Kana Quest is a great puzzle game that just so happens to also teach you Japanese

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It can be difficult to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play, we suggest video games that can be started and finished in a weekend.

Growing up, I played a lot of educational games on the Apple IIe, like Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? The games that actually taught me things were also the ones that were fun to play, learning how a particular subject aligned with how you needed to think about getting better at the game. The Carmen Sandiego games were particularly good at this: improving meant teaching yourself more about the locations or places in time where the thief could have fled to in order to better discern the clues.

In a…

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From The Strategist: The 8 best coffee makers

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For all the debate over whether the best coffee comes from a Chemex or a French press or an AeroPress, sometimes you just want to turn on a machine and let it do all the work. We asked 14 coffee experts — baristas, roasters, food-industry professionals, and just plain coffee snobs — what coffee makers out there will give you a good, simple at-home brew without all the fuss. Below are their eight favorite machines for people who think the best part of waking up is having a gadget make their cup.


Best overall coffee maker

Bonavita Connoisseur 8-Cup One-Touch Coffee Maker

According to our research, the Bonavita Connoisseur is respected industry-wide, with four experts recommending the model specifically by name and two…

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Upgrade your PC with this sale on refurbished computers from Microsoft, HP, Dell, and more

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In case you’re one of those computer shoppers who instinctively turns up their nose at the very mention of the word refurbished, here are a couple myths worth dispelling.

Refurbished equals junk somebody didn’t want. While desktops, laptops, notebooks, Chromebooks and tablets marked as refurbished may have been unboxed at some point, meaning they can never again be sold as new, that definitely doesn’t make them junk.
Refurbished computers don’t work. In fact, the complete opposite is usually true. No matter why a computer ended up back at the manufacturer, each one was cleaned, assessed and had new components installed if needed to get the machine to meet or exceed original performance expectations. Unlike models that just rolled off an automated assembly line, a human actually checked out a refurbished computer and gave it the company’s seal of approval.
Refurbished machines aren’t a deal. Well, take a look at the 22 good-as-new models served up here by some of the world’s top computer makers, each with discounts knocking as much as $1,300 off your final price and say that.

Desktops and towers still pack a punch

With so many buyers focused on transportable tech, big savings are available on the workhorse of the computer industry: the trusty old desktop unit.

The HP EliteDesk 705-G1 Mini PC ($229.99; originally $599.99) is the very definition of dependable and a solid choice for anyone seeking a reliable model to handle everyday computing chores like emailing and web surfing. Mini PCs were mocked for years for being underpowered next to their bigger desktop brothers, but between performance upgrades and space requirements in tight conditions these days, who’s laughing at a mini’s svelte profile now? Read the rest

Rad Power Bikes want to get the world out of their cars and they just may have figured out how to do it

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Electric bikes aren’t toys. And they aren’t a fad. In fact, more and more communities are starting to catch on that e-bikes are a lot more than an amusing gadget for the tech geek.

Following a six-month study, Johnson County, Kansas, home to many Kansas City suburbs, became just the latest U.S. community to allow electric bikes access to the county’s paved trails. E-bike advocates were able to show officials the health and ecological benefits of opening up access to e-bikers, a move that undoubtedly brings a smile to the face of Mike Radenbaugh.

Radenbaugh started Rad Power Bikes back in 2007 — and over the past 13 years, he’s built the Seattle-based company into the largest and fastest-growing e-bike maker in North America.

And when you dig into exactly why Rad is watching more and more people adopt the e-biking lifestyle, there’s really one simple reason at its center: it just makes sense.

Practically speaking, bike riding gets users outside to enjoy the great outdoors — all while the bike’s compact electrically-powered motor gives riders a little assist when they’re running out of stamina or need extra help on a hill or lengthy straightaway.

