Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Enjoying the Geeky Side of Life - Celebrating Batman Day

2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of the caped crusader with Batman's first appearance taking place in Detective Comics #27 which was published in 1939.  In recognition of this milestone year DC Comics designated Wednesday, July 23, 2014 as BATMAN DAY to celebrate.  Comic book retailers celebrated BATMAN DAY by distributing a free print of a modernized version of Detective Comics #27 that was revamped by DC Comics creative team along with some fun cardboard caped crusader masks and other dark knight inspired swag.  I decided to take a "Dad Moment" with my kids and blocked off the day from work to devote having a themed day of Batman fun.

We did that last summer when DC Comics held a similar event marking Superman's 75th anniversary in 2013.  I took off work to take my children to the comic book store to pickup free Superman comic books than we went home to enjoy some Superman ice cream and play super heroes in the backyard.  My kids really enjoyed our MAN OF STEEL DAY together last year so we had a CAPED CRUSADER DAY this summer.

We started off BATMAN DAY cruising over to the comic book store to pick up our freebies.  Than we headed over to the park to have some super hero adventures at the playscape.  Following some playtime we visited a nature center where the guides told the kids about bats and gave them an up close look at a few stuffed specimens that they had on hand.  The guides also showed us some bat houses behind the nature center where the live ones live and explained how bats help protect us and the ecosystem by eating mosquitoes.

July 23rd was also "National Hot Dog Day" so we stopped by Sonic to get some $1 chili cheese dogs that they had on special for lunch.  We also nabbed some Batman Slushes to take home with us (Grape Slush - looks like Batman's costume - with Nerds candy in them - because enjoying comic books is kinda nerdy).

When we got home we enjoyed our Batman Slushes (well my son & I did; my daughter insisted on getting the red colored version) while reading our new comic books.  It was a full day enjoying the geeky side of life celebrating Batman's Birthday.  The following day I'll back to work and the kids will be back at the babysitters so I wanted to make the most out of our special Daddy Day Out.  I'm hoping my kids will remember these geeky days with daddy when they're grown up fondly and recognize that I made an extra effort to spend some special quality time with them while they were little...and hopefully it will inspire them to enjoy the geeky side of life every once in awhile.

Brian Wood's "Star Wars" Comic Book Series is iBooks Pick of the Week - Download FREE Digital Comics

This week ios & Mac users can download Star Wars Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin for FREE on Apple's iBook platform.  Each week iBook selects a great book and provides it for free as its Book of the Week.  In honor of Comic Con taking place this week and next month's conclusion of the Star Wars comic book monthly series published by Dark Horse Comics and scripted by author Brian Wood, iBooks has selected the graphic novel compilation of the title's first six issues.  The Star Wars comic book series tells original tales set between the movies Episode IV A NEW HOPE and Episode V THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK with an artistic tone that pays homage to the feel and vibe to the franchise's original trilogy of movies.

Star Wars Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin

After the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebels are hounded by the Empire.  Suspecting a spy in their ranks, Princess Leia forms a secret X-wing squadron - which includes Luke Skywalker - to expose the spy and find a safe home.  Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca are sent on a covert mission.  Star Wars Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin collects Dark Horse Comics Star Wars #1 - #6 and the Free Comic Book Day 2013 issue. 

I've personally purchased every issue of this Star Wars series during its run and have look forward each month to picking up and reading the newest issue.  I'll miss this series when it concludes next month as Dark Horse wraps up its Star Wars publications and the comic book license reverts to Marvel, who originally had it in the 1970s and 1980s.  If you are a nostalgic fan of the original Star Wars trilogy of movies, you will enjoy this comic book series that provides a modern update to the imagery but has an old school Star Wars  interpretation of the characters and their stories.  If you haven't read these comics this iBooks offer is a nice jumping off point to start, and if you can also read  this graphic novel without having to pick up the other issues in the series to enjoy it.  Though you probably will get hooked and want to keep reading the rest of the series stories!  ... and if you have already been reading Brian Wood's Star Wars than this is a nice addition to your collection that can be stored on a PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone for reading.

To download a FREE digital edition of STAR WARS VOLUME 1: IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN visit the iBook store or CLICK HERE.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Minor League Baseball Games can be an Economical & Entertaining Family Night Out

My 5 year old son and I ventured the hour drive from Detroit to Toledo, Ohio the other day to meet up with some friends for a Mudhens' game at Fifth Third Field.  It was a first trip to a minor league baseball game for both of us and I have to say we were both very impressed and had a great time.  The Mudhen's are the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate club team meaning that this team has a variety of players going up and being sent town from the Major League club.  We recognized a few names of Mudhens who we'd seen play this season in Tigers games and my buddy who was with us with his 5 and 7 year old sons pointed out a few that would probably be making their way up to the Major League before the end of the season.

