A comic book with an anti-profiling message and a female hero…from 1942

May 2, 2016

A comic book with an anti-profiling message and a female hero…from 1942

There has understandably been a lot of discussion about diversity in comics.

Lately, we’ve seen a rise in female-led stories. Minorities who are the victims of prejudice have been given starring roles…and respect.

Some people assume that this is a modern phenomenon, an evolution.

However, there is precedent.

I was adding an item to

The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project

It’s a public domain comic from March 1942…Captain Courageous Comics #6.

Not surprisingly for the period, the title character fights Nazis.

Here’s what it interesting in that story, though…the victims.

The innocent victims are German-Americans.

German American

That’s right…just about at the same time that an order was given for the internment of Japanese-Americans, a comic book wasn’t demonizing German-Americans, but defending them.

An unrelated B-feature in the same issue is “Kay McKay, Air Hostess”. Kay is as tough as any man in the comic book: resourceful, innovative, and an undeniable action hero. She’s not a superhero, and she can’t do everything. Captain Ned flies the plane (a commercial prop plane) on a special mission for the government…but he’s the one who needs rescuing from Nazi spies, and Kay is the one to do it!

Kay McKay

Sure, it’s great to see Agent Carter, Supergirl, Black Widow, and the women in Arrow’s incredibly diverse cast. Almost 75 years ago, though, Kay McKay was already saving the day…

To read the entire comic, see the link in the event at TMCGTT.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help!

For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Echo and Tap on sale today only

April 20, 2016

Echo and Tap on sale today only

Amazon was #1 in the Reputation Institute’s U.S. Reptrak 100 report (they often finish at the top of these sorts of things…which is great!) and to celebrate, they are doing a 1 day sale (they’ve done that before, too).

The

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) is $153.71 (normally $179.99)

and

Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*) $111.01 (regularly $129.99)

This is probably only in the USA, and they say it is only for today.

We use our Echo every day, and I’m surprised, but I use the Tap every day at work.

The Dot, by the way, is not on sale.

I’m going to get this post out right now so my readers on the East Coast have a better chance of seeing it. I may add to it, though.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

*When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Road test: the Alexa Tap

April 7, 2016

Road test: the Alexa Tap

Amazon recently introduced two new members of the Alexa family:

Echo Dot (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and

Alexa Tap (at AmazonSmile*)

I’ve been living with them for about a week, and I clearly had one misconception before I got them.

I thought the Tap would be more of a novelty, a special events kind of item.

It turn out, it’s far more useful than I had anticipated, in part because of how well Amazon has engineered the experience.

The Dot is fine, and does what I expected. I think that will be the most popular of the three non-Fire TV Alexa devices. It has a tinny speaker, like an old transistor radio, but can be paired with a Bluetooth or wired speaker…and you can do that for less than the cost of the original

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which we also have.

The Echo is an elegant solution, in terms of combining everything into one piece (speaker and Alexa functionality), although it’s rather large.

The Dot tucks nicely inside our TV cabinet (which has open slats). Both my Significant Other and I think the Dot hears us better than the original Echo, although that might have to do with where it is in the room and what else is going on in that room.

As to the Tap…

I took it to work to test it out. I didn’t bring the charger, figuring it would last for the day without it.

It did.:)

I listened to a podcast

The Kindle Chronicles

Specifically, it was the 400th episode: congratulations on the milestone, Len Edgerly!

I listened to some music.

I checked the weather and when a local sports team would play next.

I checked my shopping list, and my calendar.

I had someone play 20 questions with it, demonstrating it to a coworker.

After all that, it was still quite charged.

How do I know?

I asked.:)

Just push the button (you have to push the button to talk to it…that’s one of the big differences between it and the original Echo. You don’t have to hold the button in while you speak, by the way. Just push and release the button, and it will start listening. Think of the button as similar to the “wake word” on the original Echo) and say, “Battery level”. You can ask it in a more natural language way, if you want.😉

After listening to the podcast and having done several other things, it was at 75%.

Oh, before I could do any of that, I had to put it on the Wi-Fi network, of course.

