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New Cosplay Culture Magazine From Ottawa

One of my northern-neighbors and readers (Nikko) is working on an interesting project that I thought I would highlight in it’s own blog post. Some people might not know this about me, but I used to do cosplay! (For those who don’t know what it is, it’s a great hobby where fans of TV, movies, and video games will create costumes of their favorite characters. It’s like an elaborate halloween, but with wardrobe engineering challenges!) I don’t participate anymore, mostly because of the time it requires, but I am always fascinated by the work others put into their costumes.

Anyway, Nikko started a Ottawa-based magazine around the culture of cosplayers a few years back. While everyone may not see the need for it, cosplaying is actually an important part of almost every major nerd convention, including the big ones like Comic-Con, so there is a lot to cover. The name of the magazine is simply CosCulture and can be found at CosCultureMagazine.com. After looking it over online there were a few things that truly caught my attention. The photography in this magazine is amazing. There are some fabulously talented portrait photographers working hard on this project. While this magazine started out as an online publication, there is no doubt in my mind that it’s worthy of purchasing in print.

As I mentioned, cosplaying usually coincides with a geek gathering of some kind and so the magazine includes some beautiful pieces covering a number of conventions. The galleries of course are the best part covering the humorous cosplay troupes (men dressed as the wives from the latest Mad Max movie) as well as the more serious individuals.

Of course, the last thing I’d like to point out is that all of these magazines are printed completely ad free. That does mean it will cost you money, but not much! It also means that the editorial quality of this magazine is much higher than the tabloid-style clickbait-trash you come across most of the time. If you have even the slightest interest in cosplay I think you’ll enjoy this magazine. Hell, even if you’re just a nerd who likes to look at attractive people dressing up in production-quality costumes and props you’ll probably enjoy the magazine. (And who doesn’t like that?)

Bad News for Those Who Like Privacy & Airbnb

There have been an increase of posts and complaints about Airbnb hosts hiding small cameras throughout their property and filming guests without their knowledge. It’s not super surprising since you can buy a small wireless camera for about $200, but many people don’t think to ask or check for something like a hidden camera in their rental. It’s not explicitly against Airbnb’s policies, and depending on your state laws it’s possible hosts could lie to you if asked about the presence of hidden cameras.

Of course there are a few different ways to check and see if there is a hidden camera in your room. The most obvious method is to look. Move things around, check to see if you can see anything on your own. It’s easy to point the camera away, cover it up, or unplug it once it’s found. The next method would be to use a signal detector to find any electronic devices. The problem with this method is that unless you have a fairly expensive unit you’ll pick up EVERY electronic signal in the room or house. In other words, you could spend a good deal of time chasing false positives. There is a third option, but it only works on Dropcam and Withings devices. It’s simply a script that you would run to disable any cameras on the network. Of course, the other drawback to this option is that it may not legal thanks to recent changes by the FCC that prohibit hotel operators from having hidden cameras. If all else fails, you could of course just disconnect the router and modem when not using them. Hopefully the home isn’t running anything important on the network!

The safest option though would likely be to spend the extra few dollars a night for a real hotel. Hotels run under much stricter standards than Airbnb. They can’t kidnap you or record you sleeping, and at some of the best ones, there is no human interaction to check in and out.

Netflix New Terms of Service

Some people may have noticed that Netflix released a new terms of service this week. When users logged onto their account, they were greeted with a message that essentially said, “agree or get lost.” I was going to put off reading the fantastic bit of literature, but thought I might as well sift through it to see what the changes were all about.

Of course, I found the typical garbage like agreeing to arbitration (your case has to be seen by a likely-biased mediator not a judge,) allowing your account to be terminated for any (or no) reason, agreeing that your personal information can be used for advertising, agreeing to your personal information being sold without notification, and Netflix absolving itself of liability should your personal information be stollen. The latest addition of their terms includes a segment specific to using your location to recommend you titles (and ads.) After agreeing to the terms (it wouldn’t let me watch anything without doing so) I started to browse my suggested videos. Turns out they are already using that location data to recommend me titles! I was recommended a number of ESPN videos related to the Buffalo Bills and hockey. Go figure!