Fifth Third Field is a nice 8,000 seat facility in downtown Toledo.  You can see some of the classic architecture buildings from the City's heyday as a backdrop to the outfield which provides a nice urban vibe to the stadium.  It is really easy to get to as you take a short drive right off the freeway exit that leads you straight to the ballpark.  We found a safe and secure parking lot a block away from the stadium that charged a reasonable $5 dollars.  A few days after our visit to the Mudhens game my wife and I went to a Tigers game and in comparison that same spot would have cost $30 and we ended up paying $10 at a parking lot 6 blocks away from Comerica Park.

Our seats at Fifth Third Field were $10 each and were in the second row along the first base line, probably some of the best seats in the stadium.  Those same tickets at a Tigers game probably would have been 100% more expensive.  It was great to sit back and just enjoy the great view of a baseball game.  The stadium was probably at half capacity compared to a Tigers game which probably has 30,000 to 50,000 people.  There was just this nice laid back atmosphere at the game with everyone enjoying a nice summer evening outdoors and appreciating watching some baseball.  In addition to  close up views of the players, we also had a lot of interaction with the various mascots that attend the games.  Muddonna spent most of the game either sitting by us interacting with fans or dancing on the dugout in front of our seats.  We could spot her husband Muddy flying around the stadium throughout the game thrilling the kids in attendance.  Also present at the game were the mascots for the Toledo Walleye Minor League hockey team which has an arena a couple blocks from Fifth Third Field, Cattrick and Spike.  My son was laughing and pointing out these characters the whole game...although he still is a little afraid of these type of costumed characters and didn't want them to get too close which made for some interesting moments when the mascots wandered over to say hello.

I know that a basic hotdog with mustard on a steamed bun is standard baseball fare but we splurged a little bit enjoying some of the alternatives they had at Fifth Third Field.  My son enjoyed a Mac & Cheese Dog which is a grilled hot dog covered in macaroni & cheese and bacon while I had the Chicken & Waffle Bites with warm maple syrup for dipping.  Unfortunately, the Mudhens menu prevented my daughter from joining us on this fun evening.  Like Comerica Park and most other ballpark venues Fifth Third Field was littered with peanut shells and the risk of absorbing the oil from these shells contaminating seats and other fixtures of the stadium is too much of a risk for our daughter who has a severe food allergy where exposure could be deadly.  Unfortunately we have to take her to games where special accommodations to avoid peanut interactions are available which are often very seldom and limited opportunities which unfortunately really reduces our ability to go on a family outing to the enjoy America's pastime.

My son is more interested in getting out of the house at his age than really sitting down to watch a baseball game so what was nice about this experience was there was a variety of things to do and the price tag didn't break the bank.  We sat down for awhile and watched the game with a great view.  Because of how close we were to the action,  I was able to point out numerous things about the game play and what the fielders, batters and base runners were doing to explain him the game.  My son was also excited to see all the "baseball players" right up there in front of him.  We had some fun watching the mascots and eating our dinner.  Than my son and his friends headed over to the nice playground the stadium has behind center field, Muddy's Marsh, to play for a few innings.  We wrapped up the night with a visit to the gift shop picking up each of us a really nice fitted baseball caps from my favorite hat manufacturer, 47 Brand, for about half the price a similar cap would cost at a Tigers game, plus these were also slightly lower in price and minus the shipping of the Mudhens caps I'd seen for sale online.  Of course my son wanted me to buy him one but than wouldn't wear it during the game, though he has been wearing it around the last few days.

The Mudhen's are known for having some interesting promotions: Star Wars Night, Ghostbusters Night, Christmas in July for example.  We went on LEGO night.  They did a really nice job of having Lego themed images and videos on the scoreboard during the game.  My son won a contest where he made the most "Lego hotdogs" within a minute and received some stickers and temporary tattoos as a prize.  It was sad though that the PR department for the team went all out to market this event to kids and parents promoting they were giving out a special Lego minifigure at the gates when you entered.  They didn't order enough and although we and our friends arrived at the game well before the first pitch none of the children in our group received these toys.  So I have to give the promotions team a thumbs down.  It is one thing to have great promo themes but if you can't properly execute them than you are just lame.  The kids were disappointed not to get a Lego but fortunately this didn't damper their enthusiasm or fun at the game and all had a great time despite this let down.