Fortunately, it talks you through that, telling you to go to the Alexa app on your phone (or you could, presumably, do it on your computer, but I didn’t test that).

Even though this public Wi-Fi network required me to tap a box to accept terms, it was quite easy to do through the app. I could have entered a password as well.

The phone, by the way, did not have to be on the Wi-Fi network after the set up. The phone is only involved in the set up, not in running the Tap.

This was not a robust network, and the Tap would sometimes pause while playing, but that was understandable. I have no issues like that at home.

I was also curious, so I tested the microphones.

I started that 20 questions “Skill”, so I could talk to it as I walked around the room…you don’t have to push the button for each response, just to get the skill started.

It appeared to hear as well as the original Echo, which surprised me. I easily got probably five meters (about 16 and a half feet) away from it, and from all sides (I was in a conference room). No problem with it hearing me speaking in a normal tone.

I had figured since you had to be next to it to push the button, it didn’t need great mike quality…but it has it anyway.

I was also fascinated to hear that it seemed to cache a couple of minutes of the podcast. I walked out of the building, heading to my car (which was maybe a block away), and I made it most of the way.:)

When I got home and set it back on the charging cradle, it easily reconnected to my homework…I didn’t have to do anything.

The next time I went back to work with it and got to that public Wi-Fi, I had to accept the terms again….but that makes sense.

Everybody who heard it was impressed, even though I didn’t turn it up very loud (we were working and indoors, after all).

I like the “sling” as a way to carry it. Contrary to what some others have said, I find it easy to take in and out of the sling (which you do have to do to charge it in the cradle). The big trick is to put it in and out from the side (there was an illustration showing that when I first opened it). Stick the bottom of the Tap into the bottom of the sling, then just stretch the sling over the top. The other thing is that you want to look to see that you are putting on where the buttons show through the holes so you have access. It isn’t easy to twist it around inside the sling once you have it on the Tap.

Overall, a great experience, and one I expect to usually do every day!

One last note: I don’t have a Wi-Fi hotspot option on my (now discontinued) Fire Phone, so I didn’t test that…but I expect it will be easy as well.

Oh, sorry…one additional thing.:) It paired easily with Bluetooth devices to play them…only the Dot will connect to an external playback device, like Bluetooth headphones.

Update: today, I really came to appreciate the physical buttons on the top of the Tap! I was listening to a Prime playlist (Epic Scores, which is comprised of driving movie scores), and had to answer the phone rapidly. It was great to be able to just push the pause/play button and have it silenced. When I was done with the call, I could just hit it again to resume where I was. There are also up and down volume buttons…that’s also nice, so I don’t need to speak if I don’t want to do that.

Do you have more questions? Feel free to ask by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help!

For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Alexa Tap and Echo Dot: first impressions

April 1, 2016

Alexa Tap and Echo Dot: first impressions

picture of unopened Alexa Tap, Echo Dot, and Sling

They are here…and they are already set up!

As promised, our

Echo Dot (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and

Alexa Tap (at AmazonSmile*)

arrived on release day.

Out of the Smile box  Back of the Dot Unboxed

I must say, I have never had an easier set up of any connected device!

I pretty much just had to plug them into power and pick a Wi-Fi network. I didn’t even have to enter a password, since Amazon now memorizes my network for me (if I want it to do that).

I already had an

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

and

Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*)

all of which use the Alexa Voice Service. I had the Alexa App on my Fire Phone, so the set-up was a snap!

The Tap did act like it needed to be set up twice, but I suspect it updated itself.

As soon as they were set-up, I could control my lights, ask for the weather, and so on.

Oh, it’s probably worth noting that the devices were delivered to another city (we have Amazon packages get sent to an office rather than our home, for security). I did have to tell the Tap that it was in our city, rather than where it was delivered.

So, not much to say about that because it all worked well.:)

I can tell you something to help you.

I bought the “Sling” carrier for the Tap. The device is about as tall as a soda can and a half, and about the same diameter. The Sling (the Tap is battery operated) is a way to carry it (and is designed to help protect it in a drop). I’ve heard people express concern about taking the Tap in and out of the Sling to set it on the charging cradle.