I suppose this isn’t the greatest invasion of privacy, but I do think it’s interesting to see why a company decides to change their terms of service and to speculate as to what they plan to do with their new found powers or information. It seems as though they may have also beefed up their section on advertising. I probably wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to try having ads in their platform. The long-term strategy is more likely to be that of an exclusive TV channel type service. Most existing TV channels already have their own platform for a stand-alone streaming solution and are only being held back by existing contracts and business models. I suspect that in the near future you will see more stand-alone streaming services with exclusive content requiring multiple memberships to access all the TV and movie content currently available on Netflix.

Pensacola Florida: The Redneck Riviera

I was recently in Pensacola, FL celebrating the New Year and I’ll admit, for a place nicknamed “the redneck riviera,” it’s much nicer than you might think. Obviously my sisters being there was one of the best parts, but a close second would be the beaches in almost every direction. I can’t even remember how many beaches we saw and then we ran out of time to see the others! And I’m not talking pebble beaches, these were beautiful white sand beaches. Of course, I was looking at all the little animal prints in the sand and was able to find some sand dollar chunks and weird bits of shell. The coolest beach-related sighting though was without a doubt the pelicans! I’d never seen a pelican before in real life so that was pretty exciting.

While I was down there The Kohl Sisters didn’t slum it at fast food joints either. We went to some trendy vegetarian, vegan, and meaty restaurants. The Tin Cow was a personal favorite. It’s a build-your-own burger place in the trendy downtown area. They had some killer spiked milkshakes, maybe not as good as those Honey Hut ones in Ohio (thanks Ben) but still a damn good shake. We also ate at this vegetarian restaurant that was wonderful called Sluggo’s. It had a grungy-west-coast vibe to it that I enjoyed (the atmosphere not the food) and they even had a take-a-movie-leave-a-movie shelf in their concert area. Even the vegetarian brunch we got at End of the Line was fantastic. The people there were also very sweet. Two separate women started to chat with me and tell me about what they loved about the place.

The downtown area wasn’t full of late-night shops, but it was decorated beautifully and there were enough restaurants and bars open to make it feel lively. All the trees were covered in lights (probably still up from the holidays) and some were additionally decorated with knit patters thanks to a group of local yarn bombers. One tree had pockets on it’s sweater(?) so I stuck a surprise for the next person in one. I won’t lie, I also enjoyed the downtown area because a local bar was playing a good amount of ska music and I had to use all my willpower to keep from loudly singing the lyrics to Sellout by Reel Big Fish.

The last cool stop we made was the lighthouse in Pensacola. It was something like 200 steps to climb to the top, but all four of us did it (even against medical warnings!) Historically, the site was exciting. There were supposedly lots of ghosts there since it was one of America’s first settlements. I didn’t see any unfortunately, but I did see the beautiful views of the beach. The climb up was a bit unnerving, something about spiral staircases always makes me a bit shaky, but seeing the ocean from up there made it completely worth it. As a bonus, one of my sisters spotted a wedding proposal stomped out in the sand on the beach! That’s the first proposal I think I’ve seen and it was a pretty cute idea.

It’s no surprise that with the light amount of snow we’re seeing now in NY that I’m thinking maybe I should be moving to Florida with my sister. More likely, I’ll just spend some more time visiting though!

“The man who pulls the lever, that breaks your neck will be a dispassionate man. And that dispassion is the very essence of justice. For justice delivered without dispassion, is always in danger of not being justice.” – Oswaldo Mobray, The Hateful Eight

Checked Baggage Handling and Damage

I recently got back from a trip to Florida, (which I will of course talk about more in a later post,) but the first thing I wanted to write about was baggage and the general flying experience. If you know me well, then you know I hate checking a bag. I have squished two weeks worth of clothing into a backpack to avoid it on multiple occasions. It’s probably been two or three years since I have been so unsuccessful at packing that I needed to check a bag. Needless to say, I don’t tend to give a lot of thought to checked bags. I will spend an unreasonable amount of time thinking about carry-ons, but that’s a whole different story.