The most important part of the night was that it put a smile on my son's face and we had some nice bonding time.  I'm thinking of buying tickets for the Mudhen's Star Wars Night next season and if they have a peanut free night maybe we'll take the whole family out for a night at Fifth Third Field.  Based upon the fun we had at this minor league game, my wife and I know the Whitecaps, the Tiger's Class A minor league team in Grand Rapids, Michigan, holds some peanut free games each year and we're considering a roadtrip to go to one of them in 2015.  Just a note to teams that are thinking of holding peanut free games, many of these events are held in early weeks of season when attendance is low, please consider some summer nights that are convenient to families who have to struggle with the challenges of food allergies.

Minor League Baseball games can really be an economical and entertaining family night out.  If you haven't been to one yet or lately I'd recommend going out to one of these ballparks for a fun time.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Run to the Rescue with the Dogs of PAW PATROL in new Mobile App

The "hot thing" that has had my 5 year old twins attention the last few weeks has been the dogs of Nickelodeon's animated television show PAW PATROL.  So it was perfect timing for Nickelodeon's recent introduction of a new ios mobile app game based on the characters from the show.  In the RESCUE RUN! app which can be played on ipod touchs, ipads and iphones, kids can team up with the various PAW PATROL puppies for a variety of missions that require each pup to use its skills to overcome obstacles and help save their hometown of Adventure Bay.  This game uses a side-scrolling platform that is easy to play through and its fun is not as much the challenges presented but rather the opportunity for the kids to participate in their own PAW PATROL adventure and interact with their favorite characters.  It is really aimed for preschool/kindergarten aged children and older kids will most likely find the game somewhat basic and boring.  If your child is at an age where they are currently enjoying the PAW PATROL characters though this can be a fun treat for them.  My son and daughter have really enjoyed playing the game the last few days since I've downloaded it.

While some people may criticize the game for its brevity, I've appreciated that is has several short defined missions so that my children can play it for awhile and than they are done...there isn't the tug to be constantly playing on the ipad with this game because they can have some fun with it and than they are done.  I also appreciated, as I have multiple kids who want to play the game, that you can set up individualized player setting for up to four children so they can all have their own accounts on the game...nice!  Another nice feature is that this game aimed for younger children has basic controls that promote hand eye coordination but aren't very difficult to master.  Players ALWAYS complete the rescue run without losing a life, if the pup hits an obstacle the dog backs up and lets the child try to get around it again.  The challenge for the kids is not avoiding dying but rather to get better and better scores each time they play through the rescue run course.  In addition to the rescue run side-scrolling courses to run through there are also first-person view missions where the player works with a pup to solve a sorting task.  For completing missions and tasks the pups and their preschool players are awarded digital Adventure Bay badge awards to provide an acknowledgement of achievement for successfully completing their assignments which is a great way to encourage children to want to complete all of the aspects of the game.

While the game is somewhat limited with only 3 rescue missions to choose from, children can replay levels to earn all the various Adventure Bay badges, it works will with having your children play it for short stints.  My kids play it and than are done and don't argue that they want to keep going and going and going when I tell them it is time to stop.  I don't mind my kids enjoying video games for short stints but I also want them doing other things like playing outside or being creative and imaginative doing activities like coloring or drawing.  PAW PATROL: RESCUE RUN is a great game to pull out to amuse your child if you are going on a long drive, it is a rainy blah day, or you are stuck in a waiting room with them for something like a doctor's appointment.

In addition to be entertaining and amusing there are also some educational aspects to it as well:

Classification & Sorting - Some of the tasks involve comparing similar objects and sort them by size and type (for example thick versus thin).

Visual Discrimination & Matching - Find items and match them to a list of missing objects.

Science & Recycling - Categorize items as either recyclable or trash.

Counting/Enumeration - Identify objects according to the number of objects in a set.

As I mentioned before my children have really enjoyed playing this game, primarily for two reasons.  First, they have enjoyed interacting with the characters from the PAW PATROL television show and being able to control the pups through the game's adventures.  Secondly, they have been really competitive to see who can get the highest "dog biscuit" scores in the rescue runs and achieve the most Adventure Bay badges first.  The two things I appreciate the most about the game is that there isn't any risky or questionable content to worry about exposing my children to during the game play and there are no advertisements or efforts to have you buy things through in-app purchases to "enhance the experience".  Of course with no ads in the game or in-app purchase revenue that also creates an upfront cost to the game for parents when it comes to downloading RESCUE RUN.  The app is priced at $6.99 for the High Definition version and $3.99 for Standard Definition on iTunes.