Well, there is a diagram for how you take it in and out. You don’t put it in from the top…you put it in from the side. You just put the bottom of it in the Sling, then you lift the top over it just be stretching it a little bit…no problem.

I have not yet connected either of them to Bluetooth (I’ll do that tomorrow and update this post).

The Dot does have a speaker, although the big difference between the Dot and the Echo is that it doesn’t have the Echo’s Bluetooth speaker. However, the speaker is…serviceable. It’s just fine for conversation, for doing things like telling you the weather. I did play music on it. I’d say it’s a bit like the old transistor radios we used to have.:) I have a tolerance for “tinny” music…my Significant Other doesn’t. I’ll fix that by connecting it to a speaker (there is an included 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm cable…that’s the normal “headphone jack” size).

They can all have the same wake word. The same Skills work on all of them.

Bottom line: we had two more ways to access the Alexa Voice Service within ten minutes…painlessly.

Have any questions? Feel free to ask by commenting on this post.

Oh, and as usual, April Hamilton has a great post on her blog, Love My Echo (not connected to my I Love My Kindle blog):

http://lovemyecho.com/2016/03/31/mail-bag-lme-answers-reader-questions-about-the-amazon-echo/

It may also answer some of your questions. I don’t have a connection with April Hamilton except that we have had some correspondence.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help!

For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

On the Circumference #6: AlphaGo, wake me up Echo

March 21, 2016

On the Circumference #6: AlphaGo, wake me up Echo

The On the Circumference posts contain short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Retrofitting TMCGTT

Our

The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip

went live at The History Project on February 29th (figuring that would be an easy date to remember), but I haven’t done much promotion of it yet (outside of my own blogs).

The History Project has mentioned it, as did Len Edgerly of

The Kindle Chronicles

also tweeted about it.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of work on it. Part of it is adding new things (you can see what I’ve been adding by following the special Twitter account I set up for it, @TMCGTT). However, the biggest work lately has been “retrofitting” earlier entries.

I started out just copying in a bunch of events from

The Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline

However, I later decided I wanted the entries to be interactive: I want you, when I can, legally, to be able to jump from an entry to being able to read a book/magazine/comic, watch a movie/TV show, listen to a radio show, and so on.

If that’s not the case, I want you to be able to use it as a portal, to jump to news (Google news search, Twitter search…).

Where I can find public domain pictures, I’ve been adding at least one of those as well.

So, I’ve been going back to existing entries…it takes a while.

I could probably improve entries forever, so I set myself a date for when I’ll start promoting it a bit outside my circle (so to speak).

That will be April 2nd.

I may compose an announcement, but I will at least follow some Twitter accounts (The Mary Sue, Entertainment Weekly…)

Go, Go Gadget AI!

When I work with people on their use of technology, I like to explain what they should expect the computer to do best and what the human should do best.

What computers do better than we do is the same thing over and over again. People are terrible at that.

What humans do better than computers, hypothetically, is make decisions.

So, if you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again, or if there are specific rules that govern what should be done, let the computer do it. If a decision has to be made, you should do it.

However, as I like to point out, computers are getting better at making decisions…and arguably, we are getting worse at doing the same thing over and over again.😉

That’s why they are catching up to us.:)

We saw that recently when Google’s Deep Mind AlphaGo beat Lee Sedol, a human champion, in Go:

Nature post by Mark Zastrow

Yes, Lee did win one of the best of five match…there has been a lot of analysis of what happened there, but maybe AlphaGo just didn’t want to appear to be too powerful.😉

I used to manage a gamestore, and Go players were serious and sure that their game was more difficult than chess. One argument they would make: you can be a chess prodigy in your teens, but you a Go prodigy in your 50s.:)

Indiana Jones 5

After great success in the Force Awakens, Harrison Ford will star in

Indiana Jones 5

which is scheduled to be released on July 19, 2019. Ford will have just turned 77.

There have been a lot of jokes about Harrison Ford’s age…because, you know, that wouldn’t get you reprimanded by HR at work.😉

Look, I like that a character like Indiana Jones can age. Why cut off all those possible stories at a certain age? You can always go back and do younger stories again if you want.