Opening up the throttle on your Rad Power Bike is as simple as a button press, offering some much-needed extra support to your pedaling when you most need it. Even if you’re totally spent, just open it all the way up and you can stop pedaling completely, cruising along at up to 20 miles an hour without an ounce of exertion. Read the rest

Creating realistic vegetation for a tabletop gaming board

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Last month, I covered the unreal tabletop fantasy village that Real Terrain Hobbies and Gobbertown Hobbies built using buildings from Tabletop World, two Croatian sculptors who pretty much make the best resin-cast fantasy buildings in the world.

Now, Neil of Real Terrain is building a gaming board and terrain features worthy of the Tabletop World buildings that he and Brent so meticulously painted.

Here are his first two videos documenting the process. The first is of him building the actual board, the second is him beginning to add paint, the ground cover, and vegetation. These videos are something of a masterclass in terrain making.

One thing that Neil shares in the second video is a great tip for all miniatures painters and terrain makers. As he begins to put the watered down paint onto his foam rock formations (in gray, brown, green, and black), he has to remind himself that it’s going to look kind of awful, like it might not be working, before he’s done. This is something that often frustrates and scares newbies. Often, basecoats and early layerings of paint can look bad and you can become fearful that you’re on the wrong track. As you gain more experience painting and weathering, you realize that it takes time to build up your colors, and that, for things to look realistic, you need many different colors and sometimes some of those colors look wrong when first applied. Things in nature are not a single color. Your minis and terrain look best when they have a complex of color. Read the rest

Do double the good with eco-friendly produce bags from a brand that gives back

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Whether you’re living in a city that has already taken measures to reduce plastic bag use, the small silver lining of the pandemic has inspired you to make changes, or you’ve already started living a greener lifestyle, reusable produce bags are a great addition to your shopping routine. And if you’re going to invest in a product like this, why not do that with a brand that gives back, too?

Lotus Trolley Bag makes these reusable, washable, eco-friendly, multipurpose produce bags and is a member of 1% for the Planet, meaning that a percentage of their sales goes to high-impact non-profits that protect our oceans.

This set of 9 food-safe, BPA-free bags includes 3 different color-coordinated sizes (12″ x 8″, 12″ x 14″, and 12″ x 17″) that will cover all your fruit and vegetable shopping needs. The 120 GSM non-woven fabric they’re made of is double stitched on the sides for strength—the large can support a watermelon!—yet they’re so light you’ll hardly notice them in your purse or pocket on your way to the store. And while you’re at the store, they’re super easy to use, too, thanks to their tare weight labels that make it a cinch to accurately weigh out your produce minus the weight of the bag itself. Speaking of cinches, the bags cinch closed with ease and then stay that way with the help of secure locks attached to the drawstring that work just like ones you’d find on a hooded coat.

But possibly the coolest thing of all about these bags is how reusable they are. Read the rest

Sonic Youth releases 12 of their live shows spanning their career

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On Friday, Sonic Youth uploaded 12 of their previously unreleased live shows to their Bandcamp archives. The concerts span the bands career, from the late 80s to their final US show in 2011.

Lee Ranaldo writes of the project:

We have a couple of engineers and archivist people that we work with. But we’re still all interested in it, we’ve been maintaining a massive archive that continues to grow. Steve Shelley has been really active in it, and the rest of us a little bit less so, but I’ve been pretty active in helping put together the last bunch of packages that come out. In this case, this guy from Russia just said: “Hey, I’ve got this tape of the show” that we had never heard before, and he wanted to put it out. We kind of batted the idea back and forth of whether we wanted to go that route, and in the end, we gave him our blessings to do it. We’re working on an archival project around Sister right now, which is a massive thing we’ve been working on for a while. And two or three other things as well, something around NYC Ghosts & Flowers, and something around a particular concert we did at the Pompidou Center in Paris with Brigitte Fontaine and Areski [Belkacem] that we’ve been trying to cut the legal tape on and release for like a decade.

Read more about the releases on Spin.