If you have children who are into PAW PATROL right now I'd recommend this app but if your children have moved past that stage you should pass on this app based upon the limited missions, repetitive actions and basic elements of this app.  This is a very nice game for preschoolers and if that is where you and your children are at in life right now than you should absolutely consider downloading PAW PATROL: RESCUE RUN. 

DISCLAIMER:  I received a complimentary download of PAW PATROL: RESCUE RUN from Nickelodeon for this review.  The Paw Patrol toys pictured above were purchased with my own money way before I ever heard about this app and my children are big fans of the television show.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bacardi adds Comic Books to its Marketing Prowess

Download FREE  Graphic Novel  from the Barcardi Rum website on August 6th

Following up on the television commercial shown above as part of its "BACARDI Untameable Since 1862" marketing campaign, which promotes the heritage of the family-owned spirits company, Bacardi will be producing a graphic novel that tells the stories behind the brand and its origins in Cuba.  Titled "Spirit of BACARDI" the graphic novel, created by writer Warren Ellis and artist Michael Allred, will focus on Emilio Bacardi - son of BACARDI creator Don Facundo Bacardi Masso - and his efforts to help Cuba win independence from Spain in the late 1800s.  Emilio Bacardi was repeatedly imprisoned and exiled for his belief in an independent Cuba, but persevered, eventually becoming the first freely elected Mayor of Santiago de Cuba.

A graphic novel is a book made up of comics content to tell its story.  The "Spirit of BACARDI" graphic novel will be available as a digital download from BACARDI.COM/SPIRITOFBACARDI on August 6th, 2014.  Bacardi hopes that the book will inspire consumers to embrace life, live boldly and showcase their own "Irrepressible Spirit."

Check out this teaser video about "Spirit of BACARDI:

Warren Ellis is most well-know for his work on the comic book series Transmetropolitan published by DC Comics Helix and Vertigo imprints from 1997 - 2002 which was about a gonzo journalist in a dystopian future America.  More recently he has been working for Marvel Comics on Moon Knight, Fantastic Four and Iron Man and for Image Comics on a series titled Trees.

Artist Mike Allred has worked on both artwork for interior panels and covers of comic books.  He has most recently been creating the cover artwork for DC Comics' Batman '66 series.  He is most well-known for being one of the co-creators of the iZOMBIE comic book series which was nominated for the 2011 Eisner Award for Best New Series.  iZOMBIE is about a revenant gravedigger named Gwen Dylan and her friends, Ellie, a ghosts, and Scott, a were-terrier.  Additional comic publications that Allred has worked on include Batman, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, and Silver Surfer.

Meander over to the Bacardi website on August 6th to grab yourself this digital download and than enjoy it with a rum & coke or whatever your Bacardi drink of preference may be.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Enjoy FREE sampler of new wave of Star Wars novels

Download FREE preview of Del Ray Books new Star Wars Books
for Kindle, Nook or Ipad

Back in April, it was announced that all of the comic books and novels based on Star Wars (what had become known as the Expanded Universe) were not going to be treated as part of the official timeline for Disney's stewardship of the brand.  The official canon -  "canon" is material considered part of a story in a fictional universe - would be the six existing Star Wars movies, the upcoming REBELS animated television series, future comic books and novels published after September 2014 by Disney Worldwide Publishing or its licensed partners, and of course the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII currently in production.  The official Star Wars website officially posted this policy on April 25, 2014 stating "In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the Expanded Universe."

The first novel to be penned in the new Star Wars universe to be considered canon for the SciFi franchise will be hitting store shelves in a few weeks, one of four upcoming novels licensed to Del Rey Books to publish, kicking off a new arc of stories for fans.  A NEW DAWN by John Jackson Miller is being released in September tied to and cross-promoting the new Star Wars: Rebels television series on the Disney XD cable channel.  Set during the legendary "Dark Times" between Episodes III and IV, A NEW DAWN tells the story of how two of the lead characters from Star Wars: Rebels first came to cross paths.  Following A NEW DAWN, Del Rey Books will also be publishing TARKIN (November 4, 2014), HEIR TO THE JEDI (January 13, 2015) and LORDS OF THE SITH (March 2015).