In the world of Alexa…

Some short points about the  Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and the Alexa Voice Service:

  • “I’m okay, you’re da-DING”: I’ve seen a lot of complaints about this, and I certainly preferred it the old way. When I now ask our Echo to use our home automation to turn a light on or off (for example), instead of a charming “Okay”, it makes a two-beat sound. They should at least give us the option…I like that my Echo talks to me; that’s one of the main points. I don’t think there’s any technical reason for it, because she still verbally responds to my requests which go to IFTTT (If This Then That)
  • You can now set recurring alarms! That’s great for me…I’m sometimes exercising when my alarm goes off on my tablet, and I have to break my routine to stop it. Now, I can just do it verbally
  • There are now 40 (!) pages of skills! You can also choose to just look at the skills you’ve enabled, if you like
  • For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Echo, Dot, Tap, or Fire TV? Which Amazon Alexa device is right for you?

March 4, 2016

Echo, Dot, Tap, or Fire TV? Which Amazon Alexa device is right for you?

Earlier today, I wrote about Amazon’s announcement of two new devices which will have it’s AVS (Alexa Voice Service):

The Alexa family grows! Two NEW devices from Amazon

I’ve gotten questions about it already, so I thought it was a good idea to do another post comparing the Amazon AVS devices, to help people choose between them.

Overview

There are now five devices from Amazon that have Alexa (from least to most expensive):

There are significant differences between them, both in hardware and in what Alexa can do.

What is Alexa?

You talk to it and it talks back.:)

On all of these, you can ask questions and get answers. They might be trivia questions, or the weather, or the news…an increasing number of possibilities.

They can all do that.

The most limited devices, in terms of Alexa, are the Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick (they are, I believe, the same in terms of Alexa). They do** home automation, which is one of the main thing I do with our Echo. They can all turn my lights on and off with verbal commands, and through our Harmony remote, control our Fire TV (for some things…see How to use the Amazon Echo and a Logitech Harmony to put on your TV shows). All five also interact with commands through IFTTT (If This Then That) (see Get the most of your Amazon Echo (and Alexa on your Fire TV/Stick))
The Fire TVs obviously show you video, which the other devices don’t do.

Another big piece of the Echo’s attraction is the always on microphone. I can just “talk to the air” whenever I want something to happen. That hardware is available on the Echo and the Dot…but not on the Tap or the Fire TV devices. For the Fire TVs, you use a voice remote (or your SmartPhone with the Fire TV app). On the Tap, you hit a button.

The Echo is also a nice speaker…I like the sound of the music on it. The Echo is, actually, mostly speaker, when you look at the hardware.

What would you get if you took away the speaker?

You’d get the Dot.:)

Oh, the Dot will have a speaker…but only of “voice quality”, so it can speak to you. It’s not going to have the same quality of sound for music. However, you can plug it into other speakers, or pair with a Bluetooth speaker for better sound (all sold separately).

The one that is bringing a new ability is the Tap. That ability? Portability. It has a battery (good for 9 hours of playback…and you get a charging cradle for free). It not only connects via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it will connect to a mobile hotspot (your phone can probably do that, but you might have to pay for a plan). Many Bluetooth speakers don’t have that capability. It’s also quite a bit smaller than the Echo: about six inches (about 150 mm) tall. The Echo is about half again as tall (about nine inches, 225 mm…those are just approximate numbers). A soda can, by comparison is about 5 inches tall).

So, what’s the appeal of each model?

The Fire TV Stick is tiny and the least expensive. To use it with Alexa, you either need the Voice remote…or your phone with the Fire TV app. It’s more for TV, but you can use Alexa for information, and for home automation.

The Fire TV is a much more powerful version of the Fire TV Stick. I have one of each.

The Dot is going to give you home automation and information at a lower cost than the Echo or the Tap. It does need to be plugged in. If you want to hear nice sounding music, you’ll need to connect it to other speakers. For me, this will go into the bedroom to control our home automation (the Echo is in our family room). It does have the same far field microphones as the Echo.

