Archive for December, 2014


So this happened…

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Now I actually work on my WIP revisions. What the hell?

— IEK

**Yes, Avengers: Age of Ultron spoiler alert**

So this week 7yo received his Lego Club magazine along with the 2015 Lego catalogue. For massive Lego nerds like myself & 7yo, this is called good times.

Two awesome things were in the 2015 catalogue:

1) Integration with Lego’s 3D catalogue app which, when you point your device at the pages, provides 3D, augmented reality animation of many of the sets! It’s hard to describe how amazing you cool it was to see an AT-AT walking on our kitchen table for the first time. Yes – that is an animated AT-AT walking across the pages of the catalogue with snowtroopers abseiling from it. Find the app here: (Play Store & iTunes).
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2) The following sets:

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The first thing I noticed was Hulkbuster armour (of course) and from a quick look through the other sets, it’s obvious that Avengers: Age of Ultron is the major inspiration for all of the Lego Marvel Superheroes sets for 2015. Sweet. So…we already know from the trailer that the Avengers teamsheet from the first movie will appear as well as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, but let’s see what else we can learn from these sets…

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First off – it looks like the Avengers have Avengers Tower at some stage in the film, so clearly the whole idea of the Avengers only coming together to combat global (or galactic) emergencies is at some stage left behind. Also, we can see the stars-&-stripes-clad Iron Legion combating Ultron Mark 1 around Avengers Tower, which essentially confirms the theory that Tony Stark is responsible for implementing a robotic security force which is what eventually spawns Ultron.

But have a look at one of those Iron Legion minifigs:
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Loki’s sceptre?? VERY interesting. One wonders whether or not the Tesseract is again the source of the Avengers’ woes. Those damn Infinity Gems are just a menace. I mean imagine if someone really nasty got hold of them!

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*Daydreams*…Anyway…now let’s see who Lego has in their list of characters for Age of Ultron…

 

imageOK…Ultron Prime…Ultron sentry (look like the Ultrons which swarm all over the Bard Fortress in the trailer)…interesting, but we already knew from the trailer that there would be a bunch of Ultron models in the film. Now at least we can put a few names to chassis. Oh there’s Scarlet Witch – groovy.

image Iron Legion…as mentioned, we can assume this is Tony Stark’s early attempt at a robotic security force. In case you can’t see the resemblance in the pics here – it’s the head of an Iron Legion robot which Ultron crushes with his “Strings” line in the trailer.
image Cap…Black Widow…Iron Man appears to be in every set…

…wait. VISION!!

If you’ve been keeping an eye on spoilers around the place, you will have seen Vision show up in a few places, but nothing official or detailed. So there had been a lot of conjecture about what role the Vision would play in the film. From the set he shows up in (Quinjet City Chase), it’s pretty clear that Ultron has captured Vision and he is freed by the Avengers.image

OK, so there might be a bit more stuff in this than I’ve derived from first glance, but whichever way, these sets are fantastic and this movie is going to completely rule!

Happy building!

— IEK

minibar_01It seems that my job as a wild-mannered IT trainer has become something of a travelling role with many of the courses I run being delivered face-to-face with people in other cities and other countries. If I were a young person with no kids, this would be awesome, as I have always really enjoyed the private room with pay TV, breakfast made for me and my choice of dinner venues where they will also make it for me. This, of course, is part of the reason I love Co-Consul so much: she usually cooks dinner.

Of course as a middle-aged person with multiple young children, the awesome is somewhat diminished. This does not mean, however, that I will not try to make the best of it and, over the years, I have learned a few tricks which can save you time, money and also make you happier during your stay in a random hotel.

1) Never check out before you finish your last complimentary breakfast!

Once you check out, your access to the free guest wi-fi gets cut off, so if you have paid for your breakfast (or, you know, your company has) and were thinking of using the interwebs for any reason while you ate, you would have to use your own data if you checked out beforehand! Unacceptable. Check out after breakfast & enjoy the freedom of free-download.

2) Don’t let the hotel’s TV lock you out of using your own media player.

If you have a media player or Chromecast you know you will probably need a HDMI port on the TV to use it. Many hotels lock out their TVs disallowing access to these ports, meaning you can only use the hotel’s own (often sub-standard) entertainment offering – not any more! Many of these TVs will have an RJ-45 cable (that’s a Cat network cable) plugged in the back of their smart TV, giving it access and login to the hotel’s network. If you can access the rear of the TV, simply disconnect this cable and you should be able to use the remote to change to the HMDI port you need! If this doesn’t work, you may need to turn the TV off, then on again with the network cable unplugged. Just remember to plug the network cable back in before you check out so the next guest in the room (who may not know ANYTHING about network cables) can use the TV. If the hotel’s remote does not provide access to change the port, you may need to read hack #3!

3) Buy yourself a cheap universal remote & carry it with you. 

Many hotels around the world use a non-standard, customised remote which does not allow you access to the features on the TV you might want to use (such as the HDMI port). You can fix this pretty easily and inexpensively if you carry remotes_pilewith you a universal remote. Universal remotes are designed to control most brands of TV and are programmed either using a brand-specific code which comes in a manual with the remote or using a laptop & a USB cable. If you don’t have a laptop, make sure you buy one of the code-programmed ones. Here are some known brands of universal remote: Logitetch, All For OneURC.