H/t Red Cell

Image: Album cover art Read the rest

Questing Beast reading the entire 1979 AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide

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Ben of Questing Beast has begun reading all of Gary Gygax’s 1979 roleplaying game masterwork, the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, on YouTube, After the first two videos, at around four hours in, it look like he’s up to page 33. He estimates it’ll take some 40 hours to read the entire book.

Of all of the D&D books, spanning four decades, the DM Guide had the most profound impact on me and will always hold a special place in my nerdy little heart. I’m sure many other RPGers of my generation (and beyond) feel the same way.


Image: YouTube
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DIY Catface N95 mask cover, whiskers and all

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Anyone who’s ever gone to Burning Man is undoubtedly already familiar with the N95 mask, the particle filters that also protect from inhaling playa dust. And Burners are also familiar with “radical self expression.” So, it comes as no surprise that the happy mutants over at Burner-friendly Grassy Knoll Industries have taken it upon themselves to make an otherwise plain-looking mask better — by turning it into a “Catface.” Whiskers and all. They describe it as “Quarantine Couture.” Even if you have no plans to “cattify” a mask, you should go read the instructions because parts of it are pretty funny. Cats not your thing? There are other fun mask ideas in their “Social Distancing Can Be Fun” Facebook page. Read the rest

This Week in Apps: Apple launches a COVID-19 app, the outbreak’s impact on social and video apps and more

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all. The app industry saw a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s “State of Mobile” annual report. […]

Pandemic sourdough baking: my second loaf and some more pretzels

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Click here to see the first post in this series on baking sourdough started from nothing but flour and water

After starting a new sourdough starter not long after sheltering-in-place at my parent’s place about 12 days ago, I have baked my second loaf of bread!

I’ve been baking with sourdough for well over a decade. My aged OG sourdough starter is currently in hibernation, however, at my brother’s house in Northern California while I am in Southern California. I wanted to bake, but did not have a starter. I decided to make one.

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10 seconds of steam coming out of a fresh loaf of #sourdough from my 12 day old #sourdoughstarter #boingboing

A post shared by Jason Weisberger (@jlw) on Mar 28, 2020 at 9:58am PDT

The first loaf I tried with the starter showed that it was almost but not quite mature enough for me really enjoy what I was baking. It reminded me of a prior experience baking with my OG starter when it had not been treated well. Care of a starter is pretty easy, just feed it every day.

I gave the starter another 5 days or so of daily feedings.

I made some more sourdough pretzels while I waited.

Last night I put up a smaller sized loaf of bread. I want to conserve flour as it has been the only thing I’ve had a hard time finding. Hell, I am using some aged whole wheat…

I combined 1 ¼ cup of bread flour and ¾ cup of 2015 expired Gold Medal whole wheat in the big blue bowl. Read the rest

Shieldwall: A fun video game where you control a Roman legion

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I have been loving Shieldwall, a strategy game where you and your Roman legion attempt to kick the crap out of other Roman legions!

This game reminds me of a 3D Starcraft, with (thus far) a lot less complexity. You start with one base and attempt to take others from other CG teams!

More bases result in more resources for you to spend, so get to work!

This site claims to offer a free download.

I bought it on Steam for less than $10.

Shieldwall on Steam Read the rest

11 new trailers you should watch this week

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Photo: Amazon Studios

I’d completely expected to be writing a note this week about how the COVID-19 pandemic has largely shut down trailer production, but it turns out, my assumption was wrong. While things have certainly slowed down, streaming services are almost singlehandedly keeping up the new releases. If anything, this is a great moment for them to debut a new show or series since everyone is stuck indoors.

That said, we’ll see how long this lasts. Productions are being shut down for health reasons, and it seems like every major movie coming out in the next couple of months is being delayed. So there may come a point where the backlog of content thins out. I certainly suspect it’ll be a bit before we see any trailers for tentpole films.

For now, it’s a…

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