The Tap is like the Echo…and is mobile, but doesn’t have the far field microphones. You can carry it with you for music, information, and home automation (as long as you have Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot). You’ll have to push a button to interact with it. This one will be great for some people with disabilities, although they do need the ability to push the button.

Summing up:

  • You want TV, get the Fire TV or the Fire TV stick…and you get Alexa functionality with it
  • You want portability, get the Tap
  • You want information and home automation, get the Dot
  • You want information, home automation, and a nice speaker, get the Echo

I’ve seen some people pointing out that the Dot doesn’t come with a remote…neither does the Echo at this point (you buy it separately).

More information will come out, although the product pages do have quite a bit.

Note that you can only get the Dot right now by ordering it through an Echo…you can’t order it through the Amazon website at this point.

My guess is that the Dot is going to be a huge hit. You’ll be able to get that Star Trek computer experience in a small, relatively inexpensive device. If you are an audiophile, you already own a great Bluetooth or wired speaker, and the Dot will work with both of those. As home automation becomes more common, the voice control of the Dot will be more attractive. By the way, Wink enabled Nest thermostats now work directly with Alexa. The Dot may seem like almost a necessity, and people will want them in hotels and to have more than one in the house.

The Tap is more of a gadget, a fun thing to have with you. A SmartPhone can already do some of the things the Tap can do. I expect the Dot to be the bestseller (over the Echo as well) out of the three. The Fire TV Stick sells really well, but that’s apple and oranges.

I hope that helps. If you have more questions or insights, feel to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

** It used to be that the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick didn’t do the home automation, and I wrote the post at first reflecting that. However, there had been an update, and when I tested it this morning, it did work…I have updated the post to reflect that

For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

The Alexa family grows! Two NEW devices from Amazon

March 3, 2016

The Alexa family grows! Two NEW devices from Amazon

I just got an e-mail from Amazon with an exciting announcement!

In addition to the

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

there will be two more Amazon devices for the Alexa Voice Service.

Of course, that’s in addition to the Fire TV family…both generations and both models (Fire TV and Fire TV Stick) now do Alexa through the Voice Remote:

One is the Echo Dot, currently available only to Prime members in limited quantities, and only by using Alexa Voice Shopping. I’m at work and don’t have an Echo here, so I’ll have to wait until I’m home to try saying, “Alexa, order an Echo Dot”. They are $89.99, with a limit of two per customer (you’d have to place the order twice, since you can’t specify quantities when you order).

For more information, see

Echo Dot (at AmazonSmile*)

It’s like an Echo…but without the big speaker part. You can still use it to control home automation, ask it questions, and so on. You can also connect it to a speaker system using an audio cable or Bluetooth.

Cheaper and smaller, but BYOS (Bring Your Own Speakers). Could be a hit, especially for people wanting to multiply their Echoes to more parts of the house.

The other one you can order right now, for March 31st delivery (and I wouldn’t wait).

This one is the Amazon Tap…it’s $129.99, and it’s like the Echo without the always on microphones (you tap a button to interact with it…hence the name). However, and importantly, it doesn’t need to be plugged in to work! You can take it with you…Alexa on the road!

People have wanted this flexibility…as long as it can connect to wi-fi, you could play your music and use the other Alexa functionality.

They also have a silicone protective carrying sleeve, which comes in six colors, for $19.99.

It’s number one right now in

Hot New Releases in Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile*)

Of course, it’s the only one in that sales category.😉 Presumably, the Dot isn’t considered to be on general sale yet.

I’ll directly link to the Tap later, but you can get it to through the link I just gave for the category (I’m repeating it for my readers using screen readers): Hot New Releases in Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile*))

Exciting stuff! Alexa everywhere!:)

As always, feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Just published! The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip

February 29, 2016

Just published! The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip

We are very excited to announce the publication today (Leap Day) of a new project,

The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip

at The History Project!

You’ll be able to learn about (and in many cases, read/watch/listen to) geek friendly content.

To introduce it, I’m going to do what I call a “splinterview”: I’m going to interview myself about the project. As with all of my splinterviews, I haven’t thought about what I’m going to say ahead of time, and won’t substantively edit it afterwards (if I catch typos, I’ll correct those…just like I would with an interview with someone else).