On my recent flights I was a bit derelict in my booking and ended up with some seats remarkably far back in the cabin. It’s not all bad to sit back that far, for instance, you’re more likely to survive a plane crash in the back than anywhere else in the plane. That being said, it takes an eternity for all the people in front of you to get off the plane. The family trapping me into my seat on my final flight discussed their martyr-like plan to wait till everyone was off the flight before moving so I figured I would just get comfy and watch out the window for the next hour or so. Luckily, being so far back had a second great perk that I didn’t know about. You can actually watch the checked bags zip off the plane and get packed onto the little rolling racks! That might be better than surviving a plane crash, but I’m not 100%.

At the time it was a warm 10°F and just one guy was out there tossing bags around. He was hustling, but the bags were coming at him faster than he could stack them. I felt pretty bad for him to be honest. He didn’t look like a particularly big guy and some of those bags looked like they had a few hundred pounds of souvenirs in them. A few bags fell off the belt and onto the ground before he could catch them. He did notice I was watching after that and started to build a small fort of bags around him instead of putting them on the trolley which was a shame. I sort of enjoyed watching the bags blindly face the edge of the conveyer belt and promptly flop off.

The family did decide to let me out of my seat when they thought the plane was good and empty and as I walked down the terminal I was wondering how many people would complain about broken bags or their crushed contents. Despite every airline policy (that I know of) stating you are 100% responsible for the damages to your bags, there is some hope for those travelers who find themselves with busted bags. Turns out, new legislation has been passed that states airlines are responsible for damage to bags despite what airline company policies claim. So, if you’ve got some damaged bags you might want to call up your airline and complain. The phone reps might not be aware of the new law and you could earn some miles or cash. (I’ll just continue to chuckle at the inefficient processes used by airlines and hang on to my carry-on though.)

2015 in Review

It’s the time of the year where companies start posting reviews from the year. As 2015 concludes we can look back on the internet trends, news stories, and major events, but I’d like reflect on the people that have made this year a good year for me (in no particular order.)

  • Jo – For always pushing me to do more, try more, and get more out of life.
  • Katie – For letting me know I always have a listening ear when I need one.
  • Lisa – For the valuable lessons and endless information on how to succeed.
  • John – For the comfort in knowing you are watching out for my sister.
  • Ellie – For the forgiveness and warm welcome after all these years.
  • Kim – For the fearlessness you have, it’s inspirational!
  • Kyle – For your humble nature and honest opinions.
  • Amy – For entertaining my silly adventures and ideas.
  • Shannon – For your genuine love of the people in your life.
  • Sarah – For inviting me to be part of your big day.
  • Mel – For being a warm and welcoming person all the time.
  • Necole – For being real and being open.
  • Sam – For being the right amount of pessimistic and sharing.
  • Roy – For your words of comfort without judgement.
  • Roy – For your loyalty and trust over the years.
  • Karlie – For your unique perspective and thoughtful conversation.
  • Andy – For always welcoming me into the group.
  • Nate – For being a great drinking buddy.
  • Mike – For understanding that wrappers do need to be folded a certain way.
  • Ali – For being a warm and welcoming new friend.
  • Jon – For introducing me to a whole world of new things.
  • Chris – For your humor and kindness.
  • Brett – For always remembering me and including me as a close friend.
  • Mike – For being a great DM and organizing such fun game sessions.
  • Kayla – For sharing your exciting adventures and art.
  • Chris – For making me realize money isn’t everything and you can always make more.
  • Drew – For telling me it was okay that I sucked at every activity I did in high school.
  • Brad – For always being open and honest with me and willing to share tales of weridness.
  • Scooter – For watching out for me and being there when I needed backup.
  • Roman – For recognizing me for my intellect over anything else.
  • Candy – For inspiring me as a fellow female entrepreneur.
  •  Jo – For showing me what one fantastic person can do with a good heart and hard work.
  • Laeitia – For recognizing my hard work and thoughtfulness.
  • Brian – For always believing in my stupid ideas.
  • Pat – For being my partner in crime and listening to my rants.
  • Ben – For making me feel like a part of the cool-kids club.
  • Joey – For making every trade show more fun and every work day more entertaining.
  • Cindy – For understanding my weirdness and loving it.
  • Jim – For trusting in me and valuing my opinions.
  • Corey – For growing my networking of gaming professionals.
  • Jeff – For being a funny guy.
  • Mike – For thinking I’m cool on instagram…we know the truth.
  • Ricardo – For educating me on the supreme awesomeness of Portugal.
  • Katie – For knowing how it feels to be that guy at a show.
  • Bob – For being one of my first professional friends and being real with me always.
  • Richard – For life advice I didn’t even know I needed.
  • Igor – For cross-cultural appreciation and insight.
  • Aubrie – For being a good friend even when I’m a shit one.
  • Guy – For truly caring about my well being and offering me a place to stay in Normandy.