Click one of the links below to download a FREE e-book sampler of the four upcoming Del Rey Star Wars novels.  With Episodes VII, VIII and IX on the horizon, Del Rey is launching the first wave of novels that are part of the official Star Wars canon, created in collaboration with the newly formed Lucasfilm Story Group.  The exclusive previews of these four books in this sampler are set during and before the original trilogy and will transport readers again to a galaxy that doesn't feel quite so long ago or so far away.

Download for Kindle

Download for iBookStore (iPad, iPhone, iPod)

Download for Nook (Barnes & Noble e-Reader)

In regard to the other 3 books following A NEW DAWN these focus on some characters most Star Wars fans are probably a little more familiar with:

TARKIN due out on November 4, 2014 takes a look at Grand Moff Tarkin.  Who was this man that had Darth Vader by the collar in A New Hope? How was it that he could keep a Dark Lord of the Sith on a short lease?  You'll find out more about this character's fascinating life in this upcoming book by veteran Star Wars writer James Luceno, who also wrote the best selling Star Wars: Darth Plagueis novel.

HEIR TO THE JEDI written by Kevin Hearne has a January 13, 2015 release date.  This novel tells a story that takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back that it told entirely from Luke Skywalker's first-person point of view.

LORDS OF THE SITH by Paul S. Kemp is scheduled to be released in March of Twenty Fifteen and focuses on Darth Vader and the Emperor.  When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their awesome martial skills to prevail.  Hmmm...this particular book could be either really good or really bad based on this cast of characters and story line.  With that in mind, I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to read some samples from these books before buying them.

If any of these books appear to be appealing to you, downloading this free e-book of previews is a great way to get a sense of whether you like the author's writing styles and the stories interest you enough to want to read the whole novel.  For more information about Del Rey's lineup of current and future Star Wars publications visit:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Crooks & Spammers Make Super Heroes Toxic for Online Security & Privacy

It's a Bird, it's a plane ... it's malware?! That's not Superman! Unfortunately many of the people searching for information about "the man of steel" online are instead finding malware that steals their sensitive personal and/or financial information.  For those of you who don't know what malware is, it is malicious software that secretly infects a computer or mobile device to exploit it for someone else's gain without your consent.  Often times people are lured to fake sites that use popular trendy topics, like SUPER HEROES, to draw people in from search engine searches or advertisements posted in social media, blogs, e-mails, and other online communications mediums. Once people visit these sites there are variety of  methods that download malware or viruses onto devices in a manner that can leave you unsuspecting an intrusion.

McAfee, a computer security company for consumers and businesses, recently released a study of the Most Toxic Super Heroes that analyzed which comic book character names led to the most risky websites.   SUPERMAN was at the top of the list!  According to McAfee, searching through sites such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing with phrases such as "Superman," "Superman and free torrent download," Superman and watch," "Superman and free app," and "Superman and online" leads to a 16.5% chance of connecting with a website that has tested positive for online threats such as spyware, adware, spam, phising, viruses and other malware.  Superman is 2014's most toxic super hero meaning his name is the most likely to lead you to a website that has tested positive for threats by McAfee Site Advisor.  

Here is the list of top Super Hero names that Cyber Criminals are using to victimize people with the percentage of times the McAfee study was directed to a dangerous website for each name:

1.  SUPERMAN                       16.5%
2.  THOR                                 16.3%
3.   WONDERWOMAN          15.7%
      AQUAMAN                       15.7%
4.  WOLVERINE                     15.1%
5. SPIDERMAN                       14.7%
6. BATMAN                             14.2%
7.BLACK WIDOW                  13.7%
8.CAPTAIN AMERICA            13.1%
9. GREEN LANTERN              11.3%
10. GHOST RIDER                   10.8%

These might not seem like that high of numbers to worry about, but just think it takes a cyber criminal just one time to get access to your Social Security Number, Bank Account, or Credit Card to create havoc in your life.  So whatever you can do to be proactive in protecting yourself is important because once you are compromised it is often game over!

Here are a few tips from McAfee Online Security Expert Robert Siciliano, author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen:
  • Be suspicious: If a search turns up a link to free content or too-good-to-be-true offers, be wary
  • Double-check the web address: Look for misspellings or other clues that the site you are going to may not be safe 
  • Search safely: Use a web safety advisor, such as McAfee SiteAdvisor that displays a red, yellow, or green ratings in search results, alerting you to potential risky sites before you click on them
  • Protect yourself: Use comprehensive security software on all your devices, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, to protect yourself against the latest threats