Let’s get started!

Q. Your new project, The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip was published. What is it? A book, a blog…?

A. Well, it’s something different. It’s really more of a timeline, but much more interactive than that usually means.

Q. What do you mean by interactive?

A. When people use it, they’ll often be able to click on a link to watch a movie or TV show, read a book, listen to a radio show, that sort of thing.

Q. Will they pay for that?

A. Not me [laughs]. In many cases, I’m linking to public domain sources where there is no charge at all, but it’s possible they’ll see ads there. In others, I may link to a place that helps them find something where they might be paying. For example, for in-copyright movies & TV shows, I typically link to JustWatch.com, which is a search engine for streaming services. It might show them that they can watch the movie at Amazon Prime or Netflix or Hulu, for example. The user may be paying a monthly fee for that, but they won’t pay more for watching this specific movie.

Q. What about books? Are you only linking to subscription services there?

A. I generally link to Goodreads, which does have links where you can buy books. I’m not opposed to people buying things, even if that has become increasingly unpopular. What I don’t want to do is only link people to a single place to buy something. I don’t want it to feel like an ad, like I’m trying to sell them something.

Q. So, you aren’t making money on the Geek Time Trip?

A. Not directly. I did get permission from The History Project to link to my The Measured Circle blog, for example. It’s possible somebody will go from TMCGTT to The Measured Circle, and then do something there which might result in me getting some money.

Q. TMCGTT?

A. The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip.

Q. You mentioned getting permission from The History Project. Describe your relationship with them, and what they are.

A. Well, “getting permission” sounds too strong, really. I think everybody has that permission [to link to their websites]…I just asked them and they let me know it was okay. I’m not really connected with them, I’ve just had some correspondence with them as a user. What happened was that I’d heard about them…they’ve gotten some mainstream publicity. I think I first saw it in a Flipboard story. Anyway, I made a timeline for a relative as a birthday present. They happened to contact me for user feedback, and I said quite a bit [laughs]. I had a couple of conversations with them, mostly by e-mail. While they do seem like a startup, although a solid one, it seemed like a good place to do something public, and that they would (knock wood) be around for a while.

Q. What makes them seem like a startup?

A. Oh, there are some interface things, for example, that I expect to mature over time. I also see them making incremental improvements. I can feel the energy, enthusiasm, and commitment that can go with being a startup.

Q. Why do you think they’ll be a lasting company?

A. I mentioned the mainstream publicity…Forbes, CNN, to name two. I can tell that they know what they are doing from the website. Getting that coverage and having something that works technically is a good combination…it suggests both funding and some expertise, and at least some popular resonance for the idea.

Q. That’s probably enough background; let’s talk about what people will see when they go to The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip.

A. Sorry, one more thing first. There was a hiccup early on…I asked a question through the website, and didn’t get an answer. I’m big on Customer Service, and that made me hesitant even to do the birthday present. I could see that some big people were using it, like Jewel, so I decided to go ahead. When I brought that up in my user feedback, which I think was just a random thing, I got a personal and very strong and satisfying response. They apologized, and explained what happened, and made it right. Nobody gets everything right all the time…what matters is how you deal with your errors.

Q. And you were satisfied?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. So, what will be the experience for someone going to the Geek Time Trip?

A. It’s a timeline, first. They’ll see events on a chronological line.

Q. What sort of events?

A. Oh, when an actor or author is born, when a movie was released, when a book was published…something specific that happened. They can then click on that event, and that’s where I would say this starts getting really useful and fun. Visitors will find links to the content, but also to references…Wikia entries, YouTube and Google news searches, lots of things.

Q. Wikipedia?

A. Wikia…although I did Wikipedia sometimes, too. Wikia is really a fan-based site, with many wikis for different  properties.

Q. Were you always able to find links to the content?

A. No. I link when I can, but I don’t want to exclude something just because I can’t link to an online option.

Q. How do you choose what to put into The Geek Time Trip?

A. In this early stage, it’s a bit random. I could literally list thousands of items I’d like to have in TMCGTT offhand,with no research. I think that having the content is a good thing, one of the attractions. So, I’ve been going through some sites that have content, getting things there, and then rotating in other things I want to mention.

