yed Ranger. While Rita was slow in the beginning, she became a corny, over the top and insane villain, and that's what a Power Rangers villain should be. Yet Zordon's potential was thrown out when you realize they set up this idea of him being revived only for him to sacrifice himself so he could revive Billy when Rita drowns him. Rita’s monster, Goldar, did not look threatening at all; living molten gold doesn't look good no matter what you do. 

The cinematography didn't do anything for the movie. If it wasn't just shaky cam, they had a lot of close up shots to the face during emphasized dialogue. Someone must really hate lighting in this movie as well. The colors of the movie seemed to have had to fight to really stick out from all the grays and dark lighting of the movie. It seems modernizing a story means trying to force it to be dark and edgy without reason. Not every superhero has to have a miserable background before becoming a hero. Inspiration can come from the top.

Morality wise, aside from the implied homosexuality of the Yellow Ranger, this movie has low brow humor and a lot of rage and hatred that border between teen angst and blind rage. You're constantly reminded until the very end of the movie how much they hate their town and their own situation. This idea of being a bad kid, an outcast in detention is slightly glorified as well.  They push that whole 'it's cool to be different from the crowd' ideology in the wrong way. It's sad this is being pushed so hard towards kids. I say the movie earned its PG-13 rating at least.

This movie definitely has the crowds divided. Critics hate it and most audiences adore it. Its opening weekend scored the movie a strong $ 40.5 million. All I ask is for readers to remember that high sales does not equal quality. Some of that old Power Rangers camp might have actually made this movie better. For this writer, I give it a 3/10. Effects are cool the first time you see it but the rest of the movie is a shallow cash grab banking on nostalgia and ”relatable teen” story tropes. Go Go far away from this movie.

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Iserlohn Bronze Wind Chime

Thank you Iserlohn for sending us this bronze wind chime!

When my oldest daughter was a toddler we did a nine-hour road trip to Missouri to visit my mom and step dad.  It was a nice trip, but when we were half-way home on the way back, the unimaginable happened.  My daughter puked in the car when we still had another 4.5 hours to go!  We stopped at the closest gas station and used up a lot of paper towels to clean up what we could.   The gas station attendants knew what was going on and took pity on us and gave her some lemon lime pop to soothe her stomach a bit.  While we were at the counter my daughter took notice of the wind chimes and as many toddlers would do, grabbed one and broke it.  Since the gas station refused to let me pay for the broken wind chime, we bought a different one that used to be a lot fuller and purpler than it is today.  

 

It’s definitely time for a replacement.  Upon opening up the new wind chime, I noticed that some of the chimes were tangled, but thankfully they were easy to separate again.  There are also two extra hangers included with the wind chime.   The build quality is good and it looks pretty sturdy with the exception of the plastic ring on top.  While it won’t rust like the previous one did, I still wonder how much of a beating it will take with the 50MPH+ winds we can get here in Illinois.  

 

I like the bronze color, though this wind chime is available in silver as well.  Both models are reasonably priced at $19.99.  The design is sleek and the chimes sound great when there is a mild breeze outside.  Thankfully, I haven’t heard it in a violent wind storm (yet).


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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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