THANK YOU! Seriously, I am blessed to have crossed paths with all of you and hope you feel the same. I hope that 2016 is an even better year for you all than 2015!

With lots of love,
Sarah

Artori Design Super Hero Bookends

Last month Ori Niv from Artori Designs reached out to me to share his latest bookend design. I don’t usually review products, but I do personally appreciate artistic interpretations of, “nerd culture” incorporated into every-day objects. I’ll even admit I bought two reusable shopping bags this year just because I liked the vector art design used to print images of Luke and Darth Vader.

Artori Designs has a few metal book ends bookends that aren’t superhero themed and while they are very nice, they aren’t quite as interesting as these two. At least, they are more suited for a normal person’s home, and who wants that?

These two shelves are sold separately and depict generic super heroes. I almost think I prefer that to be honest. This way nobody can say start something with you over the intricacies of the Marvel vs DC universe when they come over to watch the latest season of American Horror story. The bookends are both made of metal and obviously serve different purposes. The first is more of a shelf to be honest, while the second is a true bookend. Both create the illusion that this silhouetted cartoon character is shouldering the weight of your literature collection with is the particularly cool part.

These cool pieces can both be ordered on Amazon, and I would recommend that over their store. The website for Artori Design is a bit busy and difficult to navigate. Not like, Web 1.0 difficult, but still more challenging than it needs to be.

Not Taco Bell Material by Adam Corolla

I can’t say I was super familiar with Adam Corolla before picking up this book. In fact, I think I have only seen a handful of episodes of The Man Show and a special on Comedy Central. I decided to read Not Taco Bell Material only because it sounded like an interesting story about someone’s less-than-traditional life, which is just the sort of thing I love.

The entire book was entertaining, and not surprisingly the most entertaining parts were before he became famous. To summarize the book, he created each chapter around different houses that he lived in throughout his life and how his life evolved while at that place of residence. Now that I have spent some time in Los Angeles and not only made friends there, but learned the area, I enjoyed reading about each suburb he lived in. Seeing places like Glendale and Van Nuys pop up made me smile because I could relate them to stories my friends have told me as well as my personal experiences. (This must be how people who live in New York City feel when they see their city mentioned in songs and movies…not that I would know much about that.)

Not Taco Bell Material was particularly interesting to me because it wasn’t just a book where a self-absorbed celebrity talked about his hardships. Adam Corolla reflected about life lessons and humanities flaws for the most part. At times I didn’t fully agree with his comparisons or conclusions, but it’s possible they were slightly overstated for comedic effect.