4) Don’t pay minibar price for your drinks or snacks

Everyone knows this, right? You don’t eat or drink from the minibar because minibar drinks & snacks are priced against their weight in gold (or are actually made of gold, I haven’t worked out which just yet). But what if you get in real late, everything around is shut and the hotel doesn’t do room service? And what if you’re hungry or thirsty? You only have one choice: minibar. Sure, you could wear a coupld of over-priced beers, but if you travel a lot, these little over-priced beers can start to add up. Well – never fear, if you happen to eat or drink something from the minibar and you really don’t want to pay that $6 for a bag of chips or $12 for a bottle of beer, then you can use the hotel’s own “do not disturb” or “do not clean” sign – hang it on the door before you leave in the morning. Then, before you return to your room that night, you go to the local supermarket and/or grog shop (that’s Australian for “liquor store”) and buy standard-priced exact replacements for the items you consumed and put them right back in the minibar. The hotel keeps their minibar items and you keep your money. Just be careful to make them EXACT replacements or you will be charged for the items you consumed (hotel staff know the difference between cheap beer and expensive beer). Clearly this plan will not work if A) you’re only staying the one night or B) if the hotel minibar is one of those painful electronic things which charges you the moment you remove something, but otherwise, it’s a pretty solid play.

5) Don’t let the hotel’s web page login stop your Chromecast.

Chromecast doesn’t allow setup on most hotels’ wi-fi network because it does not have a web browser to log into the hotel’s nice web page. There aren’t too many ways around this and quite frankly and unless you know what you’re doing, trying any of them could cause harm to your devices, but if you’re game (and you know what you’re doing, remember?), though there are a couple. Hotel wi-fi authentication web pages mostly check the MAC address of the device trying to connect to see if it has already authenticated – obviously, your Chromecast has not, so it will not get access to the network until it provides the room code or password BUT there is a screen in the Chromecast setup app which provides the MAC address of your Chromecast and if you can make one of your other devices temporarily pretend to be your Chromecast (by temporarily changing its MAC address), then your Chromecast will be able to connect.

There is a way to change a laptop MAC address on most operating systems and How to Geek has them mostly covered: How and Why to Change Your MAC Address. If you only have a phone (no laptop) and it is either rooted (Android) or jailbroken (iPhone)…(yes, all of these apps need your phone to be rooted or jailbroken), then there are a number of MAC address maskers you can download and use. Be careful, though – make sure you do a search and check the safety level of the app you install (using an app checker and verifying its authenticity using forums and user reviews) to reduce the chance of it being malicious (which means any app you install could hack you phone and rooted/jailbroken-only apps are already on the fringes). Having not tested any of them myself, I am not an advocate for any particular app and I have no idea which ones are legit and which ones are dangerous, so I will not provide any further information on that one.

IMPORTANT: Always make a note of your ORIGINAL MAC address before making any changes and always remember to restore the original one once your Chromecast has access!!

word_countThis year, for the first time, I gave National Novel Writing Month a genuine shake.

Now I didn’t win, but I did write a whole lot more than I did last time I dipped my toe into #NaNoWriMo.

In 2013, I signed up and, having decided to completely overhaul my WIP, I felt that it might be a good chance to get some real work done in it, but of course that didn’t work out and I spent November 2013 writing about as many words as I wrote this evening while I waited for the dentist to call me in.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a (now) global event which occurs every November and involves writers, authors and people who have never written more than a few words in a row collectively attempting to write a novel in a single month. The concept of “winning” NaNoWriMo is not a singular prize, but rather a reward for achieving the global word goal of 50,000 words (50,000 being considered the minimum length for an actual novel).

This year, while not sacrificing anything in particular, I did try to write at (almost) every opportunity and I managed  21,813 words. My NaNoWriMo login says something in the realm of 19,000 words, but I never actually logged in to update it with my last bash because I was too bloody tired. But I know how many words I wrote and that is the main thing. My goal during this NaNoWriMo was less to achieve the 50,000 words and more to work out how many words I could write if I wasn’t really trying all that hard. I’m pretty pleased.

I have a serious full-time job, 3 kids and a 100+ year-old house we still need to finish renovating and painting. I also like to speak to my significant other (alias Co-Consul) and my kids (even in November). Now none of this is really a valid excuse because in reality, INCREDIBLE people like Leigh Ann Kopans and Megan Whitmer have kids, a job and also manage to actually finish books and publish them, but this mythical time to actually write is hard to come by and I have no idea how they do it!!

Because I never intended to “finish a stand-alone novel” in a month (because apparently to me, a stand-along novel is closer 500,000 words than 50,000), I used NaNoWriMo to focus on Bifrost and try to get it closer to completion (or at least Book 2 closer to completion given the now 120,000-odd words I’ve written on it). We’re getting REALLY close now. I can feel it so much that I started writing the ending chapter today. I had an ending some time ago, I’m just putting it on paper now.

I think what I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo is not so much that writing a novel in a month is possible (I suppose if you’re writing something short, that’s fine), but more that I can achieve without sacrificing everything. This is important.

NaNoWriMo is also littered with wonderful events, write-ins and bookshelves worth of #WriteClub and non-WriteClub writing sprints (seriously you could get in board a writing sprint almost ANY time) and I pretty much did my own thing, not getting involved.

To think what I could achieve if I actually sacrificed and got involved! Hmmm…2015 anyone?

— IEK

 

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