Q. Do you mind saying what sites?

A. Not at all! I name them in TMCGTT. I want them to get credit for the hard work they’ve done, and I want to drive people to the sites. For example, I use The Digital Comic Museum. That’s a great site! You can read or download public domain comics there, often obscure.

Q. How do you know they are public domain, not in copyright?

A. That’s a great question! I can’t know for sure…in many cases, it’s hard to research a copyright. What I do is get a sense of whether or not I think the site make a good faith effort to protect people’s rights. I do know something about copyright, as a layperson. I write about it fairly often in my most popular blog, I Love My Kindle.  I care a lot about copyright, so I’ll do what I can to get that right.

Q. How long does it take you to create an entry?

A. That’s one of the things. It takes a few minutes, I’d say. I do some research, put in the links…I’ll look for an unusual site. I would have loved to have thousands of entries on go live day, but there just wasn’t time.

Q. You are busy, right? Two blogs, books, and you have a full time job?

A. Three blogs, actually, but who’s counting? [laughs]

Q. I Love My Kindle, The Measured Circle, and?

A. 221B Blog Street. That doesn’t take me much time, though…I just republish the original public domain Sherlock Holmes material, either a chapter or a short story a day, in order. I just like having serialized literature available, which is the way many things we now consider classics were published…and Holmes is great!

Q. How do you have time to add another big project like The Geek Time Trip? Won’t your other projects suffer?

A. I can’t say there will be absolutely no impact, but things have changed. I haven’t really worked intently on a book for some time…ILMK takes up the vast majority of my writing time and energy, and that will continue to be the case. In the past couple of years, I’ve had another change which is helping…I only sleep about four and a half to five and half hours a night. That was a weird big change: I went suddenly from going to sleep by nine and waking up at five, which is eight hours, to waking up between 1:30 and 2:30 AM.

Q. That’s very early!

A. Yes, and somehow, it takes me six hours to get ready for work in the morning! [laughs] Not really, but I do exercise and get writing done. My baseline for exercise is ninety minutes a day, although I generally do more.

Q. Aren’t people supposed to get eight hours sleep?

A. I’ve actually checked with my doctor on it…twice. My doctor thinks it is okay…different people need different amounts of sleep. I don’t fall asleep during the day, and in my job, if I had cognitive decline, I’d know it.

Q. What is your job?

A. I’m a trainer. I work with medical people, so I’m pretty in tune with what’s risky behavior. I wouldn’t mind getting more sleep, but I don’t miss it and seem to be doing fine.

Q. Let’s get back to the Time Trip. When you pick events, what kind of impact do you want them to have on people?

A. I want different reactions. I want to waken lost memories…have somebody say, “I remember that!” I want people to be surprised when they encounter something they had no idea existed…and to hopefully enjoy it, of course. I’d also like it to be useful…I can see someone looking something up on it, and returning to the same event to check the Google news search link.

Q. How often will you add things?

A. I figure I’ll add a few things a week, and then have some binges sometimes where I do more.

Q. Do you have any help?

A. I wouldn’t mind that in the future. Right now, the moderation tools at The History Project aren’t robust enough for me to just open it up to everybody. I need to be able to review something, to make sure it isn’t just advertising, wildly inaccurate, or inconsistent with what else is there. Some of what I’m doing could be done pretty easily, at least basically adding an event…those public domain comics at DCM  don’t take a whole lot of decision making, outside of picking the comics. For now, it’s going to be just me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want suggestions or corrections, though! I’ve set up a page where people can comment to do just that, The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip. Even at go live, I had Samurai Pizza Cats, which was suggested to me by someone in the family.

Q. How will you measure the success of The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip?

A. If I have fun doing it and have the time, I’ll probably keep it going. I’d be encouraged if I hear from people that they like it. I would love for it to get mentioned in more mainstream sources…I’ve been a subscriber to Entertainment Weekly for many years, and appearing there would be fun. Getting mentioned in The Mary Sue would also be a measure of success for me. If it brings more people to my other works, great. The main thing, though, is people getting something out of it…that’s what makes me the happiest.