At the end, if you were too much of a knucklehead to have understood the hard-work-pays-off point he was trying to make, he summarizes it beautifully in the following quote.

“That useless second front door on the first house you read about didn’t stay there for years because no one had the skill to remove it; it was because nobody had the will to remove it. I came from the least effective group of people to grace this planet, yet I’m a doer. I’m a closer. I get shit done. And that’s not something you can buy, or that someone can give you. It’s something you have to build into yourself and your life. The ability to take care of business, to focus, to lock it off and knock it off. As opposed to every dump I grew up in, my current house stands as the testimony to that mind-set.” – Adam Corolla

I think that particular selection resonated with me in particular as it seems more and more people expect to be given, “good fortune” in life. I can’t say I’m cashing million dollar checks like Mr. Corolla, but I can see where I have come from and the distance I’ve crossed to get where I am today. I’m content with that.

So if you’re looking for some light and entertaining reading I would highly recommend checking out a copy of Not Taco Bell Material. You’re unlikely to have a grand revelation about yourself and humanity, but it may make you stop and think for a moment.

SO Delicious Coconut Chocolate Mint Milk for the Holidays

I don’t have (much) of a problem with milk, but I couldn’t resist picking this holiday coconut milk up in the stores this month. Heck, I grew up in dairy farmer country. I’m all for milk, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try something new now and then. I’ve been drinking this stuff like a junky all month and I’m not ashamed to say it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the product, SO Delicious is a company that makes dairy-free products. This limited edition mint chocolate milk is one of two seasonal drinks they have this year. The other is eggnog of course, but I don’t think people actually enjoy drinking eggnog…do they?

No matter, if you picked out the eggnog drink and passed on the mint chocolate milk you made a grave error. The mint chocolate coconut milk is thick and creamy, and almost reminds me of a dessert pudding. After trying it I immediately texted my family members (including the vegan/vegetarians in the family) with a photo of the carton and an explanation that was simply, “it tastes like christmas miracles!”

I’m not one of the people who go crazy buying seasonal flavored food like pumpkin spice bread or cranberry muffins, but I’ll admit that I didn’t want to blog about this stuff right away for fear that it would sell out at my local store before I could buy more. So, I might be slightly obsessed with this particular product. My final thoughts about this seasonal treat is if you can’t still find a carton I highly recommend you buy it and try it out!

“There are times when it is best to be content with what one has, so as not to lose everything.” Jose Saramago

7 Movie Marathon of Star Wars

Alright so you may or may not know I made the potentially foolish decision to get up at 1am this morning to head to a seven movie marathon of Star Wars in Rochester. There wasn’t reserved seating so of course I went early to get a good seat. I wasn’t looking forward to rewatching episodes 1 through 3 so I wanted a good napping spot. I have to say though, after seeing them again, they really weren’t that bad.

By episode 2 I have in and got myself my usual popcorn and ICEE and promptly stained my pants with butter flavored palm oil.

The crowd of people who showed up was delightful. They were the people unemployed enough to take a full day of work off, but yet able to afford a $50 ticket. Almost everyone was dressed up in Star Wars gear or full costumes. One guy had a Yoda figure that he was cradling like a baby. At first I thought it was an actual baby or maybe a flask disguised as Yoda. It was neither. Another guy made a point to call his office around episode 3 to simply tell his employer he would be, “indisposed” for the day.

Of course, as one of my film professors told our class, the fun of going to a theater is the crowd of people all sharing the experience with you. People clapped, laughed, and cheered together which was amazing. We all were tired and discussing our strategies for staying awake in the beginning, but as the day went on the excitement kept everyone awake.

I’m still not sure I loved the new movie but I’m glad I rewatched them all in chronological order. I have a new appreciation for the first three Star Wars movies. I felt the overall story was actually better in them than episodes 4-6. The dialog was written better in 4-6 though and had slightly less goofy editing. So far it seems like 7-9 will be somewhere between the two trilogies in terms of quality, but only time will tell.

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