Q. Anything else you want to say?

A. Just that I’ve been having fun with it! There has definitely been some trial and error, and I found some techniques and style which helped. I’ve done a little bit of writing in it, but I’ve been keeping my opinions out of the entries. I just hope it’s a trip people find worth taking.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

2016 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness) predictions! (updated wih results)

February 28, 2016

2016 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness) predictions! (updated wih results)

It’s almost time for the Oscars!

Thanks to everyone who made predictions in our annual BOPMadness!

Here are our group predictions, a couacple of hours before the first envelope is opened on stage:

Adapted Screenplay: WINNER: The Big Short (5 points…predicted)

Adapted Screenplay

Animated Short: WINNER: Bear Story (3 points)

Animated Short

Animated Feature: WINNER: Inside Out (5 points…predicted)

Animated Feature

Best Picture: WINNER: Spotlight (8 points)

Best Picture

Cinematography: WINNER: The Revenant (5 points…predicted)

Cinematography

Costume: WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road (5 points…predicted)

Costume

Director: Alejande Gonzalez: WINNER: The Revenant (5 points…predicted)

Director

Documentary Feature: WINNER: Amy (5 points…predicted)

Documentary Feature

Documentary Short: WINNER: A Girl in the River (4.5 points…tie prediction)

Documentary Short

Film Editing: WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road (4 points)

Film Editing

Foreign Language Film: WINNER: Son of Saul (5 points…predicted)

Foreign Language Film

Hair and Makeup: WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road (3 points…predicted)

Hair and Makeup

Lead Actor: WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio (5 points…predicted)

Lead Actor

Lead Actress: WINNER: Brie Larson (5 points…predicted)

Lead Actress

Live Action Short: WINNER: Stutterer (3 points)

Live Action Short

Original Screenplay: WINNER: Spotlight (5 points…predicted)

Original Screenplay

Production Design: WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road (5 points…predicted)

Production Design

Score: WINNER: The Hateful Eight (5 points…predicted)

Score

Song

Song

Sound Editing: WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road (5 points…predicted)

Sound Editing

Sound Mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road (5 points…predicted)

Sound Mixing

Supporting Actor: WINNER: Mark Rylance (4 points)

Supporting Actor

Supporting Actress: WINNER: Alicia Vikander (5 points…predicted)

Supporting Actress

Visual Effects: WINNER: Ex Machina (1 point)

Visual Effects

We’ll check back with winners…enjoy the show, and good luck!

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

2016 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness)

February 17, 2016

2016 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness)

For more than twenty years, I’ve been doing an Oscar prediction contest.

Important note: there is no fee to play the  game, and we only play for that most valuable of human possessions…bragging rights. 

We do ours a bit differently than most. You rank every nominee, and then you get the number of points you assigned to the winner.

For example, there are five nominees for Actor in a Leading Role. You would assign the one you thought the Academy was most likely to pick (not necessarily the one you thought most deserved it) with a 5. Your second most likely would be a 4, and so on.

As we did last year, we are using SurveyMonkey, rather than Excel.

That means you can play anonymously, if you prefer…we also think many people may find it easier.

There are three surveys (we are currently limited to no more than ten questions per survey):

Big Six and Screenwriting:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JFPH3V7

Design and Appearance:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CNKKMZ5

Whole Movies and Music

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JQKBKT8

If you would like to be recognized as a winner of the Big Six (the acting awards, Best Picture, and Best Director), the Incredibly Difficult Maven Section (everything else), and/or Overall, you’ll have the opportunity at the site to enter your name (that will not be public). If you’d like to receive future communications about BOPMadness, you can also enter your e-mail address there (again, that will not be public).

If you have any questions, you can comment on this post. If you’d like your comment to remain private, please let me know in the comment.

We will post the group predictions here before the Oscar ceremony on Sunday, February 28th.

The more people who play, the more accurate we tend to be…feel free to share this with anyone you think would like to participate.

See you in the movies!

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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